Since all our travel plans were wrecked by pandemic, road trips were the only options left. We were hoping to go to Colorado but didn’t make any reservations in advance since we were not sure if the parks would be open if the shelter in place would be lifted. But at the end of June, we went to Colorado! Our perfect formula for long road trips is two nights camping, one night in a hotel (for hot showers and laundry).
Its a 16+ hours drive from San Jose to South Colorado border. Since we were traveling with kids and a dog, we made this in 2,5 days. Our first stop was in the pine forest of Flagstaff, Arizona, with a quick detour in beautiful Sedona.
Our first destination in Colorado was the Mesa Verde National Park. We booked a campsite a couple of days before our trip. This part of Colorado is remote from any major city and not popular with local tourists. So we enjoyed the unique cliff dwellings and park views with just a few more families.
There we started experiencing the Colorado stormy weather. Our Californian kids are not used to lightning and thunder.
The next thing on our list was the 8 miles hike (with 2000+ elevation gain) in San Juan Forest to the Ice Lakes. Let me tell you: we’ve never hiked this much with kids, it took us the entire day – about 7.5 hours. But we made it! Beautiful valleys with panoramic views of the snowy mountains, countless waterfalls and creeks we had to pass and the Ice lake at the top. Everybody was exhausted afterward, but it was the real highlight of the trip!
On the next day, we took it easy and went to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It is known for its depth, narrowness, and sheerness. It is pretty awesome (and scary) to stand on the edge of the 2600 feet high cliff.
After we headed to Aspen, and our goal was to see the beautiful Maroon Bells. The hike is 4 miles roundtrip, so after 8 miles one, it felt easy! The problem with the Maroon Bells is that it gets too crowded during summer. So you need a parking or shuttle reservation in advance.
Next, we headed through the Denver (reminds San Jose a lot) to the Garden of the Gods Nature Park. This land was gifted to the City of Colorado Springs for public enjoyment. The park is free (and popular) with paved trails and many opportunities to climb (for both kids and experienced climbers with permit). Our jumping ninja warrior Mark was in heaven and loved this place the most of our trip!
Our last destination in Colorado was the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is the third (or fourth) national park by popularity and required a timed entry reservation. Since animals are not permitted at any part of the Park we made it a quick drive-through with stops at some points of interest.
After the Rocky Mountain, our journey back home began.
We decided to go through Utah and make a stop at one of our all-time favorite parks – Bryce Canyon National Park. The photos below speak for themselves – this place is so unique. It is accessible, and we were able to take our dog on a nice walk.
Overall we enjoyed our family trip to colorful Colorado and visited everything we planned including four Nationa Parks. I hope this blog post helps you plan your next trip and spend more time outdoors with your loved ones!