Colorado & Utah – Dinosaurs, Fossils and Hiking (June 2016)

(Day 1) – Flew into Denver, Colorado and drove west to Vernal, Utah.  IMG_4491Visited the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum to begin experiencing first hand digging for fossils!


So many different dinosaurs games and activities!
So many different dinosaurs games and activities!






Started adventure digging for real fossils
Boys loved digging for real fossils






(Day 2) – Started an early 8 mile hike in rugged terrain in Dinosaur National Monument on the Jones Hole Trail up to the Green River.  First checked out part of the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery to see the various stages of trout development.  With elevation notably higher than our prior hiking experiences, an ad hoc dip in the crystal clear river helped us regain some energy and cool off to finish the trail. 

Boys checking out what kind of fish might be in the river
Boys checking out what kind of fish might be in the river


Beginning hike on Jones Hole Trail
Beginning first hike on Jones Hole Trail


Boys love dinosaurs and each other!
Boys love dinosaurs and each other!









Behind boys – wide range of real dinosaur fossils still in tack within mountain layers
Austin & Samuel touching Allosaurus leg bone

In each U. S. National Park children have an opportunity to become a “Junior Ranger” for that location by completing a series of park specific learning activities and they can earn a Junior Ranger Badge.  Boys are proudly displaying theirs from Dinosaur National Monument.

Proudly wearing Junior Ranger Badges







(Day 3) – To break up the drive from Vernal, Utah to Estes Park, Colorado we took a couple mile hike on Harpers Corner Trail and ventured through the Rocky Mountains peaking around 12K feet above sea level while enjoying scenic views and our first handful of animals – moose and elk, also caught a glimpse of a beautiful rainbow.

Ready for big hike
Samuel’s hiking bear is back in action!



Chipmunks running all over – close enough to almost reach out and pet 



(Day 4) – Started 5 mile hike from Wild Basin through Copeland Falls to the Ouzel Falls and once the boys tired from walking and were in our packs we may have been carrying 40-65lbs, but at least we weren’t worried about the boys getting closer to the strong waterfall currents!  Challenging walk over rocks and streams in the high elevation, but well worth the venture once we reached the top of the waterfall for our picnic lunch.  It was crazy how close the chipmunks would approach us and the size of the moose was impressive.  We were fortunate to make it back in the car before the pouring rain began!


IMG_4606IMG_4592 IMG_4651 IMG_4654 20160606_152406













(Day 5) – Took drive to various lookout points along the steep canyon of boulders and once we were above the aspen groves and pine forest tree lines and reached the tundra region the boys had a blast running around in shorts throwing snowballs!

Loving each moment hand in hand with these boys!
What is better than shorts and snowballs?!
What is more fun than shorts and snowballs?!
Brothers and best buddies



Austin holding on tight so Samuel is “safe”













Went into downtown Estes Park to take a look at the shops and pick out some fresh chocolates.  Boys saw a big slide we couldn’t pass up and ended the afternoon with BBQ and baseball.


Sometimes its the little things that bring out much excitement!
Sometimes it’s the little things that bring out much excitement!
Everyday is a good day for baseball!
Any day anywhere is a good day for baseball!










(Day 6) – Early morning start for a big 9 mile hiking day in Rocky Mountain National ParkBear Lake had great views and the adventurous hike up the mountain to reach Emerald Lake was no easy task! Started in lush high plains and journeyed up to fragile alpine tundra.  Boys loved the terrain, which meant they walked more than usual through the snow and slush covered rocks alongside icy waterfalls…they enjoyed ‘skiing’ in their running shoes and throwing snowballs of course!  Love the wildlife and enjoyed views of more deer, elk and our first bighorn sheep spotting.  Speaking of animals, a marmot attempting to steal our picnic lunches which was exciting – fortunately we were able to hang onto our food without a full on attack!

