Admissions to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park were provided for review, all opinions are my own.
Guide to Traveling Colorado with Kids
The first two week of August are typically the hottest in Texas. We look forward to those two weeks each Summer to escape off to a grande adventure. This Summer I spent months mapping out the most epic road trip of all time with the family. We wanted to be something fun and educational, bonus if it took us to part with cooler temps. So while there are times it can be fun to hit the open road and plan as you go, I’ve found with two kids in tow it’s less stressful to have a mapped out plan with wiggle room. The best that the beautiful state of Colorado has to offer is included in this guide to traveling Colorado with kids. I think you will find it the perfect blend of outdoor adventure, delicious food, comfort and fun, enjoy!
While the entire point of a road trip is to spend a great deal of time together in the car, we have two little people and honestly there isn’t anything we wanted to spend 2 days driving across Texas to see before reaching our destination of Colorado. We elected to fly from Austin to Denver and start our road trip from there. We didn’t spend much time in Denver this time through but there is a ton of great family activities that you could fill an entire trip with just inside this city alone, I suggest checking out CityPASS Denver for purchasing tickets and admission to area attractions at great discount. We have used CityPASS in both Dallas and Houston and they are awesome.
After arriving in Denver, gathering luggage and being shuttled off to a rental car counter, we were exhausted. Not to mention that our flight was slightly delayed on take off so we arrived later than we’d planned. We decided to stay the night in Denver and start off for the mountains in the morning. Last minute hotels in Denver are HARD to find! I was trying to book a room online and they were selling out fast than I could type, and I type pretty fast. Have your first night already booked, I promise you will thank me.
We love being outdoors and hot springs have always been a favorite natural phenomenon of mine. Colorado has tons of hot springs and we decided that we would incorporate them into our route. I found online an actual historical hot springs loop that covers all of them. Skipped a few that were out of the way from our route but hit the majority of them. Heading out of Denver on Highway 70 up into the moutains. Our first stop was in Vail Colorado.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Vail
This was not one of our overnight stops, however at just an hour and a half outside of Denver it is a great place to stretch your legs. Vail Valley is a cute little “Village” type of setting, exactly what you would expect of a ski resort town. The large green space in the center was perfect for running around and there were plenty of kids playing and laughing. We sat down for a sandwich and cupcake at Mountain Cupcakes and took in the sunshine. I stopped in to Skipper & Scout to do a little shopping for the kids and loved everything including their friendly and helpful staff.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Glenwood Springs
Let me start by saying this will forever be one of my favorite places. Actually there are 3 towns in this guide that will be in my heart fondly forever. Glenwood Springs is a small resort community of about 10k people. The boast some pretty amazing and fun things. Hanging lake is just outside of town and is a beautiful 1 mile steep and rigerous hike to that is picturesque. We did not make it to the lake, we have two tiny humans that did not think this sounded like fun, it resulted in two adult humans that were dissapointed. Do the hike, it’s amazing, but be prepared that you can not swim in the lake once you get there.
As you drive past Hanging Lake trail head you will notice that you continue along the Colorado River, this runs right through town and along Highway 70. Since the river runs right through town you will see lots of river rafting as you move about town. We saw a group on our walk to dinner our second night. There are tons of outdoor adventure companies that will take you on the river, families can go with children as young as 4. We had a small injury the first night and this prevented us from being able to raft this trip sadly.
While Glenwood Springs has many offerings I’d say the hot springs is the biggest. The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is wonderful! The rooms are spacious and very clean. The staff was friendly and helpful. The lodge is located directly across from the pools, it was an easy walk across the street. Parking is located behind the lodge in a secure covered area that we always found a great spot in. When you stay at the resort it includes admission to the pools as well as made to order breakfast at the grill each morning. We had the best omlettes each morning and the kids enjoyed fruit and “vacation cereal” aka fruit loops.
There are several hot spring pools and you should know this is the World’s Largest Hot Springs Pool, which is pretty amazing. There are 15 minerals found in the water and besides relieving aches and pains, soaking in hot highly concentrated mineral water has many other health and wellness benefits. With several pools on site, there is something that will accommodate all comfort levels. The kiddie pool with its water feature was a big hit and I really enjoyed the warmest of the pools, the therapy pool. Did I mention there are water slides and putt putt on site too. If you are not staying at the resort (but why wouldn’t you) you can purchase a day pass that will give you access to the pools and grill. Make sure to try the chocolate soft serve ice cream!
