As a family, you may choose to hike, bike, horseback ride, paddle – any number of fun recreational activities! Please check out the Activity pages of this website for specifics on these activities, as well as local provides of gear, classes, and guided tours.
Here are some ideas for when you’re on foot exploring
We want to make it fun for the whole family to explore the Pikes Peak region, so we’ve identified some fun activities that you can enjoy together. Most of these can be done at any location and we’ve provided some options that are age-appropriate to help you choose the ones that will be right for your family. There are a number of activity sheets you can download and print, and you might even consider laminating them to make them durable to use over and over again.
The activities you can enjoy are not limited to these suggestions! The only limit is your imagination. So let your imagination go, plan ahead, be prepared, and have fun!
1. Alphabet Hike
Although many would say to leave all technology behind when exploring the outdoors, your phone and/or camera can be helpful tools to engage the entire family and a photo hike is one of those ways. There are a couple of ways to do this. Ask the kids to find things in nature that are shaped like letters of the alphabet. A mountain peak may be an “A”, a branch or cloud or rock, etc., could form other letters.
Another twist is to have them identify objects in nature that BEGIN with each letter of the alphabet, starting with A, then B, and so on. If they take pictures they can explore independently and come together to share them later. Or they can identify them without photos as you walk along a trail or explore a park together. Download and print the Alphabet Hunt activity sheet for your young explorers to write down what they find for each letter if you don’t want to take pictures.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts can be fun and keep the entire family interested! For the little ones, finding simple items in nature that are easy for them to identify is best. Increase the degree of difficulty/challenge based on the ages of the kids. For example, finding a pine cone would be great for little ones, whereas a teen might want more of a challenge like identifying animal tracks.
We’ve put together a few scavenger hunts for you to make it easy, one for younger children and one for older kids. These hunts are VISUAL only; please don’t have the kids collect the items – they should leave them where they found them but just mark off that they spotted them. You can play the hunt as a Bingo game and award prizes to make it more interesting – 5 in a row or a blackout (finding everything).
3. Make a Nature Boat
Find items in nature and see if they float by putting them in a creek. Then develop your floating device, putting sticks together, etc., to see if it can move. Having string will help in the development of the boat.
Another option if for kids to each find small objects they think will float and “racing” them. Have them locate the items and release them at the same time and see which ones float and race faster downstream! (As always, be safe around the water’s edge and watch the kids closely.)
4. Sensory Activity
Teaching the family to use their senses when exploring the outdoors is a great way for everyone to slow down and notice their outdoor environment. This activity can be done as a group as you walk along a trail, or once you’ve arrived at your destination.
Older kids can be challenged to sit in an area and observe, using their senses, starting with a large perimeter – such as everything they can see – and moving closer to them such as within 50 feet, 10 feet, and then 2 feet around them. It helps them notice all of the life and cool aspects of nature that can be so minute they can easily be missed. For these older kids, you might suggest they journal what they see, hear, and smell.
Here are some items that might get them thinking:
5. Nature’s Symphony
Part of the beauty of nature is the soothing sounds that can only be found when we leave the noises of the city. It may take some intentionality on your part for the family to actually hear what’s going on around them. So at certain points of your hike or once you’ve arrived at your destination, have everyone be quiet for one full minute and listen. Then have them share what they heard! They might hear the wind through the trees, the rustling of small mammals like squirrels, birds calling out, water in a stream, etc.
6. Predator/ Prey Game
- Take the group to a “thicket” – an area with lots of trees, tall grasses, bushes.
- Designate one child as the “predator.” The predator should face away from the thicket with closed eyes and slowly count to 20 while the other children/family members, or “prey” hide. Those who are hiding must be able to see some part of the predator at all times.
- After counting, the predator opens their eyes or removes the blindfold and looks for prey. The predator can turn around, squat, or stand on his or her tiptoes, but cannot walk or change location. The predator should see how many children he or she can find, identify them out loud, and describe where they are. When identified, the prey moves to the predator’s location and wait until the next round to become predators.
7. Color Matching
Using paint samples from local hardware stores, see how many colors you can find in nature. Provide a sample sheet for each family member or have a couple of them share one, and have them look around to see if leaves, water, dirt, rocks, etc. match the colors on their sample.
8. Go on a Rock Hunt
The Pikes Peak region is part of the Rocky Mountains and they are appropriately named! We have all types of rocks – big, little, shiny, dull, flat, round, etc. And some grander displays of rock formations can be found at Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon Open Space. For families exploring the region, looking at variety of rocks can be a fun activity in and of itself! Just remember to teach Leave No Trace principles and not collect the rocks but identify them on a Rock Hunt activity sheet or with pictures, instead.
9. Animal Track Matching Game
Help your family learn about the various types of animals found in the Pikes Peak region through matching their tracks to their names. Then see if you can find these tracks at the places you explore! Check out the Wildlife Guide to learn more about animals you may encounter when exploring the Pikes Peak region.
10. Animal Scat Identification Game
Animals leave telltale signs that they’ve been somewhere. Some mark trees, build nests, leave tracks, but they also… leave what we call “scat” (another name for animal poo.) Scat can be found along trails, in picnic areas, just about anywhere you go on an outdoor adventure! Kids will have fun identifying what animals have been in the area by checking out their scat and seeing what candy it looks like (see below). Just remind them to never handle the animal scat – just look at it.
Mouse – Candy Sprinkles
Snowshoe Hare – M&Ms
Marmot – Tootsie Roll
Deer – Raisinets
Elk – Milk Duds