Exercise minds and bodies

Exercise young minds and bodies with a walk on an interpretive trail. These short and sweet trails feature information on local flora and fauna, as well as fun facts on the history of the area they inhabit, often in the form of hands-on activities. Interpretive trails offer the whole family an opportunity to learn something new while exploring the great outdoors.

In Fort Collins, Coyote Ridge Natural Area is home to the 1/4-mile, wheelchair accessible “Hidden Clues Trail.” The trail can be accessed one mile from the main trailhead, which is located on Taft Hill Rd. three miles south of Harmony Rd. Trail highlights include beautiful views, an abundance of wildlife, interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. The vast trail system in the area allows for longer hikes as well. Visit www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/finder/coyote to learn more.

Also located in Fort Collins, the Gustav Swanson Natural Area sits alongside the Poudre River a few blocks northeast of Old Town, at 445 Linden St. The 1/2-mile paved trail features interpretive signs along with benches for little legs to take a load off. Wildlife in the area includes over 45 species of birds, as well as the occasional bat, fox, or deer. To learn more visit www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/finder/gustav.

Located in the Big Thompson Canyon, four miles west of the Dam Store in Loveland, the Foothills Nature Trail is a 2-mile roundtrip hike off the Round Mountain trailhead. Pick up a handout at the trailhead or print your own before heading out at https://www.lovgov.org/services/parks-recreation/trail-info/rnd-mtn-foothills-nature-trail. The trail features 22 marked stopping points which correlate with information on the hand out, such as the adaptability of the Ponderosa Pine (be sure to stop and catch a whiff of the tree’s vanilla smell) and the power of water to erode a canyon. Science lessons abound on this winding, dirt road trail.

Ramsay-Shockey Open Space, west of Loveland and Berthoud, offers the opportunity to learn about the history of water demand, prescribed forest fires, local wildlife and ancient inhabitants of the area on a 2.7-mile roundtrip trail. The Larimer County open space area is located on Pole Hill Rd., just past Pinewood Reservoir. Interpretive handouts can be found at the trailhead or online at www.larimer.org/naturalresources/parks/ramsay-shockey.

Intersecting Greeley and Windsor, the Poudre River Trail is a 21-mile paved path featuring interpretive signs throughout on the history and natural features of the area, as well as local wildlife often sighted along the way. The trail can be caught at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, S. CR3 and CR32E in Windsor, or at many points between. Visit www.poudretrail.org for a complete list of access points.

Make hikes fun

Add entertainment to any hike with small children by taking these classic games into the great outdoors with you!

  • Bingo: Utilize online interpretive handouts to create Bingo cards ahead of time, with photos of local wildlife in each square. Bring along pencils for kids to mark off squares as they discover said wildlife along the way. Don’t forget prizes for completing a whole row or, if they’re really lucky, a blackout!
  • I Spy: Something blue, something green, it shouldn’t be hard to spy something of every color by the time your family has completed an interpretive hike. Keep an eye out for yellow budding wildflowers, the red of a fox’s tail, or the blue of a bluebird’s wings!
  • Simon Says: The game that never fails to entertain! Give kids a chance to lead the way, while leading the family in silly shenanigans of their own design at the same time. Who knows? They might just be inspired by the animals they meet on the trail (Take five “walk like a duck” steps)!