BackgroundInterested in taking younger kids up Pikes Peak? Here's our family's trip report.
Before Pikes Peak, I had taken both my 11 year-old and my 9 year-old up two different 14ers, each individually. We live in Colorado Springs and have an incredible view of Pikes Pike from our house. I had wanted to go up it with my wife, 11 year-old, and 9 year-old this summer.
I knew that Pikes Peak would be quite a trek for them but had confidence they could do it. Originally I had planned on a two day trip, but based upon the pace of their individual climbs in Quandary and Evans in prior weekends of the summer, I went ahead and made two nights' reservations at Barr Camp. So the plan was then half a day up to Barr Camp on Saturday, summit and back down to Barr Camp on Sunday, and then down from Barr Camp to the trailhead Monday morning. I just wasn't quite sure they'd make it down to the trailhead on day two in the event of weather. Plus I wasn't sure how much carrying a fairly full pack (sleeping bags, water, food, layers, ...) up to Barr Camp would slow them down.
Besides, I simply wanted to make sure it was fun for them. Maybe that's a good tip for taking kids up. They need to have fun.
Day One - TH to Barr Camp
We got a relatively late start. I had been out of town on business the prior day and didn't get home until midnight or so. I had wanted to get some sleep. We didn't get to the trailhead until about 10:00AM. Plus I had to park about half a mile or more away from the trailhead.
After hiking about an hour, I had really wished I would have picked a cool early morning hike without rest over the starting out well rested in the heat.
The kids' favorite part on the way up to Barr Camp was picking wild raspberries. We probably spent 10 minutes picking wild raspberries.
Around 3PM we reached Barr Camp. It gave the kids time to relax and hang out. There were two other families there. I believe the youngest kid was age 7. I would think Barr Trail to be a serious journey for most 7 year-olds.
We stayed in the cabin. I got an incredible night's sleep. I woke up and my wife and her sleeping bag wasn't next to me. I went out to the outhouse and found her sleeping outside in her sleeping back on the deck of the cabin. She told me that the one guy in the cabin had been snoring like a freight train all night long and that a number of other hikers had been throwing things at him in the middle of the night trying to get him to wake up. I slept through it all and was well rested.
Day Two - Barr Camp to Summit and Back
Pancakes for breakfast.
Filtered water using a filter we rented there at Barr Camp and refilled our water bottles. Bought a few snacks. Left overnight stuff and two of our four backpacks at Barr Camp.
I believe we hit the trail at around 7:30AM. Breakfast was at 7:00AM and that's that. I wish we could have gotten an earlier start but breakfast is at 7:00AM.
On the way up we saw a number of runners, most of which were training for either the Ascent or the Pikes Peak Marathon.
We had lunch. Took pictures. Naturally pictures included "Polo Bear," a favorite stuffed animal, which my 9 year-old has lugged up three 14ers now.
The skies were quite clear and it was a bit windy, but nice and warm at the top.
We headed back down, around 12:30PM.
On the way down we encountered the two other families that had spent the night at Barr Camp. One probably summited around 1:00PM, with a planned ride down. I would guess the other summited around 2:00PM or 2:30PM. I believe their intention was to hitch a ride back down. They were the ones with the 7 year-old daughter. Anyhow, I don't believe we saw any other kids under 12 years old on the trail other than our three families.
We were about half an hour above Barr Camp when I caught my daughter putting something in my backpack. It was a rock! There were at least five pounds of quartz rocks in my backpack. I asked her how long she'd been doing that. She said, "About an hour." Grrr.
We reached Barr Camp around 3:30PM or so.
Pasta, AGAIN, for dinner.
There was another family there with a couple younger kids. In over their heads. I believe they (wisely) chose to head back down the next morning.
Day Three - Barr Camp DownPancakes, AGAIN, for breakfast.
My wife's knees were doing even worse. She was a trooper but in pain. I told the kids to keep their comments to themselves and they did. I thinned out her pack and took most of the weight myself.
We reached the trailhead around 11:00AM.
And went for ice cream like we always do after 14ers.
Tips for Kids
I guess here would be some of my tips for taking younger kids up Pikes Pike.
1. Don't start with Pikes Peak!
2. Take them up something else first. Journal their pace as it relates to distance and elevation. You can extrapolate from there to take a guess how long it will take them to get up and down the Barr Trail.
3. Consider using Barr Camp to break up the trip or planning for a ride back down for younger kids.
4. Have them carry their own gear. I do it to make long-term hiking buddies. I have no intent to be a free pack mule.
5. Take sidebars to explore. The motivation to summit or to do it within a certain time just doesn't motivate kids. However, they do love to scramble and explore and to pick wild raspberries and do fun kid stuff like that. Let them and make time for it.
6. Family traditions are great. Like carrying a favorite stuffed animal up 14ers. Like having ice cream afterwards.
7. Make sure they have good gear and the shoes are broken in.
8. Periodically adjust their gear for them.
9. Periodically ask them how they're doing. "Are you hot?" "Are your socks dry?" "Are your feet getting too hot?" They don't seem to self-monitor or self-adjust as well as us adults.
10. Take breaks.
11. Take pictures.
12. Have fun. If you push them too hard, you'll probably have one not-so-fun hike with your kids. Goal is lots of fun hikes over the years. Maybe they'll even invite you on one of their hikes in 20 years. Now is the foundation for that day.