Are you looking for a great outdoor escape? Then visiting a popular national park in Colorado is the perfect choice for your next getaway. The Centennial State of Colorado is home to the grand canyon as well as a stunning variety of National Parks that are just begging to be explored.
From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the wide open prairies, Colorado has a variety of stunning landscapes waiting for you to explore them.
Colorado National Parks
From towering mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, and alpine lakes, to miles of trails through breathtaking forests, the diversity of nature in Colorado’s national parks can be enjoyed year-round.
The state has four national parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and Mesa Verde National Park.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
For those looking to experience the beauty of nature, a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado is a must.
It is one of the most visited national parks in Colorado. The majestic peaks and stunning landscapes are truly breathtaking and provide ample opportunity for exploration and adventure.
Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsman or someone simply looking for a change of pace from the daily grind, there’s something for everyone at Rocky Mountain National Park.
It takes 2 hours on Trail Ridge Road to get to the park. Trail Ridge Road stretches from Estes Park to Grand lake.
The park encompasses over 400 square miles of mountainous terrain and ranges in elevation from 8,000 feet up to 14,259 feet above sea level at its highest peak – Longs Peak.
There are hundreds of hiking trails that meander throughout the park, ranging from easy walks along lakeside shores to more challenging hikes to rocky alpine summits.
You can also opt for activities such as biking, camping, cabin-staying, fishing, horseback riding, and even driving through the scenic route. You’ll also find dozens of streams where you can go fly fishing or spot some of the area’s abundant wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and more.
If you’re visiting during the winter months you won’t be able to miss the spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks!
Whether it’s snowshoeing through snowy forests or simply admiring the beautiful vistas while wrapped up in your warmest winter coat, a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park is sure to be memorable any time of year.
But, most of the trips to this national park take place during the summer season as the main route through which you can access the national park is closed by the national park service providers by mid-October.
They re-open the main route during Memorial Day. All the winter activities take place near the park entrance.
2. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, located in beautiful Colorado, is a must-see for any traveler. The park offers spectacular views of the area’s iconic red rocks and breathtaking mesa vistas that can only be seen from this national park.
One of the most visited national parks of Colorado, Mesa Verde is home to hundreds of ancient Native American sites, making it a cultural wonder and an important piece of America’s history.
The Mesa Verde national park’s main attraction is its cliff dwellings. Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the 26th president of the USA, along with the Congress created Mesa Verde National Park in 1906 to “preserve the works of man,” making it the first ever park built to conserve structures created by humans.
- There are so many cliff dwellings and historical sites that hiring a tour guide is going to be a better decision, especially if it’s your first time going to Mesa Verde.
- Almost none of the trail tors allow pets.
- There are many facilities in the national park like Far View lodge; Spruce Tree Terrace Restaurant and Gift Shop; Moorefield Camp Store; Post Office, Ranger Station; Far View Visitor Center; Research Center; and more.
- Take part in one of the many guided tours available to visitors where you can learn more about these incredible structures and the history behind them.
When you visit Mesa Verde National Park, make sure to take advantage of all its outdoor activities.
You can explore archaeological sites like Cliff Palace and Balcony House, both containing amazing rock carvings and structures left behind by ancient people thousands of years ago.
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado
One of the most visited national parks in Colorado, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado is one of the most breathtaking places in the world.
Located in western Colorado near the towns of Montrose and Delta, this National Park protects a 12-mile-long canyon that was carved by the Gunnison River over millions of years.
At its deepest point, the Black Canyon is nearly 2,700 feet deep. The narrowest point at its bottom measures only 40 feet wide. With these stunning depths and narrowness, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for both adventure seekers and casual visitors alike!
There are two entrances to the national park; the first park entrance is the south rim, and the second, is the north rim. The visitor center is located on the south rim road, which is the main entrance and is near Montrose.
Whereas, Crawford is near the entrance of the North Rim, located on the opposite side of the Black Canyon.
Despite both routes having their own beauty on a scenic drive, the south rim entrance is more crowded as it is paved and longer. You can reach the north rim from the south rim and vice versa either by taking Highway 50 or Highway 92, which crosses through the Curecanti National Recreation Center.
The best way to experience the Black Canyon is to hike one of its many trails. While you won’t be able to go down into the canyon itself, some of these hikes will bring you as close as 400 feet away from the base of some of its majestic cliffs.
You can also take a guided tour down into the depths of the canyon with Black Canyon Boat Tours or explore via rafting with AVA Rafting and Zip Line.
For a bird’s eye view, you can check out a local scenic flight with Maverick Air Service for incredible views above and below the canyon walls!
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is a beautiful place to explore and enjoy nature. It is assigned as one of the international dark sky parks.
Located near the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it is home to some of the tallest sand dunes in North America. With many outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and sand sledding available, this national park will never disappoint you.
Located in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is a must-see destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park features towering sand dunes that reach heights of up to 750 feet, as well as beautiful forests, lakes, and meadows.
