One of our favorite hiking vacations was when my first born was 10 months old and we went to the Rocky Mountain National Park with a baby. We had no trouble finding amazing baby-friendly hikes.
My husband and I were very active before having children. We were cycle enthusiasts and spent 4 months cycling around Asia with our only belongings contained in two panniers on our bikes. Since having kids we’ve switched gears to hiking; hiking is a great way to remain active while enjoying family time.
The easiest time to hike with a child is when they are still a baby, hiking with a baby is as close as you’ll get to hiking pre-kids because your baby can spend all the time in the hiking backpack.
Rocky Mountain National Park with a Baby – Table of Contents
This post contains compensated links.
Getting to Rocky Mountain National Park with a Baby
We live in the northeast USA and the best way for us to get to the Rocky Mountains was to fly. The closest large airport to the Rocky Mountain National Park was the Denver International Airport.
We flew with United Airways and were happy to learn we were allowed to take our Chicco infant car seat, Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller and Kelty Journey Signature PerfectFit hiking backpack with us for no extra charge.
Get even more tips for flying with a hiking backpack carrier.
Our son flew as a lap infant and quickly fell asleep after being nursing on the plane.
We rented a car at the Denver Airport and drove the hour and half to Estes Park Co. A car was necessary for us because we wanted the freedom to drive to different trailheads at our leisure and not be on the time schedule of the free shuttles. However, Rocky Mountain National Park does offer a free shuttle service during the summer and early autumn months.
Where to Stay in Rocky Mountain National Park with a Baby
The most popular place to stay when visiting Rocky Mountain Park is Estes Park, which is where we stayed. The town provides everything you need, shops, restaurants, brewery, winery, grocery store, and scenic public walkways and gardens. If you are looking for a more remote feeling you could opt to stay in Grand Lake on the southeast side of the park.
Every restaurant in Estes Park we ate at was child friendly and offered us a high chair. I felt comfortable breastfeeding wherever I was in town using my muslin blanket. I liked to sit on a bench overlooking a creek which was located on E Elkhorn Ave, behind the restaurants. At the end of this road was a nice playground for toddlers and kids.
The main thing my husband and I look for when traveling with a baby is for an accommodation that includes a kitchen, common area and outdoor space.
The Wildwood Inn offered a one bedroom with a bathroom, full kitchen, lounge area and balcony in their rentals. The balcony overlooked a bubbling creek and was the perfect spot to unwind after our baby fell asleep each night.
Other Benefits of Wildwood Inn
- Offering an option to book a massage – which we did and loved!
- Pack-n-play available at no extra charge
- Wildlife spotting out the back of the property – We saw several elk
- Parking readily available
What to Pack for Baby when Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park
I highly recommend a baby carrier for hiking in the park, my favorite being a hiking backpack carrier. The trails are not paved and you will be very limited on where you can go if only bring a travel stroller.
The biggest benefit you’ll get out of a hiking backpack is added space for diaper changing items, baby food and additional layers for your baby. Plus, your baby may enjoy staying in it longer since they have a better view of the world around them.
If you choose to spend time in town a stroller will work if you bring one, but so will a baby carrier. Estes Park is pedestrian friendly and a very nice place to walk around and enjoy the sights.
You can travel lightly and rent baby equipment when you arrive!
Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park with a Baby
There are so many options for easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and even a couple that are more challenging. Here are 5 hikes we loved while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with a baby.
1. Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge
The Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge is a flat, easy and high elevation trail.
Where to Park: Ute Trail Parking off of Trail Ridge Road – note it is a small parking lot.
The Ute Trail is a great trail to test out how you feel at high altitude, since the trail starts at an elevation of 11,500 ft / 3,500 meters. This trail is relatively flat and follows a ridge granting you beautiful alpine 360 degree views. The path is a single wide dirt path and less crowded than the more well known trails to the lakes and ponds.
The hike to Tombstone Ridge is about 3k and flat tundra. If you continue on further the trail starts losing some elevation as you make your way to a gorgeous overlook at 4 miles (6.5 km) before the trail curves left. This is a great spot to rest, let your baby out to explore, and fuel up before heading back.
The further you hike the greater the views become of the surrounding mountains.
Highlights of Ute Trail Hike
- Alpine Flowers
- 360 Views and views of higher mountains in the background
- Less populated hike
- Easy trail to get use to higher altitude
2. Bear Lake to Emerald Lake
Another easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park with a baby us the Bear Lake trail.
Where to park: Bear Lake Parking Lot
This hike is one of the most popular hikes and if you don’t want to be drowned in crowds start early! We parked right at 6:30 am and were able to get to Emerald Lake before any crowds, only to encounter the massive crowds on the way back.
The parking lot to the furthest lake, Emerald Lake, is a 1.6 mile / 2.5 km hike. The hike starts at an elevation of 9500 ft / 2,885 meters and goes up to just over 9,800 ft / 3,000 meters so a slight uphill, but nothing strenuous. For someone who hikes often this was an easy hike.
The path is nice and wide and has plenty of benches and opportunities to stop. If you are trying to beat the crowd to Emerald Lake I would suggest not stopping till you get there and take your time going back. Once you get to Emerald Lake you can choose to climb the rocks and be rewarded with a more scenic view away from others. I found this a great spot to breastfeed my son. Nothing like breastfeeding out in nature.
