Colorado vacation with a one year old
April 27, 2006 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the very early stages of planning a family vacation to Colorado. We have an energetic one-year-old. We haven't been to Colorado before, so I am looking for ideas/suggestions on where to stay, what to do, and general suggestions on trying to have a somewhat relaxing vacation with a little one.

My husband and I enjoy hiking, scenery, photography, mountains, and just generally being outside. We don't necessarily need to have a jam-packed vacation experience - a nice little cabin with some hiking trails nearby and great scenery would be great. We would be flying in and then driving to our destination in a rental car. We are looking to spend around 5 days in Colorado.
posted by Ostara to Travel & Transportation around Colorado (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Estes Park would be one choice. There's local cabins for rent, and the Rocky Mountain National Park is next door (although note that the higher roads are not cleared of snow until June). There's some great wildlife observing there, which a 1yo could get into. Plus you'd have hikes up the wazoo.

Check out e.g. Rocky Mountain National Park, tourist activities, etc.

You'd also have access to the Peak-to-Peak Byway - good for a day trip, you could go to small mountain towns such as Nederland for example.

You could also drive down to Boulder in about an hour, and down to Denver in 90 minutes, for a day trip, if you wanted to.

I'd rather stay in Estes and make trips down when necessary, compared with staying in Boulder (e.g.) and making day trips up into the mountains.
posted by carter at 9:41 AM on April 27, 2006

P.S.: Estes is about 1.5 - 2.0 hours from Denver Intl Airport.
posted by carter at 9:42 AM on April 27, 2006

And - Google search for 'Estes Park cabin'. You'll have to wade through those sites but will find something in the end.
posted by carter at 9:47 AM on April 27, 2006

Mesa Verde and Durango. Trust me.
posted by Witty at 10:30 AM on April 27, 2006

I would recommend Mount Elbert Lodge near Leadville. Twin Lakes is nearby and it's a wonderful place to just run around and "experience nature" and whatnot. Really anything near Twin Lakes is great. Mt Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and the scenery is amazing. It's a little more secluded than Estes Park (and a little deeper into the Front Range).

If you drive into Buena Vista for dinner one night, you could eat at Casa del Sol--certainly the best mexican restaurant in that area.
posted by mattbucher at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2006

Breckenridge has the reputation of a family-friendly ski town. I haven't been there in the summer, but when I was a kid we would take a ski trip out west every winter, and Breckenridge was always the kids' favorite. I believe it's due to the fact that it has more of a town than other, similar, ski resorts.

I'd imagine that, for a successful winter destination area to remain viable, they do a healthy dose of summer tourism as well.
posted by penchant at 11:57 AM on April 27, 2006

Breckenridge is really nice (I was born there!). You might be able to find some cabins around there, but it's mainly for hotels and staying around the town and skiing. And it's a lot more expensive than somewhere like Leadville or Estes Park. However, Breckenridge does have the Alpine Slide in the summer. Great fun (but probably not for a one-year old).

You might also check out the area around Yeoman Park. Glenwood Springs is perfect.
posted by mattbucher at 12:30 PM on April 27, 2006

I took a vacation out there and drove ALL over. I missed the big daddy:I always hear that Mesa verde is the grandest and is never forgotten, but not for the faint of heart. I went to Garden of the Gods is a smaller but accessible (10 min from colorado springs) nice red/white rock formations, with lots of climbers all over it, and free.
No Native american places there, tho. There is a smaller Native american rock dwelling at Manitou springs thats fun, tho you also have to climb a 10 foot adder at a 45 degree angle to enjoy it, but its only one ladder. Rocky Mntn National Park is beautiful for photography and a long drive, and you are always in danger of elk on highway, which I came about a foot of hitting once!
Avoid: Manitou springs 'Cave of Winds', its small, and not in good condition. Seven falls: its a small creek falls massively overexploited, overhyped. Canon city Royal Gorge Bridge is high but somehow a let down, and massively overpriced.

some web results
posted by uni verse at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2006

Oh, and we DRIVED to the top of Pikes Peak! No, theres no snow in summer, sometimes autumn, due to global warming? It was a good view, but it paled in comparison to the view one can find in Banff, Canada, but then, what doesn't?
posted by uni verse at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2006

Best answer: Colorado native here, and I'll put my .02 in:
Mesa Verde is great - but I think it would be appreciated better by your child when he's older. Also, it's a lonngg drive from the Denver Airport. It's a great place to visit on a trip to Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce, etc.
Estes Park, or the little town of Grand Lake, just on the other side of Trail Ridge Road (runs through Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park, and is the highest continuously paved road in the US) would be nice choices. Estes is a little bit of a tourist trap, and Grand Lake is smaller and more charming. You can rent a canoe and paddle across Grand Lake in about 20 minutes (little-known fact: Grand Lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado!). Estes is about 1.5 hours closer to the airport, so that's something to consider.
The Leadville suggestion is a little weird to me - it's VERY high altitude to try to adjust to in just five days, and I don't think slag heaps are all that pretty as mountain scenery. Rocky Mountain National Park is nothing short of spectacular - you should plan a day trip to Grand Lake if you don't stay there.
Colorado Springs and vicinity (Manitou, Garden of the Gods, etc) is not as fun, I don't think - unless you want to see the Air Force Academy and maybe pop in to visit Focus on the Family. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty, but for the same time spent on the road, Estes and RMNP are a much better bet. There are a number of lodges in and around Estes Park (here's one that is pretty old) - they have cabins for rent as well as rooms, and some of them have a b&B option. Good luck!
posted by dbmcd at 4:19 PM on April 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: While I'd agree that there are wonderful things to see elsewhere in Colorado, you'd spend a lot of time driving to see some of them, which is not ideal with a kid. Mesa Verde (which is fabulous) is a full day's drive each way from DIA, for example. So I'm assuming that you need a convenient base to dump most of your stuff in, and then take day/side trips with the minimum amount of packing-the-car hassle.
posted by carter at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2006

Mesa Verde requires some quasi difficult climbing (ladders) to get to some of the best experiences doesn't it? I would not want to shepherd a one year old through that.

Estes for my money (Teluride, Durango, Buena Vista, Mesa Verde a couple of years from now.)
posted by leafwoman at 5:20 PM on April 27, 2006

Great Sand Dunes National Monument is one of the coolest places I've ever visited. It's in the south part of Colorado, probably 120 miles south of Denver. There are these enormous, sahara-like sand dunes trapped between these huge mountain peaks in this tiny 20-square mile area... It's surreal, to say the least. There's also a gorgeous river that flows though the dunes, very shallow and warm and perfect for wading. No cabins as I recall, but there are nice spacious campgrounds and a nearby town with a decent hotel.

It's like a beach, in the middle of Colorado.
Some pictures to do it justice...
Nice big one
another big one
posted by spatula at 11:17 PM on April 27, 2006

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