10 Summer Family Adventures in Colorado

I have always viewed our family vacations through the lens of adventure travel. When the boys were little, the adventures were, too. Over the years, our family vacation experiences have grown as we incorporate more adventurous activities into our trips.

Some of our favorite summer travel destinations are in the mountains near Vail, Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are the perfect playground for adventure!

I have compiled our top 10 summer mountain family adventures and hope they will inspire your family to try something new this year. To reach any of these destinations, you can pick up your Alamo rental car from the Denver International Airport, which is about a two-hour drive from Vail.

Colorado’s Longest Alpine Slide

This Alpine Slide is at the base of the Winter Park, Colorado, ski resort, which is 90 miles from Denver International Airport. It starts with a chairlift ride up the Arrow Lift to mid-mountain height where the Alpine Slide begins. The slide consists of a concrete, concave path with higher walls allowing for banked turns. The sled rides on wheels and the speed is controlled by the rider with a manual brake. Younger kids can ride along on an adult’s sled.

Colorado’s Longest Alpine Slide Colorado’s Longest Alpine Slide

 

Riding Vail Pass

Along I-70, a paved bike path follows the highway over Vail Pass (approximately 100 miles from Denver). We found a tour at Vail Bike Tech that dropped us off at the top of the pass and then we coasted downhill all the way back to Lionshead Village. The ride winds between the northbound and southbound highway in a valley of trees, streams and rocks.  There is a little bit of pedaling required at the bottom of this adventure in order to reach town, but for the most part, the 15-mile trip is effortless, and the scenery is gorgeous! 

Vail Pass bike path Vail Pass bike path

 

Horseback Riding at Devil’s Thumb Ranch

Devil’s Thumb Ranch is located 15 miles North of Winter Park, and may be one of the prettiest places on the planet. It is nestled in a valley under the shadow of Devil’s Thumb (a rock formation that looks like the “devil’s thumb”). There are a variety of summer activities available including fishing, hiking, ziplining, a luxury hotel and two incredible restaurants—Hecks and Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon. Devil’s Thumb is known for their stables and horseback riding. The ranch’s 6,000 acres can be explored on horseback. You can book a horseback riding experience by calling the resort.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Devil’s Thumb Ranch

 

Explore Vail’s Epic Discovery Activities

Our family spends at least one day every year at Epic Discovery -- a collection of adventure activities at the top of the Vail Mountain gondola. There are hiking trails, adventure courses, ziplines, a mountain coaster, summer tubing hills, a climbing wall and a Bungee Trampoline.

Vail’s Epic Discovery Vail’s Epic Discovery

This ropes course is a three-story maze of heart-pounding fun. The courses have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, but they are all high in the air and challenging!

Vail ropes course Vail ropes course

The Vail Mountain Coaster functions more like a rollercoaster than the Alpine Slide. The ride is smooth as you go down the mountain in a twisty-curvy way. At the bottom, the coaster kicks in with some power to bring the coaster car back to the top and into the station.

White Water Rafting

One thing we tried for the first time last year was a half day rafting tour on the Colorado River. Our tour was guided by Timberline Tours who picked us up from our Vail hotel. The tour included a picnic lunch so all we needed to bring was ourselves, clothing that could get wet and sunscreen. While much of the ride was calm and scenic, there were several scary sections of paddling and splashing. The views from the river offer a different perspective that you can’t find anywhere else. I highly recommend trying white water rafting if you haven’t yet!

White water rafting on the Colorado River White water rafting on the Colorado River

 

Biking Trestle Park

Trestle Bike Park is the largest mountain biking park in the country with over 40 miles of downhill trails. There are daily introductory classes that include bike and gear rentals. Getting the bike on the chairlift is a challenge, and is one of many! The downhill trails are marked by level of difficulty, but don’t be fooled by the word “downhill.” This physical activity guarantees that all participants will sleep very well that night.

Trestle Bike Park mountain biking Trestle Bike Park mountain biking

 

Visit the GoPro Games

Each year, Vail hosts the GoPro Games in early June. You can join in the games or watch the adventure from the sidelines. Everything is free including multiple concerts at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

In addition to multiple slackline competitions and exhibitions, GoPro Games events include kayak freestyle, 8-Ball Kayak Sprint, DockDogs (Extreme Vertical, Dueling Dogs, Outdoor Big Air), IFSC Climbing World Cup, Mountain Masters Disc Golf, 2 Fly X-Stream Casting Competition and more.

GoPro Games in Vail GoPro Games in Vail

 

Visit the Continental Divide

Take a ride over to the Trail Ridge Road, the highest highway in North America. Located inside Rocky Mountain National Park (approximately 70 miles from Denver depending on which entrance you choose), the iconic roadway connects Grand Lake on the west to Estes Park on the east. The road climbs over 4,000 feet and the weather changes drastically within minutes, so come prepared with lots of layers and a coat!

Continental Divide Continental Divide

Many miles of the highway are above the tree line and the drive offers several places to stop, hike and explore.  Don’t let the snow fool you, this picture was taken during the summer!

Hiking the Continental Divide Hiking the Continental Divide

To help your family plan and remember your adventures, I have created a Family Adventure Journal. I hope you will celebrate family adventure on your next vacation!

Vacation Stories

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About the Author

Holly Homer

Holly Homer runs the blog “Kids Activities,” which aims to provide inspiration and realistic ideas to moms for more family fun. As a mom to three boys, Holly finds time to conquer both passions of blogging and parenting with ease.