On the way back you have the option to turn left on Glacier George right after Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha; a 0.9 mile / 1.4 km hike slightly uphill trek again. This trail starts off steep and levels out and is less crowded than the path to Emerald Lake.
Lake Haiyaha was my favorite spot as it was more remote and gave you a great option to continue hiking up over the rocks to undisturbed wildflowers and spectacular views. It reminded me of a Switzerland hike. If I was traveling with toddlers that wanted out of the hiking backpack I wouldn’t let them out on the rocks for their safety.
Highlights of the Bear Lake Hike
- Rewarded with many lakes in a short distance
- Options to explore on rocks
- Wildflowers beyond Lake Haiyaha
- Stunning views
3. Sky Pond via Lake Glass
The Sky Pond via Lake Glass hike is a more advanced hiking option with a baby for alpine lakes.
Where to Park: Glacier Gorge Junction Trailhead
The parking lot that is ideal for this hike is a small lot so best to start early to guarantee a spot. The hike is a 7.5 mile / 12 km out and back that requires you to climb up a small 100 ft waterfall to reach Sky Pond at an elevation of 10,900 ft / 3,330 meters.
Right from the start you are rewarded with views of Alberta Falls as you start your hike upwards. You trek through the woods and up the valley for most of the hike before you arrive at Timberlane Falls, which requires you to rock scramble up a 100 ft waterfall. At the top you will be rewarded with Lake of Glass, a stunning alpine lake with unique sharkstooth rock formations in the background.
My husband carried our son in the hiking backpack at Timberlane Falls for both ascent and descent as he felt more comfortable on the tricker terrain. This is the only part of the hike that I wouldn’t have wanted to carry my baby.
From Lake of Glass it is a short distance, but does require rock scrambling to arrive at Sky Pond. Sky Pond was my favorite alpine lake, even though when we arrived it wasn’t blue skies. I enjoyed the more challenging hike and the feeling of remoteness when we sat taking it all in.
Highlights of the Sky Pond Hike
- Unique Sharkstooth rock formation
- More remote feel
- Rock Scramble up a waterfall
4. Hollowell Park Area
The Hollowell Park Area is easy, flat hiking with a baby in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Where to Park: Hollowell Park Parking off of Bear Lake Road
This is a great spot if you want an easy day because you or your baby are feeling the altitude sickness or a spot to stop for a picnic lunch. It is conveniently on the way back from Bear Lake or Sky Pond to Estes Park.
Lay a picnic blanket out and enjoy the lowlands and more forest surroundings. If you feel up to it you can hike the Hollowell Park Trail to the Mill Creek Basin a 3.7 mile / 6 km out and back trip. You start out at 8,200 ft / 2,500 meters and only reach 9,000 ft / 2,750 meters.
An easy day especially if you are looking to gain some fitness before some of the longer more challenging hikes. Also great opportunities to let your baby out of the hiking backpack and play on the flat ground. Or if you are hiking with a toddler, this is a great first hike location.
Highlights of the Hollowell Park Hike
- Forest views
- Flat open fields great for new walkers
- Less populated hiking
5. Mt. Chiquita Hike
This is a harder hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Where to Park: Chapin Creek Trailhead off of Old Falls Road
This is the most challenging hike we did with our baby in Rocky Mountain National Park. You start at an elevation of 11,200 ft / 3,400 meters which is higher than all the other hiking peaks. Mount Chiquita tops out at 13,000 ft / 3,978 meters after 2.5 miles (4.1 km) of hiking.
The day we attempted this climb the weather was grim; overcast, mist with the threat of downpouring. The terrain was steep and slippery at times. If you like a challenge like we do, carrying a baby up this mountain will be just that, but it is doable.
The day we took this hike the visibility was poor, but on a sunnier day you would have the most spectacular view. And the accomplishment you would feel at being able to hike this mountain top with a baby would be well worth it!
Highlights of the Mt Chiquita Hike
- Mountain climbing
- Views of other two mountains in close surrounding areas (Mount Chapin and Ypsilon Mountain)
- More challenging for adventure seekers
Tips for Hiking with a Baby in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Summer
1. Start Your Hikes Early
If you plan on driving to the start of your hikes, start early. There is limited parking and parking lots fill up very quickly. The non-main parking locations are small. We began our hikes everyday around 6 a.m. to beat the crowds and ensure a parking spot close to the hikes we wanted.
The later you start the hike the more crowded the trails will be, especially on the more well known trails.
2. Avoid Afternoon Rain
Rocky Mountain National Park is known to have thunderstorms come through in the afternoons during summer. Best time to hike is in the morning before any rain hits.
Explore Estes Park Town in the afternoon and for lunch.
3. Consider the Elevation
Rocky Mountain National Park is at high altitude. Consider the elevation of different hikes and build up to higher elevations gradually over your trip.
For the first couple of days aim for lower elevation hikes as you build up to higher elevation based on how you and your baby feel. Watch your baby closely for signs of altitude sickness.
4. Be Prepared
Before your trip be comfortable using your hiking backpack and spend time getting your baby used to being in it for several hours a day.
Plan to stop multiple times while hiking to let your baby out to feed, play and explore.
5. Pack Baby Supplies
Pack diaper supplies, additional layers for your baby and snacks to take with you on hikes.