Great views at Bear Lake
Boys “skiing” down the mountain
Enjoyed some time relaxing – Emerald Lake


Fantastic views in Estes Park










Beautiful views in all directions






Boys absolutely love fishing every chance they can get


(Day 7) – Last morning in Estes Park and first stop was to meet with a Park Ranger to review boys completed activities and repeat the Junior Ranger Pledge to earn their Rocky Mountain National Park Junior Ranger badges (they were so proud!).  Then off to fishing at Trout Haven Fishing Pond.  There were lots of fish, but not many bites with the shrimp and worm bait, so when a guide offered up his own rod & bait, Austin quickly helped reel in a 16” trout which we took with us on the drive to our next place in Colorado Springs for the grill!

16 Inch trout reeled in!
Austin excited to see his freshly caught trout seasoned and grilled for dinner!
Austin excited to see his freshly caught trout seasoned and grilled for dinner!








(Day 8) – First full day in Colorado Springs, after starting drive toward tourist locations, quickly opted to find a local park instead to let the boys run off some energy and spent a much needed afternoon break at a pool!

Garden of the Gods

(Day 9) – Visited Garden of the Gods to check out the amazing red rocks and the boys were extremely impressed watching the rock climbers.  Then off to Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet to overlook the enormous granite cliffs. 

We made it to the top of Pikes Peak!


Fantastic views from the top of Pikes Peak
Fantastic views from the top








Then the boys enjoyed some games and little moving rides in Manitou Springs town at Penny Arcade before capping off the afternoon with much needed ice cream cones!

Samuel talks about getting a motorcycle soon - we are sticking with 25 cent machines as long as I can!
Samuel talks about getting a motorcycle soon – we are sticking with 25 cent machines!
Austin very excited about hunting!
Austin very excited about hunting!








(Day 10) – Aaron hiked the Manitou Springs Incline, a stair-like hike which gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation in less than 1 mile.  Then we enjoyed spending time together at the house before packing up.

(Day 11) – Traveled from Colorado Springs to Denver to catch flight back to St. Louis


In summary, our first family experience in Utah and Colorado in the summertime was great – breathtaking mountain views, fantastic hikes and wonderful family time.  If travels take you in this direction would definitely recommend Estes Park as a great place to stay and see!

Favorite Kid Quotes:

(1)    “Daddy, will you please drive us off the cliff – pretty please?!”  (i.e., fearless child!)

(2)    “Of course I like green ice cream, there are leprechauns in it!”

(3) “One of my bosses works here in Colorado, he’s just too busy making salads to meet with us.” (Apparently the business Samuel supports has been expanding – he now has bosses in Ireland, Colorado, Seattle, Dallas, and St. Louis!)

(4)    “Whatever you do – look down!” (alongside every drop-off!)


To you – Thank you for reading and we wish you a moment today aside from the general hustle and bustle to take time to appreciate a sunset/sunrise wherever you may be!


5 thoughts on “Colorado & Utah – Dinosaurs, Fossils and Hiking (June 2016)

  1. Love this adventure you guys are on! And I love that part of the country. You are making ever-lasting memories with your family and that is something to appreciate! I look forward to continuing to follow along-especially when I recognize some of those areas you’re going to!

    Ps. What carrying packs do you have for the boys? I have a Kelty but it gets sort of uncomfortable. Just curious if you like yours! Happy traveling!


    1. Hello! We absolutely love our carriers – adventure wouldn’t be the same without them! Deuter Kid Comfort 3 (purchased from REI) and adorable hiking bears came included! We tried on a series of styles, with older toddlers these were most supportive with less padding to give kids more room for movement. For younger toddler would highly recommend Deuter brand and trying out different styles – brief walk with kiddo in various models around REI and hopefully an easy decision. Take care!


  2. Aaron ,
    This is so fantastic and these kind of trips will be remembered forever by all of you. It is no doubt your boys will carry on the tradition when they have their own families. Loved reading about the fun filled day.
    Sue Ackley


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