During the summer of 2020, we carefully planned an escape to the mountains with our kids, parents, in-laws, and sister-in-law. We drove from Chicago to Colorado in two vehicles. My mother hadn’t been back to Colorado since her early 20’s, so we planned a week of sightseeing at Pike’s Peak, Royal Gorge, Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Telluride, and Aspen.
From Colorado Springs, we drove 1 1/2 hours to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. It was $20/adult, and while I prefer National Parks, it did make for a fun activity for all ages, exploring the bridge, zip lining for the teenagers (extra cost), and a bird of prey predator show for the youngest.
After that, we left Canyon City and drove through 2 1/2 hours to reach The Great Sand Dunes National Park before dark. The drive had no places to stop (gas/food), but thankfully we had snacks in the car. We arrived to the dunes before dark, but stayed well past dark, as it was amazing in the moonlight. My husband and kids climbed the dunes while I walked at the base with my mom. This was my husband’s favorite national park experience! There was no extra room in our car, but we noticed other travelers brought their own winter sleds for the dunes, which seemed like a fun idea for kids. Our kids are pleasantly surprised when there’s an activity other than hiking 😉
We stayed the night in Alamosa, and in the morning drove about four hours to Mesa Verde National Park, which was my personal favorite. I took many pictures with the kids, but here are a few:
We drove to the ski resort town of Telluride, where we booked a cabin for two nights in Mountain Lodge Telluride. This by far was everyone’s favorite part of the trip. Mountain Lodge was a very family friendly resort. We took the complimentary gondolas to Telluride, and some of us hiked a 15-mile trail (Bear Creek Trail) to a beautiful waterfall. The cabin we stayed at really made these two nights beautiful; walking out on the deck in the morning and smelling the evergreens with our coffee. We all fell in love with this area.
Next we had plans to check off another national park, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We didn’t have much time to hike, so we mostly drove through and took a few beautiful pictures of the plummeting canyons. Highly recommend.
We made our way to Aspen, where we stayed in Snowmass Mountain, which was in the heart of the commercial area of Aspen. Our teenagers liked this more, but my husband and I escaped on a hiking trail through a gorgeous grove of aspen forest. We had considered biking to see Maroon Bells, but we had to make rental reservations in advance due to covid, and it was alright that it didn’t work out. We took the gondola up to the roller coaster and rock climbing wall, where the kids had fun.
Lastly, we had time after check out from Snowmass Mountain to explore White River National Forest, which was nearby. It was beautiful! The kids enjoyed stretching their legs before the long drive home. It was too long of a walk for my mom to the ice caves (in the summer, “grottos”), but there was plenty of benches in the shade to sit next to the river. We saw others swimming and jumping in from the boulders in the water. Of course our teenagers lamented the opportunity.
After we returned home, I recognized a few places advertised in the Colorado magazine that we receive!! It made me want to go back. We loved visiting in the summer. Onward to the next adventure!