Boulder, Colorado is a gateway to the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Hiking is a way of life for most locals, but with so many options it’s hard to narrow down the most amazing family friendly hikes near Boulder.
Below are the best of the best. We prioritize hikes based on activities spanning age ranges, meaning easy enough terrain for the toddler, rocks or streams to climb or play for the older kids, and stunning beauty for all.
Table of contents
- Family friendly tips before you go
- Map of Boulder Hikes
- Lost Gulch Overlook
- Bobolink Trail
- Boulder Creek Path and Eben G Fine Park
- Red Rocks
- El Dorado Canyon State Park
- Mount Sanitas via Sanitas Valley and East Ridge Trail
Family friendly tips before you go
Leave no trace!
We would be remiss not to include this point on every single post about hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Please carry out what you carry in and only walk on trails. The trails near Boulder are heavily trafficked, so let’s do our part to preserve the environment for future generations.
Hydration is essential when visiting Colorado or any city at altitude. The rule of thumb is your body will lose twice as much fluid at altitude than it will at sea level.
Due to the decreased oxygen, you will breath more and there is moisture loss in each breath. Most folks are also more active when visiting a city like Boulder than at home. This is compounded by the fact that it is often hot and dry in the summer time, so sweat doesn’t stick to the body and is not as noticeable as it may be somewhere more humid. Bottom line: Drink more water and keep a water bottle with you.
Generally the best tip is pay attention to your and your kid’s urine. If it is dark, drink even more water. If it is clear, you are doing great.
Bring a day pack with water and snacks
Nature is simply more enjoyable when you can relax and take the time to enjoy it. Be sure to bring a daypack with extra trail snacks and water bottles.
One great option is a water bladder that fits inside of a backpack or baby carrier. This will keep your hands free and allow you to carry more water.
Best time to hike
The best time to hike with kids near Boulder is early in the morning. Many trails include stretches of full sun, which can be especially draining at high altitude. The mornings and just before sunset are also the least trafficked times on the trails.
Map of Boulder Hikes
Below is a list of the best hikes in no particular order.
Lost Gulch Overlook
Lost Gulch Overlook is definitely one of our favorite short hikes with the kids near Boulder. The only setback is the long, winding drive up Flagstaff Road, but the payoff is incredible. Even when the trailhead at the base of the mountain at Chautauqua Park is packed with day hikers and climbers, Lost Gulch always turns over enough to offer prime parking.
The trails are rather short, but are a good distance for those not accustomed to longer hikes or for those who want immediate gratification of a stunning view. I like to take my five year old here for “dates” with a picnic, as there are about 7 or 8 picnic tables. The view itself includes some minor rock scrambling that the kids will love.
Note: There is a $5.00 parking fee.
Local tip: With your back to the road, everyone hikes straight ahead to the lookout point. Instead take the trail to the left. There is another equally stunning lookout that usually has a fraction of the crowd. Also come near sunset. Golden hour photos are mind boggling.
Bobolink is a 3.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back. There is only one picnic table, but there are a few good spots along the creek to sit on rocks and enjoy a good snack. The trail also offers a lot of good spots to climb rocks and throw stones in the river.
Bobolink is the most accessible family friendly hike near Boulder. The trail is wheel chair accessible and completely flat. AllTrails provides an extension option on the trail but our kids honestly end up in the spot we highlight in the photo. They end up throwing rocks until it’s time to leave every time.
Boulder Creek Path and Eben G Fine Park
Boulder Creek is a 5.5 mile path starting near downtown Boulder and extending up towards the mountain. The best place to hop on the trail is Eben G. Fine park.
The park offers a playground, several great picnic spots, and access to the water. Beyond that, the family friendly trail is mostly paved, wheel chair and stroller accessible, and follows the creek through Boulder.
The trail itself is great, but as an added bonus the creek is also popular for tubing. Bring or rent a tube yourself, or just enjoy watching the locals splash around in the water.
Note: Avoid weekends at Eben G. Fine park. The area is very popular for weekend picnics so parking may be an issue on nice weekend days.
Family Friendly Boulder Itinerary
For more ideas on things to do in Boulder with kids, check out our 3 day itinerary.
A little bit of climbing results in rewarding views at Red Rocks from the Settlers Landing trailhead. This is not a great hike for toddlers unless you have a carrier because there are a few rather steep and slick rocks. If you have city slicker kids who fancy themselves as “rock climbers” though, it’s the perfect hike.
Aside from the climbing and the views, one highlight of this hike is that it is one of the less trafficked trails listed.
Note: Do not confuse this hike with the Red Rocks amphitheater south of Boudler.
El Dorado Canyon State Park
Just a short drive south of Denver, El Dorado State Park offers stream side picnics and stunning views of massive canyons. As a popular destination for rock climbers, just a short hike along most of the trails yield hair raising views of world class climbers scaling massive cliffs.
The park has several picnic and hiking areas along with a few different trails to fit various fitness and adventure levels. Fowler Trail is probably the best mix of canyon views and glimpses of the rock climbers. (If you look closely, you can see the climbers in our photo.)
Note: There is a $10.00 per car fee for day use.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a real educational gem in Boulder. The facility provides state of the art resources to universities “including supercomputers, research aircraft, sophisticated computer models.”
The trailhead behind NCAR leads to a spaghetti bowl of excellent trails. From Mallory Cave to Fern Canyon to Bear Peak, NCAR is a launching point of a great menu of epic Boulder hikes.
The first half mile of NCAR is an accessible nature trail with excellent views of Bear Peak and the surrounding foothills. Beyond that, the trail becomes more rugged, definitely unpaved, and can extend just about as far as you are willing to go.
Epic hikes abound, beyond that first half mile, for family friendly Boulder hike options, continue to Mesa Trail, turn right and choose your own adventure.
The bonus appeal is the visitor center and exhibits that are open to the public (except not right now, thanks COVID.)
Children and adults alike can learn about weather, climate, sun-earth connections and more with interactive exhibits. The best part? It’s free!
Mount Sanitas via Sanitas Valley and East Ridge Trail
The most difficult hike on this list, with the greatest payoff of a view for families who challenge themselves to make it to the top. The slow and steady climb up Sanitas Valley to the East Ridge Trail is a less-trafficked and more manageable climb to the gorgeous Mount Sanitas. From spring to late fall the valley is sprinkled with gorgeous wildflowers. Families with younger children or inexperienced hikers can turn around where the Valley trail meets the East Ridge trail. If you are seeking more adventure, continue on up where kids will be thrilled to try out some light scrambling to reach the top.
Note: The actual trailhead begins in a neighborhood with very little parking. Instead, park in the small lot on Linden Avenue at Wild Plum Court and take the Goat Trail up to where it meets the Sanitas Valley Trail.