Summer is here and it is hot. As a Dutchie, I grew up hearing a lot of opinions about the weather. Too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry, and so on. So, I decided to just take it as it comes. However, when I moved to Boulder, Colorado, for the first time ever I experienced that it can be too hot outside even to my liking. Luckily we can go to the Colorado mountains for outdoor learning! There it is always nice and cool. So for this post in the Outdoor Learning series, I will share with you what we do when… the mountains are calling!
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Preparations when you are heading to the Mountains
When you decide to go to the mountains, you cannot just hop in your car and go. Especially when you just arrived at high altitude. Firstly, altitude sickness, dehydration, heatstroke, and lightning are a couple of things to be aware of. Secondly, taking precautions to ensure a good time is necessary. For a full list of possible dangers click here.
What you can do:
Gradually increase your elevation and activity level;
Check the weather forecast;
Dress appropriately for the weather.
Above all, we have prepared our kids what to do when they see lightning because deaths by lightning happen in Colorado. The rule is simple: when you see lightning, go inside asap. When that is not possible and they are stuck outside, they still know what to do and what not to do. One thing you should never do is find shelter under a tree. Since lighting travels either within a cloud, from cloud to cloud or from a cloud to the ground. When it travels to the ground, it will strike the highest point available. Which means, it is more likely to strike a tree, than a human in an open field.
Water, Backpacks & Shoes
Colorado is known for its low humidity (semi-arid / steppe climate). Which means that it is important to always bring water, all year round. Increase the fluid amount from what you would drink at home. You won’t be exaggerating if you would drink double.
We always bring backpacks, one for each of the kids and then one for an adult. Each of us has a Klean Kanteen filled with filtered water and snacks packed. For snacks, we bring apples, gluten-free crackers, and some salty snacks. The other adult wears the baby carrier. Well, not really a baby carrier anymore since we have a kindergarten size carrier. Just in case either our 5 or 3-year-old has trouble walking. All of us wear good fitting shoes, either sandals that can be tightened properly (e.g. Chacos or Keens) or sneakers. We prefer water shoes like Chacos and Keens because they’ve proven to be great for hiking and you can walk through a stream with them.
When you plan on going off-trail in the Colorado mountains, sandals are not recommended because, first of all, you don’t want to harm nature and, secondly, encountering a rattlesnake is a possibility. Therefore, wear closed-toed shoes, like Keens!
A Trip to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
We decided to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and explore one of the waterfalls. We are lucky since this park, located in Estes Park, is only an hour drive away. It is a beautiful park and even in the summer, you are able to see some snow on Trail Ridge Road.
Did you know Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the US?
The views are breathtaking and if you are lucky you might spot some wildlife.
Learning from Rangers
We always like meeting with rangers. Our conversations are always pleasant and my boys ask tons of questions and learn a lot.
Junior Rangers at a National Park!
You can start your trip to a National Park at the Visitor Center and pick up a Junior Ranger activity book. After finishing all the activities, you earn a badge and become a junior ranger.
Get the Junior Ranger Book pdf for Rocky Mountain National Park right here and print it out at home.
Junior Ranger Book 5 years and younger – in Spanish
Junior Ranger Book 6-8 years – in Spanish
Junior Ranger Book 9 years and older – in Spanish
This time there were horns and antlers presented on a table. Which the boys got to touch and figure out which one belonged to which animal.
What is your experience with rangers and the Junior Ranger Program?
Exploring Alberta Falls
Hiking to Alberta Falls is fun, only 1.6 miles and it is an easy hike. Which makes it a great option for families with kids of different ages. We decided to start at the Bear Lake Trailhead, but you can start at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead too.
It was a beautiful hike, with rocks to climb, water streams to walk through or jump over and lots of sticks and rocks to collect. Great for family time and being outside in nature. As we were hiking towards the waterfall our surroundings alternated between a pine forest and aspen groves. Which makes this also a perfect hike for the fall!
We also saw beautiful wildflowers, chipmunks, deer and a lot of people. However, if you want a quiet trail, You might have more luck going here on a school day. Mountains in Colorado for outdoor learning are a great idea.
Speaking of a lot of people, we had the last available parking spot. A free park shuttle service is available and drives back and forth from the park & ride parking area in the Colorado Mountains.