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Why we love it: A kid-friendly hike with two lakes and incredible views? Yes, it is possible.
When to go: This is definitely a well-traveled path, meaning that you should set your alarm early to avoid the crowds.
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Now that I’m hiking with a little bambino, I appreciate treks that pack a visual punch while clocking fewer miles on the odometer. Trouble is, so does every other parent in Colorado, which is why spots such as Lily Lake in the White River National Forest are so dang popular. The 2.8-mile path (round-trip) is short enough for kids to tackle and parents to appreciate.
The only tricky part of the mostly meandering path is at the beginning: A .2-mile road seems to go vertical (at least, it does if you are a little kid). At the top, though, the path levels out for a steady, but gentle, climb to the lakes. You’ll pass through beetle-kill areas (perfect for a quick lesson about eco-systems), over bridges, and through aspen groves. Little tykes should pay attention to their feet, as there are plenty of half-buried boulders and tree roots to trip on.
The payoff comes after 1.4 miles, where you’ll find a small lake covered in lily pads. Just over a ridge is another, larger lake and plenty of views of Summit County peaks. The area is so lush, you’ll almost forget you are in the West. Stop for a water break, snap some we-did-it photos for the grandparents, and let the kids play in the dirt for a bit. On the way back, you’ll see plenty of parents with sleeping darlings in their arms. No one seems to mind, though. It was worth it.
Tip: Pack a breakfast picnic to savor at the lakes. You’ll miss the hoards of hikers and the path is short enough that you can hold off the munchies until you reach the water.
Getting there: Travel east on I-70 to Exit 205 (Silverthorne/Dillon) to Highway 9. Turn north for about a block until you see Wildernest Road, where you’ll turn left. This road turns into Ryan Gulch Road. After about 3.5 miles, you’ll find a parking area on the left.
Bonus: Come winter, strap on a pair of snowshoes and glide through the powder (sans lift lines).