While your in Glenwood Springs there are a few must places to visit. Slope and Hatch was so amazing that we had dinner here both nights! Specializing in Hot Dogs and Tacos (not a combo you’d expect) this tucked away restaurant will make your mouth water with their unique spin on the traditionals. The kids loved the quesadillas and we couldn’t get enough of the Cubano Taco and Carolina Hot Dog.
Ready for a adventure park like none you’ve been to before? Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park boasts to be America’s only Mountain Top Theme Park. You start by riding the Iron Mountain Tram to the top of the mountain where you enter the park. Tickets are purchased at the parking area/mountain base, so once you walk off the tram you go straight into the park! The park offers cave tours, thrill rides, restaurants, kids’ activities, and special events.
We had a great time exploring and riding rides. John loved the Alpine coaster with his dad and I rode the impressive zipline with him. Live music where the kids were given instruments to play along was a huge hit with my crowd. We finished the day off learning how to pan for gemstones.
As you walk the quant main streets of Glenwood Springs you are likely to come across farmer’s markets, beautiful parks, outdoor clothing shops and a local toy store. The main street of town was wonderful for evening strolls as the sun went down.
We rounded out our evening with a trip to the local BMX track, Crown Mountain BMX. We had packed most of our bike gear along from home and a local family shared a bike with us when John’s age group was racing. A great family friendly activity to check out if you are in town. He loved his prize of a sticker and tootsie roll pop after racing.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Ouray
We made our way out of Glenwood Springs along Highway 133 and headed South towards Ouray, Colorado. This was one of those nights that we didn’t have a plan and had actually thought we would stay in the town of Montrose to the North of Ouray. When we arrived in Montrose it was early and we didn’t see much that jumped out to us to explore, so we kept on driving.
First stop in Ouray was of course the hot springs! We’d been in the car for 3 hours and it was time to get out and have fun. Ouray Hot Springs is nestled in, surrounded by towering mountains all around you. There are 5 pools on the property and vary in temps from 78 (lap pool) to 106 (Overlook pool – adults only). There is an activity pool for the kids, big and small, complete with water slides, bouldering wall and inflatable obstacle course. One of my favorite features at this hot spring was the sun sails that shaded areas of the pool. So many times we have to limit our swim time because of being in too much sun. This allowed us to play a lot longer than normal. There is also a fitness center and grill on site.
Once you are done relaxing in the hot springs head into town and soak up the amazingness of this community. Referred to as the “Switzerland of America” you will find victorian architecture meets mountain hide away. Another of my new favorites places for sure. Main street has everything you need plus the killer views. Ouray is known for their ice park that draws large crowds in the Winter months. During the summer months you will not want to miss a family friendly hike into Box Canyon. The roar of the waterfall will fill your ears as you decend along a secure metal staircase to the base. Views of the city of Ouray can be seen for the pedestrian bridge.
If you stay the night and you should, we found that they Comfort Inn hidden behind main street was perfect for us. The staff was as nice as could be, the room was huge and super clean, they had a pack n Play for us to use and did not charge us additional for it. Breakfast is included and there are no fees for parking.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Durango
Durango is known for it’s slopes during ski season but in the Summer months there are so many other great family activities to enjoy as well. Just outside of town is the Pinkerton Hot Springs, now this isn’t like the other hot springs we’ve been swimming in. This “attraction” is a road-side hot springs that runs over a massive rock. If you aren’t looking for it, you will drive right by. It is easily accessible (roadside parking) and very pretty. The water runs hot, but there is not any odor of sulfar. Definitely worth a stop to explore and get a quick photo. At one time the spring water was routed to the pool of a resort. The resort burned in a fire many years ago and the rock pile was built to safely discharge the flowing spring water.
The main downtown streets of Durango are filled with restaurants, outdoor adventure shops, souvenir shops and of course a great toy store and candy shop. John can sniff out a good toy store/candy store the second we drive into a town. Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory had all the usually goodies along with fresh dipped chocolate treats. We selected out usual bag of random gummy candy’s and continues down the street. Kid’s Rock childrens store was packed with my favorite toy brands and some of the cutest clothing! A must see for mom for sure.
We stopped in at a hidden spot called Mother’s Pizza for a few slices and a Margarita, seriously by this time Mama, needed a little chill out. So we ate our slices on bar stools tucked off the main street and John had a blast in the kids play room. He colored, played with the kitchen and had fun writing with chalk on the wall. Fancy, no way but was it delicious, absolutely.
