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If you’re not familiar with Summit County in Colorado, you’ve probably actually been to—or at least heard of—some of the destinations that make up this action-packed piece of the Rockies, including Keystone, Breckenridge, Dillion and Frisco. As an outdoor adventure-seeker, I was thrilled to take my three young kids (ages 4, 5 and 6) on a vacation where they hiked, zip-lined, completed a ropes course and so much more. So, don’t wait until they are older. Go now and get them hooked on the outdoors. Here are the top 10 reasons why this slice of Colorado is perfect for the smaller set.

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1. Happy hiking

If you’re worried that trying to tackle trails will be a tediously slow, whine-filled excursion—don’t be. You’ll be amazed at how far your kids will go when they find their own walking stick, follow a rambling stream, hop roots and rocks, stop to smell wildflowers, and marvel in the beauty of everyday wildlife. And there are great resources available for finding local family-friendly trails, such as this roundup from that serves as a great guide for a week’s worth of happy hiking adventures. Isabella, age 6, says, “My favorite part was looking for things the miners left behind.” Breckenridge, a hot spot for mining during the Gold Rush in the 1800s, is surrounded by trails that lead to old mining artifacts such as cabins and wooden sluices, which make for the perfect hands-on history lesson.

2. Gondola rides never get old

Nothing beats the excitement of riding high with a window to the world, watching for deer and moose, and enjoying your own bird’s eye view of life on the mountain. Both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort offer free gondola rides during the summer months, with access to activities atop the summit or just for the pure fun of the scenic ride. Catch the Breckenridge gondola on the north end of town just off Ski Hill Road where you can park for free, and in Keystone, park and walk through the River Run Village to the gondola.

3. Ropes courses that rock

If your kids are fans of American Ninja Warrior, just wait until they get the chance to race through a ropes course just their size. Epic Discovery at Breckenridge Ski Resort is the perfect place to challenge your kids to try new things, from the ropes course and zip-line to a ride on a mountain coaster. And it’s not just for kids: There is plenty to experience for every generation. Epic Discovery activities are located at the base of Peak 8 and can be purchased a la cart or via a full-day pass. Emerson, age 4, was most excited about the ropes course. “I liked trying not to fall off the logs and balancing all the way.”

4. Training-wheels welcome

Whether you bring your own bike or rent one when you arrive, there’s a trail for every ability level, from hardcore single track to a paved path that meanders through Breckenridge along the Blue River. If your ambition allows, that Blue River path can take you all the way to the nearby town of Frisco, where you should stop for lunch at the 5th Avenue Grille and rest your legs while you meander through the town’s many indie shops. And if you’re looking for a little more thrills on two-wheels, check out the Frisco Adventure Park, complete with a summer bike terrain park, skate park, disc golf, a kayak park and more.

5. Wild West nights

Get in the spirit of the Wild West through Keystone Resort’s Kidtopia program. Spend part of your evening at the Keystone Stables meeting the draft horses. The little rodeo riders will love petting the horses, learning to lasso and other cowboy activities. Everett, 6, says his favorite part was “learning how to use a lasso and eating lots of marshmallows!” End your evening with a summer movie matinee at Kidtopia Headquarters before driving off into the sunset.

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6. Super slimy science

While parents often seek out learning experiences for their kids on vacation, it isn’t always easy, especially with younger ones and shorter attention spans. But, put them in the right environment (the outdoors), give them engaging instructors and some slimy science and you’ll have them hooked for an entire morning. The “Super Snake River Science” program—also offered through Keystone’s Kidtopia—gives kids the chance to enjoy the fresh mountain air while learning how to sample and test stream water and getting their hands dirty during the super slimy—and super fun—scavenger hunt. Not only is it a big hit, but it’s FREE. And with a rotating calendar of events, there’s always new Kidtopia activities to experience. Check out their summer 2018 calendar to see what’s going on this season.

7. Family festival fun

Another highlight of a summer trip to Summit County is the rotating calendar of family-friendly festivals and events, of which you’ll find something special happening nearly every weekend of the season. From the Gold Panning Championships (June 16-17),  Breckenridge Independence Day Celebration (July 2-4), Keystone’s Kidtopia Stars & Guitars (June 29 – July 4), and the Dillon Summer Concert Series at the town’s lakefront amphitheater, there’s no shortage of special events to plan a trip around.

8. Going for gold

Breckenridge has a fascinating history as a pioneering Gold Rush town. And kids will love bringing home little pieces of this history when they have the chance to pan for gem-stones at Breckenridge’s Epic Discovery. The experience allows kids to try panning themselves, which is the mountain equivalent to hunting for buried treasure. Not to mention, the loot is a big hit for show-and-tell at school. And if you dig the idea of learning more about the town’s mining history, be sure to stop in the Breckenridge Welcome Center where you can marvel at the black-and-white photography and collection of artifacts dating back to 1859 that offer an in-depth look at this community and its residents.

9. Inspiring views

You’ll be genuinely surprised at how much young children appreciate the awe-inspiring views that surround you in this mountain destination. Bring along art supplies to draw and paint the landscape of the majestic points of interest like Mt. Baldy or the hazy hues of the Blue River. By the end of your stay, you’ll come home with paintings and sketches that will undoubtedly be some of your favorite family souvenirs. If you don’t have the space to bring art supplies, stop in at Peak-A-Boo Toys on Breckenridge’s Main Street to stock up.

10. Alfresco dining

If one of your least favorite things to do with your kids is dine out (it’s not just me, is it?), the many options for family-friendly dining will change your mind fast. When you have beautiful mountain weather that allows you to dine in a relaxed outdoor setting nearly any day you choose, it’s a recipe for dinnertime success. Favorite local spots include Breckenridge Brewery,  Mi Casa and Downstairs at Erics in Breckenridge, Bighorn Bistro and Der Fondue Chessel in Keystone and Log Cabin Café in Frisco. Fill your table with margaritas, puzzles and a stack of UNO cards, and just like your mountain family vacation, it’s sure to get two thumbs up.

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Tagged: Colorado, Family time

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Jeanenne Tornatore

Jeanenne Tornatore

Jeanenne specializes in savvy budget travel tips, destination experiences, industry trends and the latest products to make any trip go smoothly. A mother of three, she's seasoned in all things family-travel, from the most kid-friendly beach resorts to navigating Disney Parks. Jeanenne is an avid outdoor adventure seeker, as well as a regular TV and radio content contributor. You'll find her @JMTornatore on Twitter and Instagram.

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