Hiking is a popular activity here in the Great Sand Dunes with a variety of hiking trails to explore.
- From short hikes that lead to stunning overlooks of the sand dunes, to more challenging hikes into the mountains or along sandy riverbeds, you can experience it all at the Great Sand Dunes.
- Backpacking is also an option for those who are looking for an extended adventure in the area.
- There are plenty of camping spots throughout the park where you can stay for days or even weeks.
- Sand sledding is another popular pastime in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and is one way to have a lot of fun while visiting. Specialized plastic discs make it easy and safe for anyone from small children to adults to get out and experience this exciting activity. With miles of open sand stretching out before you, you can slide down some amazing slopes without worry!
In addition to its recreational opportunities, the Great Sand Dunes National Park also has a number of historic sites that tell stories about its early inhabitants. In nearby Alamosa and Mosca, you’ll find ancient ruins left by Native Americans as well as several sites of Spanish exploration from centuries ago.
Taking a trip through these towns will help visitors gain an understanding and appreciation for this unique part of Colorado’s history. A trip to the Great Sand Dunes is always fun.
Monuments and Places Worth Mentioning in Colorado to Visit
The above-mentioned National parks are some of the best places that you can enjoy and explore, but check out these famous monuments and other destinations that are worth visiting as well.
1. San Juan National Forest
The San Juan National Forest in Colorado is a magical place, filled with breathtaking landscapes and endless outdoor recreational opportunities.
Nestled in the southwestern corner of the state, the 1.8 million-acre national forest is home to many high-elevation mountain peaks, scenic meadows, and clear alpine lakes.
No matter your outdoor pursuits, the National Forest offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a day hike through the rolling hills or a more ambitious backpacking excursion, there are plenty of trails to explore.
Many of these routes take you through pristine areas teeming with wildflowers and wildlife, as well as incredible views of the jagged Rockies stretching off into the distance. For climbers, there are over 250 miles of technical terrain to scale.
From bouldering to mountaineering. Or perhaps you’d prefer some fishing? Trout and other fish thrive in over 500 miles of waterways here.
2. Browns Canyon National Monument
Located in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado, this stunning national monument offers spectacular views, a variety of activities, and some of the most breathtaking scenery.
For thrill-seekers, there is plenty of things to do in Browns Canyon National Monument. One of the main attractions is white water rafting along the Arkansas River.
You can enjoy a peaceful day on the river or test your mettle with some class III rapids. No matter what level of rafter you are, there is something for everyone.
For those who want to take it a bit easier, Browns Canyon has several trails that meander through its rugged terrain. From short hikes to overnight backpacking trips, you’ll find something that fits your skill level and preferences.
Make sure to pack binoculars so you can spot bighorn sheep, deer, and even bald eagles while you explore.
3. Chimney Rock National Monument
Located in the San Juan National Forest, Chimney Rock National Monument is a breathtaking natural attraction in southwest Colorado.
This archaeological site holds historical significance for the Ancestral Puebloan people, who constructed an ancient dwelling on this impressive rock formation more than 1,000 years ago.
Chimney Rock’s history stretches back to 925 A.D. when an estimated 2000 people lived and worked in this sacred area for about two centuries.
It served as a ceremonial center, a source of inspiration, and spiritual refuge for the Ancestral Puebloan community before it was abandoned around 1150 A.D.
Today, visitors can explore this site that overlooks the surrounding mountains, mesas, and valleys.
For a close-up view of Chimney Rock, visitors must climb either one of two spiral staircases that wind their way up the cliff face to reach its peak at an elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level.
On top, guests can marvel at incredible 360-degree views while they take in sites such as Four Corners and the distant Ute Mountain Tribal Park in New Mexico.
On the hike down from Chimney Rock, visitors may spot eagles soaring above or be fortunate enough to glimpse herds of bighorn sheep roaming nearby cliffsides.
With countless trails spanning hundreds of acres that connect neighboring mountains and ridges through forests, meadows, and valleys; there’s something new around every corner for outdoor enthusiasts to explore at Chimney Rock National Monument!
4. Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
Located near Mesa Verde National Park, this museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the ancestral Puebloan culture that once inhabited the region.
At the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, you can explore thousands of artifacts from archaeological digs onsite, as well as ones that were brought here from other parts of Colorado.
The museum includes a variety of displays and exhibits highlighting ancient Puebloan dwellings and their lifestyle, pottery, and artistry.
Additionally, interactive activities allow guests to explore more about the people who once lived in this area by playing recreated traditional games and examining artifacts found throughout the area.
Guests at Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum can take part in special programs such as hikes and lectures given by expert archaeologists who specialize in researching this area’s past inhabitants.
For those interested in participating in hands-on archaeology projects, they offer guided volunteer opportunities that provide visitors with a unique insight into the daily life of these ancient cultures.
With this, we conclude our article on the National parks of Colorado. Hope now you have some idea about the national parks in this area. Are you going to pay a visit to these ancient and historic monuments?