Family Weekend: A Fantastic Opportunity To Expose Visitors to Local Outdoors

Jillian Gibbs with her father, mother, and sister enjoying a local C. Springs hiking trail. Photo courtesy of Jillian Gibbs
Jillian Gibbs with her father, mother, and sister enjoying a local C. Springs hiking trail. Photo courtesy of Jillian Gibbs

Photos courtesy of Jillian Gibbs

They’re baaaaack. Yes, it’s that time of year when the parents flood in. Family and Friends Weekend finally descended upon us this past weekend. The usual plight fell on students: what to do? Sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in showing parents Colorado College’s campus or the restaurant scene downtown that we forget that we live right on the Eastern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Other times, it’s impossible to quell the desire of many eager family and friends to take on outdoorsy feats that their lower altitude lungs cannot bear.

For these reasons, many students plan their parents weekend by balancing on-campus events and outdoor activities of their choosing. Like many others, sophomore Julieanne Stanley’s parents “love Colorado and the college and they [want] to learn as much about the area as possible.” This area includes the mountains surrounding us, the Barr Trail, Cheyenne Cañon, Mueller State Park, Woodland Park, and (for those willing to drive a little) Summit County, to name a few.   

After speaking with students about activities they did with their families and friends this weekend, I compiled their recommendations for outdoor adventures that people of different ages and abilities can enjoy. Even if your parents weren’t able to visit, if you’re expecting family or friends to be visiting soon, or you’re always looking for new places to explore, you can use this as a reference.

Most students opted for some light hiking with their loved ones. Stanley, for example, brought her parents up the Barr Trail and they stopped where it intersected with the Manitou Incline, meeting plenty of CC students and their parents along the way. Meanwhile, sophomore Kiera Connelly hiked up Mt. Cutler in Cheyenne Cañon with her parents and admitted that the “trail is super easy but the views are bomb.” This is a good hike for families with limited time, as the trailhead is a 15 minute drive from CC and the hike itself is about two miles roundtrip. Cheyenne Cañon is a beautiful area to spend time in during the fall; as Connelly noted, “you get a full view of the Springs, plus the Aspens are turning up in the hills.”

Driving a bit further, junior Anna Smith took her sister to Green Mountain Falls near Woodland Park, where they hiked the Catamount Trail. Well worth the trip, in Smith’s opinion, the trail is a total of six miles and currently also boasts Aspen trees changing colors. I headed the same direction to Mueller State Park with my parents––about a 40-minute drive, just beyond Woodland Park––where we hiked a three-mile loop. The loop was relatively flat in elevation and my parents handled it quite easily despite the altitude.

If you’re looking to put a little more distance between yourself and Colorado Springs, sophomore Madi Doerre spoke highly of her family trip to Breckenridge (a little over a two hour drive), where she and her parents hiked up some property that was for sale and got an amazing view of Mount Democrat. Doerre’s parents are from Texas, and she noted that her mom “did well with the altitude but needed to take breaks often in order to not get altitude sickness.”

Altitude sickness can result in headaches, vomiting, and shortness of breath, which is why it’s important to take good care of your parents and friends that visit. Tell them to drink plenty of water before and after arriving in Colorado Springs, particularly if you plan on hiking. A first-year, Jillian Gibbs, similarly mentioned that her “sister and parents were all exhausted with headaches, which was [probably] the altitude.” Gibbs is from a town in Florida at a low elevation, so for future knowledge plan accordingly—coming from sea level will be a bit more of a shock to the system—and don’t become overambitious when it comes to the outdoors.

All of the students I spoke to emphasized the importance of maximizing time with parents whenever they visit. “Get your school work done ahead of time to lower your stress,” Gibbs emphasized, and make sure “you don’t waste half the time figuring out what to do.”

pw2Moreover, students encouraged making it a special weekend for parents and friends. Doerre offered sage advice: “[Parents] cherish the little things when they don’t get to spend as much time with you as they did when you lived at home.” However, those little things probably should include as little nitpicking as possible.

“Ignore little things they do that could potentially start arguments because [you] have only a few days to be together and [you should] want to make them memorable for good reasons,” said Stanley.

In short, if your parents are visiting, plan ahead; have a range of options; clear the decks of schoolwork as much as possible; show them the natural beauty of the Rockies and the Front Range; make it unique. In the end, though we are so blessed to be in an area full of inspiring views and outdoor opportunities, these experiences are only truly made special when spent with loved ones.

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