We spent the majority of our day exploring the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. The train has several daily round trips between Durango and Silverton. It is a very scenic route that I imagine is beautiful anytime season you go. During out visit there had been some flooding and the train was not running, sadly we didn’t get to ride it. We did however have an amazing time exploring the depot and museum (FREE). Hours of looking at models, collections of pieces of area history, antique cars, giant Lego creations and did I mention trains! The Railroad offers special event trains year round, everything from a wine and dine to the Polar Express.
Durango was another city on our list that had a BMX track that we wanted to check out. Again another great community, which is in part why we love the sport. We borrowed bikes from the track and both Bill and John raced. make sure to add this one to your list even if you just come out to watch the kids race.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Pagosa Springs
On the drive between Durango and Pagosa Springs there is a must stop and explore opportunity, Chimney Rock National Monument. This off-the-beaten-path archaeological site. You will walk the same trails the fascinating and enigmatic ancestral Puebloans of the Chaco Canyon. These paths have been here, unchanged for over 1,000 years. It is a family friendly excursion. We used the baby carrier for our toddler and our preschooler walked on his own without any issue. You will want to keep a close eye on little ones as the area is all natural and there are critters free roaming as well as no safety railings on the hike up.
We stayed at The Springs Resort & Spa, where the springs are located. The resort boasts 23 soaking pools of various temperatures that lay along the banks of the San Juan River. Pagosa Springs is the home of the Great Pagosah Spring, which is the Guinness World Record title holder of The World’s Deepest Geothermal Hot Spring. This is the spring that feeds into the 23 soaking pools. Our room at the resort was spacious and allowed for us to have a serperate sleeping area from the baby, Yay! for living rooms. The room did have a large bathroom and included a partical kitchenette with mini fridge, coffee maker and sink. We had a few hiccups with our stay and some issues with housekeeping. management was courteous and listened to our concerns. They are currently under new ownership and we understood that there are adjustments involved in that. If you chose to stay at a different hotel in town you can purchase a day pass to the springs as many locals do. I will warn you the weekends in the Summer are busy with plenty of local children enjoying the pool.
While in town we enjoyed dinner at two great local spots. Mountain Pizza and Taproom, served up a delicous made to order pie, we recommend the Mountain Dan. They have a wall of beer and wine on tap that is self serve! You recieve a electronic bracelet at the register that is linked to your id and credit card. You swipe the bracelet across the sign for your tap of choice and pour. You are charged for the exact amount you pour. Nice and easy and there is no waiting for a refill on your drink.
The other great meal we had in town can recommended from locals and was at Kip’s Grill. A favorite amoungst locals this small dining area was packed so eating on the patio might help you be seated faster. They quickly provided a large box of crayons and coloring sheets that helped the littles entertained. Chips and salsa didn’t dissapoint this Texan and my dinner of chili rellenos had just the right amount of kick.
Great activities to do in the area would include hot air balloon rides, I saw one taking off from my perch in the adult only area of the soaking pools early one morning. Maybe when the kids are a little older and less wiggly we will take this adventure. Every year in September, Pagosa Springs holds ColorFest, a weekend filled fun for the entire family. From multi days of large groups of balloon ascensions to a 5k and wine and dine.
There is nothing better than visiting somewhere and coming across something fun and local that you weren’t expecting. We’ve done this on several of our vacations, facebook events locater is amazing. We happen to be in town the weekend of the Archuleta County Fair and Rodeo. Small town rodeos are the best! We made our way over to the fair ground parked (for free!) and signed John up for a few of the kids events. He loved running in the stick horse race and said that next time he wants to try mutten busting. He gave his best in the pie eating contest but placed 2nd. We explored the exhib hall which brough back fun childhood memories of entering my girl scout projects in our local county fair as a young girl. Visited the animals in the petting zoo and tried our hand a learning how to handle a rope. All in all the county fair and rodeo was perfect!
We did a small amount of walking around local shops and enjoyed an evening playing at Pagosa Springs Town Park. John made friends and joined in a birthday party. Complete with cake, ice cream and a few swings of the pinata. His new friends waved goodbye as we left and sent us on our way with a goodie bag in hand.
The area around Pagosa Springs was some of my favorite hiking the entire trip. We did two short family friendly hikes that you will not want to pass up. First is Treasure Falls, this is an easy to access waterfall, fifteen miles east of Pagosa Springs on Highway 160. The waterfall is visible from the parking area, but requires a short uphill hike to get near the base. We used the baby carrier on this one for Mary and John walked with us. The majority of trail is switch backs to make for an easy trek. When we got to the base of the falls there were children swim and playing. This is the perfect hike for a family.
