Fantastic Family Hike to Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

I can feel the frustration coming out in my writing when I look back at the last time we made it to Fern Falls with a Fussy Baby.

This time around, I hope I can express my delight with this waterfall hike. We ventured out on May 25th, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Although the Rocky Mountain National Park filled up with visitors over the holiday, we lucked out with great parking* close to the Fern Falls trailhead.

A highlight of this lower elevation* hike is the nearly constant view of the Big Thompson River. Most of the hike is very child friendly as long as you watch out for little ones wandering too close to the river, or getting too adventurous on the amazing rock formations.

Big Thompson River

Arch Rocks

We started the hike with the hopes of making it to Arch Rocks (1.2 miles) or The Pool (1.7 miles) if we were lucky, but the girls were doing so awesome we decided to hike to Fern Falls which is 2.6 miles each way. That’s a little far for our kids to hike on their own, so we carried them a lot of the way in a deuter kids carrier and an ergo baby carrier.

kids hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

The distance from The Pool to Fern Falls is a little under a mile, but you gain 400 feet of elevation quickly. I was out of breath but had to remind myself that I was carrying a 16-month-old toddler.

The hike up was totally worth it. Everyone was in a great mood and the waterfall was impressive.

Fern Falls lives up to its name, the surrounding area is lush and damp. We didn’t stop long because mosquitoes were swarming the area.

Trip Tips:

*Fern Lake trailhead has a small non-paved parking area. The road leading to the trailhead becomes narrow for two-way vehicle traffic. There is shuttle service and some additional parking .8 miles away from the trailhead.

*Fern Falls trailhead begins at 8,150 ft of elevation so when I say ‘lower elevation’ I mean  low compared to many places in RMNP, but high for those of us from non-mountain regions. Remember to take it easy and drink lots of water!

Deer Mountain – a Family Friendly Summit Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Looking for a family friendly summit hike in Rocky Mountain National Park? There is something very rewarding about reaching the summit of a mountain, but with young kids it’s hard to spend the time, energy and face the technical challenges of hiking up many of the prominent peaks.

Good news! You don’t have to hike all day to experience wonderful panoramic views and gain that awesome feeling of accomplishment. A three-mile hike up Deer Mountain offers both. The hike is located at Deer Ridge Junction, a few miles west of the Beaver Meadows entrance.

Hiking with a baby in the mountains

There isn’t a parking lot near Deer Mountain. Cars park right off the street making parking limited.

Parking near Deer Mountain is limited

Gear for hiking with young children and babies
I carried our 4 month old in an Ergobaby carrier and my husband carried our 2 1/2-year-old in a Deuter kid comfort carrier. With the added weight, we were happy to take extra breaks to enjoy the inspiring mountain vistas.

Great views on the way up Deer Mountain in RMNP

As we approached the summit, we hiked through melting snow which is pretty common in May –  especially this year.  I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, but we still got wet and muddy. Keeping a pair of flip-flops in the car to change into post hike would be helpful.

Deer Mountain Summit near Estes Park Colorado

Trekking poles were also helpful. You gain 1,093 ft of elevation.

Hiking Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park in May

Standing at 10,013′ we made it to the summit. This was our youngest daughter’s first summit hike. Both girls were ready for a snack at this point, but we were worried about dark clouds looming in the distance and decided to start our descent. We probably should have started this hike earlier in the day because storms are more common in the afternoon. Deer Mountain, good spring summit hike for families in Rocky Mountains

On the way down, we had to be cautious in a few areas where slippery rocks were covered in slushy snow (especially with our precious cargo).

Hiking in snow

Luck was on our side, the weather cleared and we enjoyed the 3 mile return trip under blue skies.

Hiking Deer Mountain

 

1 Day Itinerary in Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s no secret that I love Rocky Mountain National Park. There is so much to do and see that it’s really hard to narrow down the highlights to a one-day itinerary, but if you just have one day to spend here’s my suggestions:

Breakfast in Estes Park

Start early and get fueled up on good food and good coffee. My favorite sit-down breakfast is Notchtop Bakery & Cafe. You can stare out the windows at the Rockies while you eat. They have a fun kids menu – our toddler likes their pancakes! We also love Kind Coffee which opens even earlier. I enjoy their oatmeal, breakfast burritos and of course coffee!

Breakfast at Notchtop

Family Friendly Hiking

If you are feeling acclimated to the elevation, head up to Bear Lake. Take a nice stroll around the lake and capture a Christmas card worthy family picture with Hallett Peak behind you. From there you can hike to Alberta Falls for some more great family photo ops. Hike on to beautiful Mills Lake or The Loch if you want more of a challenge.

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Lunch in Estes Park

Lunch time! Call ahead and order a sandwich to-go from Scratch – Deli & Bakery.  Their deli is small but the Turkey-Bacon-Avocado sandwich is huge and amazing. It’s great for a picnic on Lake Estes where kids can enjoy the fun playground next to the marina.

Lake Estes 

Lake Estes Marina offers afternoon activities like renting pontoon boats or pedal carts. They are typically open May through October, but we’ve learned it’s good to call ahead to verify.

lake estes

Estes Park Riverwalk

From there you can walk through downtown Estes Park along the river walk and enjoy local shopping and a treat. I’m a huge fan of ice cream and we love Hayley’s.

celebrating Estes Cone with ice cream cone

Wildlife Spotting

Early evening is a great time to spot wildlife. Take a drive through Rocky Mountain National Park and make sure to search for elk in the Moraine Valley and near Horseshoe Park/Sheep Lakes.

Elk in Estes Park

Dinner in Estes Park

For dinner go to Poppy’s Pizza & Grill and sit outside by the river. They have good pizza and an impressive drink selection which includes locally brewed beer.

poppys pizza estes park

I hope this sample itinerary is a helpful starting point. Once you spend a day in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, I’m sure you’ll be planning your next trip back soon. 

The Pool: Evy’s First Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way – snuggled in warm against her mamma.

Last week we made a crazy, last-minute decision to take a trip to Colorado with our toddler and newborn. They did  great on the long drive to Estes Park which makes me optimistic about future trips as a family of 4.

We decided to hike to The Pool which is one of our family’s favorite 2-4 mile hikes. The lower elevation was great for me because I haven’t done a whole lot of exercise since Evy was born in January and also great for my husband who had to carry our growing toddler. We started our hike at Fern Lake trail head in the Moraine Valley.

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We walked through a few patches of snow and some areas that were a little wet and muddy from melt, but overall the trail was in good walking condition.

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We spotted this waterfall which seemed to be the culprit for some of the sogginess.

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1.2 miles into our hike we arrived at the always-impressive Arch Rocks.

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Eventually our two-year-old Cecy negotiated with her dad to get out of the carrier. She was carried over jagged rocks that we were afraid she might slip on.

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She walked a good distance too! She got tripped up on a rock, but made a quick recovery.

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We stopped for a snack which made everyone happy.

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1.7 miles into our journey along the Big Thompson River we made it to The Pool.

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If you cross over the bridge, the trail will continue on to Fern Falls and Fern Lake.

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This was a great first hike for our little Evy. She slept the whole way –  snuggled in warm against her mamma.

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We love our girls and can’t wait to take them on more adventures in RMNP!