Red Rocks

One afternoon, we went looking for an adventure near Denver, Colorado.  We checked out Red Rocks Park and trading post with a toddler in tow.   This was an extraordinary experience for our large family of six at the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater and the Trading Post.

The spot was fabulous for family quality time and gave our son the space and fresh air he needed. Our trip was free, from the mindblowing views to the packed picnic lunch. 

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What can Families with Autism do at Red Rocks Park and Trading Post?

Lucky for us, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater features a vibrant, family-friendly atmosphere, spectacular neverending views, and that fresh mountain air.  That air seems to relax my children, big and small, and even inspire naps.  Even the horizon, as we approached, was beautiful.

The Trading Post has a cutesy music museum and cheesy tourist traps.  The structure was originally designed by architect W.R. Rosche and was constructed in 1931. The architecture style was inspired by the Pueblo revival and it features exquisite views of the rock formations. Tucked behind, there are perfect picnic spots and a short hike that is perfect for all ages.

Large red Pueblo revival style building with 'Red Rocks Trading Post' above door

Getting into Red Rocks can be overwhelming for some families. Luckily, if you’re staying in Denver, there are even some incredible full-day and half-day tours that will stop at Red Rock as they explore the Denver foothills. 

Red Rocks Park Colorado Drive

What is the Colorado Musical Hall of Fame?

The Colorado Musical Hall of Fame at Red Rock Trading Post features Denver musicians.  It’s Colorado’s premier contemporary music museum designed to delight visitors of all ages.  The museum is perfect for concertgoers and day-trippers alike and is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.

The Hall of Fame is where fans of Colorado music learn about the musical roots and legacy.  The Hall features artists from John Denver to Dianne Reeves, who won five Grammy awards. Most importantly, the Hall encourages discovering old music to new fans.

This area had issues with mobility aids (wheelchairs and strollers) moving through the shop.  Stairs attached multiple levels, and I didn’t see elevators or ramps.

'Rocky Mountain High. It's the Colorado Rocky Mountain high I've seen it raining fire in the sky. Friends around the campfire and everybody's high, Rocky Mountain high." Photo of John Denver in front of mountain range with gold bust of his head.

What is the Trading Post like for children?

The Trading Post was incredibly cheesy.  As we strolled through, there were overpriced souvenirs everywhere.  The store was also challenging for pushing a stroller or mobility device around. My children easily reached out of strollers for breakables and we felt backed into cramped corners.

I loved everything about this location, except for the Trading Post.  Honestly, if your child is having a rough day- don’t feel bad if you have to give it a miss!  I would not go back with the children, because they wanted to buy everything!  I felt like a ‘no’ machine.

Where can you eat with your family?

As avid budgeters, we love to explore our world while keeping costs down.  We ate a gluten-free, healthy picnic with a breathtaking mountain view.

We picked up a Modern Market meal.  I’m obsessed with the Wintergreen salad (baby greens, green apple slivers, goat cheese crumbles, roasted potato, chopped Medjool dates, candied walnuts, and their flavorful agave herb vinaigrette).  My husband snagged the gluten-free Pepe pizza, and my kiddos love the kid’s mac & cheese.  However, you can’t go wrong with any of the kid’s meal selections!

If your child is especially picky or you are looking to save money, bring a family-friendly picnic lunch to enjoy!  Our Colorado hotel rooms always have a giant fridge, so we are always prepared.

View from the Red Rocks Trading Post back porch over the red rock formations in the park.
Our view during our picnic lunch

Eating on the back porch of the Trading Post was the perfect end to our exploration.  Realistically, I would have eaten first so that the pizza was still warm and the salad was not soggy.  We waited, and our meal was not that great. If you want to eat Modern Market, eat first.  Otherwise, pack a cooler and a picnic lunch!

Rustic wooden table with five chairs on the back porch of the Red Rocks Trading Post

However, I’m a mama who craves accessibility for strollers and mobility devices. My only concern is that spots along the trail and in the Trading Post were difficult to bring our stroller.

Rock formation at Red Rocks Park

Where can you hike that’s autism or toddler-friendly?

Luckily, the Red Rocks Park Loop Trail was a brief 1.4 miles.  The loop was an easy path that takes less than an hour.  We were able to navigate it with our toddlers by babywearing.  Our son lagged at the end, but autism or not, he was a total trooper! The Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks brings you directly to giant red rock formations for an incredibly memorable experience!

Dusty red path of the short hike behind the Red Rocks Trading Post

My favorite part about Denver is the chunks of snow in the shade, despite the gorgeous weather.  If you’re visiting Denver, these massive red rocks are only 25 minutes outside the city.  Everything about our experience was life-changing.

Red rock formations with snow in the shadowy crevices

How does Red Rocks Park Help with Sensory Issues?

Overall, this place had a lot of positive going for our child with autism.  If you wander far enough away from the Trading Post, there was plenty of quiet for those looking to decompress.  Traveling always has the potential for overstimulation.  Our children, whether on the spectrum or neurotypical, all couldn’t stop touching the red sand (no matter how much we reminded them).

These wide-open spaces gave us an adventure and a back story that let our kiddo’s imaginations take off.  They ran the stairs to burn off energy before returning to our hotel room.  We found the Staybridge Suites Cherry Creek good for families with autism.

A crop of red rock formations emerging from the wild grass

If your crowd is more Partridge Family than Adventurers Club, sing together as a family- the acoustics are amazing!  Our son does not like loud singing, so this didn’t work well for us, but it’s an option!

Red rock formations contrasting with a blue sky

The Red Rocks Park and Trading Post have so much for a family with small children and special needs alike to do!  It features a family-friendly hiking trail, a trading post full of shopping and classic tourist trap souvenirs, a back porch full of tables, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame featuring Denver musicians.

What’s your favorite part about Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater?

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  1. I have always wanted to check out Red Rocks! It seems like such a beautiful place. I’m so glad it worked out well for your kiddo, too!

  2. the rocks really are red! I need to get back out west to see all this beauty. Love the tip about the picnic-yeah soggy salad and cold pizza arent the best, but looks like you had a great day trip (day trip?) to explore some nature, and cheesy museum shops.

  3. What a delightful post! First off, this place looks amazing! Secondly, thank you for sharing the depths of your heart and how this destination was perfect for your autistic son!

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