Plan your vacation to these beautiful Colorado National Parks, where the most remarkable and stunning natural landmarks are found.
It is a state on the western side of the USA known for its vivid landscapes like rivers, canyons, arid desert, and the snow-filled Rocky Mountains—boarded by Wyoming to the North, New Mexico to the South, Utah to the West, and Kansas to the East.
Colorado is rich in scenery, from the tallest dunes to canyons and plains to rivers. The perfect time to visit the park is in summer and early fall.
Colorado National Parks
There are a lot of national parks that are famous in Colorado. Here is a list of some of the best national parks you can visit.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
A famous National Park in the National Park Service System and a favorite place for all hikers, skiers, and mountaineers, it covers about 107,000 hectares of stunning high-altitude scenery.
It is located between Estes Park, and Grand Lake and has many things to make you smile. As the name suggests, the park has multiple peaks connected by trail ridge road.
The park has four entrances, three on the east side, while the grand lake entrance is on the west side. It is home to dense wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and wildflowers.
Numerous trails featuring 570 km lead to beautiful lakes and waterfalls. The country’s long-distance trail, which is 5000 km long, called The Continental Divide Trail, runs from north to south connecting the Canada border and the Mexico border.
1.1. Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
You can choose to do some amazing things in this national park. Some of the most interesting things are mentioned below.
1.1.1. Trail Ridge Road
The best way to enjoy the continental divide is to drive along the trail ridge road, the highest paved continuous road in North America, with an elevation of 12,183 feet.
1.1.2. Rocky Mountain
Camping is popular in the Rocky Mountains from the available campgrounds, reservable in advance. There are various accessible trails constructed in the park to help children and the disabled adjust to the higher elevation and enjoy the scenery.
1.1.3. Sprague Lake
Another excellent place for walkers on a paved path to see the beautiful views along the entire way is Sprague Lake. It is formed by damming a stream. Picnic tables and toiletries are available at the spot.
1.1.4. Bear Lake
One of the famous trails in the National Park is short and easy for hikers to get some good pictures, covered with fir forest. The lake completely freezes during winter. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is located eleven miles from the end of Bear Lake Road.
1.1.5. Lilly Lake
Enjoy the beautiful wildflowers during early summer and spring along Lilly Lake, just about six miles south of Estes Park. The adorable mountain in the backdrop is a scenic location. Many hiking trails are running nearby to explore.
1.1.6. Alberta Falls
These breathtaking falls provide opportunities to do rock climbing. It is moderately challenging yet worth the visit.
There are much more things to explore in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The best time to visit, hike and drive the park is from May to September, while the middle of summer will be crowded. Do visit the Accessible Trails and the Official Travel Site. Also, check out the Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary and plan accordingly.
2. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park protects the ancient Native American culture known as Anasazi or ancestral pueblo people culture. Near the four corners region, it covers about 52,485 acres in Southwest America.
Cliff Palace and scrubby flats in and around the park are some of the grandest scenery with many things to do and provide numerous recreational options. To get the overall idea, visit the Colorado Welcome Center before exploring the area.
2.1. Exploring the Park
Park offers a variety of accessible options to explore archaeological sites, museums, overlook points, and visitor centers.
2.2. Mesa Archeological
Visit the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center to gather information and purchase tickets for the tour. Self-guided tours are opened in only two cliff dwellings. Another must-see place is the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, the oldest in the National Park, built using Cliff House Sandstone and located 20 miles from the park entrance.
Various objects used by the ancestral are exhibited in the museum, including jewelry, sandals, mugs, and much more. An orientation film is also shown for 25 minutes. Spruce Tree House, the third-largest cliff dwelling, is visible from nearby.
2.3. Recreation Activities
Stay at night to enjoy the international dark sky park, explore the sky, participate in the astronomy program, and discover the connection between Native American culture and the skies. ‘Mesa top loop‘ road gives an overview of the entire park. Drive to the cliff palace or Balcony House Loop Road gives a scenic drive to the cliff palace/balcony house.
2.4. Nearby Attractions
Another breathtaking route through the dazzling San Juan Mountains is Colorado’s San Juan Skyway, a 236-mile loop traveling through the mountain towns of Durango, Silverton, Ridgway, and Dolores. It is a virtual drive for all nature-loving travelers, which will take about 7 hours to complete.
Start at the Four Corners Monument, where the border of four states meets, and head to Ute Tribal Park, where the park ranger will guide you about the Ute and Ancestral Puebloan Culture. Take your time to explore this park filled with many archaeological sites. There are many other accessibilities in Mesa Verde National Park.
3. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mountains of sand and dunes in the middle of the desert are tucked in the beautiful peaks. Great Sand Dunes National Park is known for its tallest dunes, seasonal Medano Creek, and beach created at the base of the dunes.
The tallest dunes are 750 feet high and have an elevation of 8700 feet. The Medano Pass trail leads to wetlands, forests, and alpine lakes like Medano Lake and tundra wildlife. It is open all year round and requires no reservation.
If you are visiting Colorado Springs, visit Colorado’s beaches.
3.1. Things to Do in Great Sand Dunes National Park
The park’s main attraction is sandboarding, sand sliding, and skiing anywhere on the dunes, making it more fun for kids and adults. Hike the dunes and explore the 30-square-mile dune field. There is no designated trail on the sands.
3.1.1. Outdoor Activities
Hikers’ favorite is the High Dunes on the first ridge, which provide a great view of the entire dune field. Explore the Hidden Dune and Star Dune, the two tallest dunes in North America.
Apart from hiking trails, you can find four-wheel driving trails on the challenging Medano Pass, sand pit, or castle creek picnic area. Opened throughout the year but was spectacular during late September and early October.
Another popular water activity is the season stream, where you can surf, wade, skimboarding, and float depending on the water level.
3.1.2. Recreation Activities
Stay at night to explore the sky, and the Milky Way Galaxy is visible during spring, mid-summer, and early fall. The moonless night gives an extraordinary view of the shining stars, and participants in the night program learn about the night sky.
This park got many things to engage kids. Engage them in the junior ranger program to make them learn about the park’s resources. Camping and Horseback riding are available to explore the great dunes. Wheelchairs are available for rental to make the park accessible to everyone. Prepare yourself to face the sun, take adequate water, and enjoy.
4. Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park
The National Park is located in western Colorado. If you have ever visited the Grand Canyon, you can notice the Black Canyon is similar and a smaller version of the Grand Canyon.
It is the smallest and the least visited National Park in the US, but it has many exciting things to offer and is a delight to explore. Some narrow canyon sections get sunlight only for 33 minutes a day, hence the name ‘Black Canyon.’
4.1. Traveling the Black Canyon
From Montrose, reach the south-rim entrance. The roads here are easy to access; from Crawford reach the north rim entrance, the roads are unpaved and provide the opportunity to see the other side.
Reach the bottom of the canyon by car through the East Portal via the south rim. The distance between the south and north rim is only 1100 feet, but no connecting bridges exist.
4.2. Exploring the Black Canyon
The Gunnison River Long Black Canyon is 48 miles long and 12 miles inside the park. The most profound canyon rises over 2000 feet above the Gunnison River. The deepest point is Warner Point which is 2722 feet.
The south rim is popular and crowded as it has 12 canyon outlooks, while the north rim is less crowded as it has only a few ranger stations to act as an information center.
4.3. Things To Do in Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park
4.3.1. Scenic Drive and Fishing
4.3.2. Hiking and Adventure
Gunnison Route to River Gunnison is a popular trail. Since there are no designated trails, it is advised for people with good physical fitness and prior experience in hiking. Hike the inner canyon to experience real adventure.
4.3.3. Boat Tours and Recreation Activities
Take boat tours to the Curecanti National Recreation Area led by a ranger. It offers other activities like fishing, climbing, horse riding, kayaking, hiking, boating, whitewater rafting, and much more.
4.3.4. Boat Tours and Recreation Activities
Experts can do Rock climbing and kayaking in the deepest canyon. It is the best place for camping, where the north rim offers 13 campsites and requires no reservation, while the south rim offers 88 campsites with an electric hookup facility that can be reserved. Basic amenities like toiletries, picnic tables, and campfire areas are provided.
4.3.5. Night Sky Exploration
It is also the best place in Colorado to explore the night sky, so stay after sunset. As this park is remotely located, it is best to carry all the necessary things and be prepared for all kinds of weather.
5. Dinosaur National Monument
It is stunning on the Colorado and Utah border, with colorful canyons and beautiful fossils. Fossils are visible from the Utah side.
Park boasts more than 800 Paleontological Sites, and Dinosaur Fossils are exhibited in the Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall. Exciting displays are placed on learning all about dinosaurs and fossils.
5.1. Things To Do in Dinosaur National Monument
5.1.1. Visit Dinosaur Fossils
The park is home to some of the largest dinosaur fossil beds in the world. The Dinosaur Quarry Display Hall is where the fossils are on exhibit. Many dinosaur fossils, such as those of Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Diplodocus, are visible.