As you continue down the Highway 160, you will come to Wolk Creek Pass. This is where the Continental Divide trail crosses over. At just under 11,000 feet the pass trail leads to breath taking open views as it heads southwest towards New Mexico and Arizona. I felt it was essential to step foot on this amazing trail that traverses so many great miles. We got out and hiked around for about 30 minutes. The trail is cut into the grass from so many footsteps and is easy to see. You can take it all in and still be able to see your vehicals. After our amazing hikes we continued down the road to our next stop in Salida.
Traveling Colorado with Kids: Salida
I bring you to the last of my 3 new favorite places, in no significant order of course. Well that may not be true, this is a town I would move to in a heart beat. I feel like as far as small communites go, this is the one I go to spend the most time really investigating. Plus it has a few of my favorite memories from the entire trip!
We drove into town right at lunch time and after all that hiking we were ready for a delicious lunch. It’s kind of our thing to find great local pizza spots in case you haven’t noticed. I searched online and found Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub, sounds like our kinda place. The shaded patio was awesome, the baskets of random toys for the kids to play with at the table in addition to coloring sheets, were a HUGE entertainer. The food was delicious, we split a salad and a calzone and enjoyed both.
The main street in the original downtown Salida is lined with shops and restaurants. We stopped in most and checked things out. Kaleidoscope Toys was one of the best toys stores I have every been in and they carried all the brands that mom’s love. So if its time to restock the busy bag for the car or plane ride home, this is where you want to be. Some of the other shops we enjoyed exploring were Salida Mountain Sports (I got my new Patagonia hat here), Beekeeper’s Honey Boutique and Salida Mixing Bowl.
If you are planning an extended stay in Salida and might need a few baby items you will want to check out Little Red Tricycle. They are half consignment/half modern boutique and they have a rental selection for baby household items like highchairs and pack n plays. We snagged a new rash gaurd for Mary off the consignment rack, shopped for a baby gift in the boutique and restocked on sunscreen. The gal working was as nice as they come and the kids really enjoyed her. Did I mention they have a childrens play area towards the back of the shop so the kids are occupied while you look around?!
The main draw of Salida is the Arkansas River that runs through town. They are home to the Salida Whitewater park, where kayakers of all levels can come to train. There are several schools in the area that use the park for educational purposes. Run by the city it is open for public use. Just a few yards down the river children and adults are playing in the swift cool waters and having a wonderful time. If you plan on going beyond the banks, lifejackets are recommended. The current is moving quickly and lifejackets are never a bad idea when it comes to small children and water play. We played in the water until teeth were chattering and then headed over to the Riverside Park to water up.
Riverside park is located along the river, seperated by a pedestrian/bike path. The play ground is amazing and I loved the raft themed equipment. There is a bouldering wall that is perfect for all levels and the kids really seem to enjoy. Not to mention an ampitheather making this a common location for area events and festivals.
Dinner time had us thinking about Mexican food and we remember The Boathouse Cantina that we’d noticed along the river’s bike path earlier that day. With a minimal wait we were seated in a covered patio area where out table was right along the river. We noshed on Jalepeño Poppers, Baja style fish tacos and more chili relleños. Their bar tender makes an amazing blackberry mojito that you are going to want to try for sure.
Tired and ready to crash for the night after a long day of swimming we headed to The Amigo Motor Lodge. With accomidations ranging from lodge rooms to outfitted airstream trailers, you will find something about this place that you will love. We elected for a lodge room and it was perfect! Room to spread out, two comfy beds and a bathroom that I loved. They have pack n plays you can reserve for $5 a night and they have all the linens that you need on hand as well. Once we were set up John and I explored the Teepee out front and the Cacoon swings. Our room had a basket with snacks and waters in case we need anything on the spot and the pricing was closer to what you’d expect to pay at the store vs a hotel. Honestly I could not get enough of the asthetic of this place. I wanted to come home and make my house look just like this!
As we headed back to Denver to make our way home I can’t help looking back on 10 days of amazing memories. I know that traveling with kids can be overwhelming, especially when they are little and have their own schedules and routines. I hope this guide to traveling Colorado with kids has given you insights that will allow you to make the most of your time with your family and get out there and explore.