5.1.2. Explore the Wilderness
Yampa River Canyon, Harpers Corner, & Gates of Lodore are just a few of the wilderness locations in the park that you can explore. You can go hiking, camp, and take in the area’s breathtaking scenery.
5.1.3. Take a River Trip
The Green River and the Yampa River are both suitable for rafting. The river tours offer a wonderful opportunity to discover the park’s natural splendor and observe wildlife.
5.1.4. See the Petroglyphs
Between 600 and 1300 AD, the Fremont people who resided in the region left behind numerous petroglyphs. The park’s Echo Park section is where you may find the petroglyphs.
5.1.5. Take a Scenic Drive
The park features a drive that provides breathtaking views of the surroundings. The journey gives numerous opportunities to see wildlife and takes you through the park’s interior.
5.1.6. Attend a Ranger-Led Program
The park provides a number of ranger-led programs, including presentations, demonstrations, and guided hikes. The events are a fantastic way to find out more about the park and its past. Scenic drives are allowed around the canyon, hike, and camp in the landscapes.
6. Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument is near Grand Junction city. A radiant red sheer-walled canyon covers this grandest area formed millions of years ago. It offers various outdoor activities like horseback riding, cycling, hiking, camping, and scenic drives.
6.1. Things to Do in Colorado National Monument
6.1.1 Hiking and Biking
The monument has a variety of easy-to-tough hiking and riding trails. The Devil’s Kitchen Trail, Monument Canyon Trail, and Coke Ovens Trail are a few of the well-liked trails. These trails provide you the chance to get some exercise and fresh air while exploring the stunning red sandstone canyons and formations.
6.1.2. Beautiful Drives
The 23-mile-long Rim Rock Road, which circles the monument and provides stunning views of the surroundings, is a must-see scenic route. There are numerous viewpoint sites along the road that provide expansive views of the valleys, canyons, and rock formations.
6.1.3. Scenic Drives
The monument’s Rim Rock Drive is a must-see scenic drive, stretching for 23 miles and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The drive has many lookout points, offering panoramic views of the canyons, rock formations, and valleys.
6.1.4. Rock Climbing
The monument is also popular for rock climbing, with many rock formations providing a challenging and exciting climbing experience. Climbing is allowed with a permit, and there are many guide services available in the area.
6.1.5. Watching Wildlife
Wildlife from many different species, such as bighorn sheep, coyotes, and golden eagles, call the monument home. Seeing these animals in their natural settings is enjoyable for visitors.
6.1.6. Customer Service
With exhibits and educational activities, the visitor center for the monument provides tourists with the opportunity to learn about the history and geology of the region. A bookshop and gift shop are also located in the center.
The monument contains a campground where campers can enjoy a tranquil and beautiful setting. There are 80 sites at the campground, and reservations are accepted in advance.
Rim Rock Drive is 23 miles long and offers a spectacular monument view. It is open all year round.
7. Spanish National Historic Trail
It is a historical trade 700 miles long route connecting New Mexico and California. Running through mountains, deserts, and canyons exclusively used by traders with pack trains.
7.1. Things to Do in Spanish National Historic Trail
7.1.1. Visit Historical Locations
The Spanish National Historic Trail is home to a number of historic locations. Tourists can explore locations that honor the Spanish conquistadors’ expeditions in the area, such as the Coronado National Memorial in Arizona and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Site in Texas.
7.1.2. Hike and Camp in Designated Areas
The path offers a variety of hiking and camping possibilities, with some of the greatest trails being found in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. Also, there are designated campsites along the trail and other national forests where visitors can set up tents.
7.1.3. Discover the Hispanic Culture in Your Area
The road travels through a number of towns and cities, including Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico, which is rich in Hispanic culture. Visitors can sample the cuisine, culture, and events that honor the Hispanic history of the area.
7.1.4. Take in The Scenery While You Drive the Route
Several beautiful byways are available along the Spanish National Historic Trail, including New Mexico’s El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Scenic Byway. The Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway in Colorado and the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in California are two more scenic routes. It is one of the most arduous trade routes ever among all the trade routes in the US.
It is best to purchase ‘America the beautiful pass‘, which costs around 80$. The pass frees you to more than 2000 sites, including national parks, monuments, federal recreation sites, and forests. Most of the parks offer passes at the entrance gate.
Valid for 365 days from purchase, so if you plan to visit Colorado national parks, save money on this trip by purchasing this pass. Some roads may be closed during winter due to snow, and the temperature may fall very low. So, pack your bag for this big adventure and have a happy trip.
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