Colorado is an outdoor wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts all around the world. You have plenty of choices from hiking, biking, camping, fishing, thrill-seeking activities, and scenic drives. Colorado parks have it all, no matter your interests. Moreover, Colorado has four National Parks and 42 state parks across diverse landscapes.
Colorado features sandy dunes, snow-capped peaks, and everything in between. The astonishing terrain and natural beauty, plus the variety of outdoor activities, make Colorado a bucket list destination for more than one trip in your lifetime. Here is a list of some of the best parks Colorado offers.
BEST PARKS IN COLORADO
Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado\’s best-known national park receives around 4 million visitors every year, making it the third most popular national park in the country. Only the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon are coming in before it. The park covers 415 square miles and encompasses a range of mountain peaks more than 14,000 ft high, sweeping meadows, evergreen forests, and glistening lakes.
There are endless hiking trails that cover over 300 miles for you to explore and revel in the iconic Rocky Mountain scenery. The Rocky Mountain National Park is home to diverse wildlife, including marmots, black bears, deer, beavers, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, and so much more. There are a number of campsites for you to extend your stay, and visitors can rock climb, fish, and hit the slopes with their skis or snowboards.
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is located in the southwest corner of the state, known best for the incredible Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Along with this impressive archaeological site, this park offers some pretty stunning scenery and nature for you to enjoy.
The park includes over 4,000 known archaeological sites that date back as far as A.D. 550. The cliff dwellings have a unique history that gives us a glimpse into America’s diverse heritage stories. The Ancestral Pueblo people built the adobe structures under the overhanging cliffs of Mesa Verde. Exploring the village, you can view pit houses, pueblos, farming structures, and more.
You can purchase tickets to view the most popular destinations in the park at Mesa Verde, including Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House. There are places where you can explore on your own through self-guided tours.
There are nearly 30 miles of park trails within the Mesa Verde national park for you to explore the expansive vistas, sloping mesas, and rugged canyons.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado in the San Luis Valley. This massive sand dune encompasses over 30 square miles, with the tallest dune tower sitting at over 750 ft high. The dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America. They offer an incredible view with the white-capped Sangre de Cristo sitting behind them with views of grasslands, wetlands, forests, and tundra. The dunes were created by a prehistoric lake more than a million years ago.
You can enjoy unique and epic activities at the dunes: dune sledding and sandboarding. Moreover, you can rent equipment before entering the park at one of the nearby rental shops. Also, you can play on the beach during Medano Creek’s seasonal flow. The park offers such a unique array of activities. This park is a truly unique experience that you have to see for yourself.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is truly one of the state’s more spectacular sights. Located in western Colorado, the canyon meets where the Rocky Mountains meet the Colorado Plateau. The canyon was formed millions of years ago by the Gunnison River and plunged to depths of 2,700 feet on these 53 miles stretches of the gorge.
The Black Canyon gets its name because the canyon walls are often shrouded in shadows that make them appear black. There are plenty of easily accessible viewpoints to gaze into the depths of the dark canyon, like the Devil’s Lookout and Dragon Point, just to name a few. The canyon does not have any maintained trails, although many experienced hikers and climbers who can obtain wilderness permits have ventured down through unmarked routes.
There are three campsites at this national park for you to stay and enjoy the impressive views. There are a couple of small trails that follow the canyon’s rim. Still, it’s very narrow and dangerous, and it’s important to know there isn’t a bridge that connects the two sides. It’s a great visit for the incredibly drastic canyon views.
Eleven Mile State Park
Eleven Mile State Park sits near the small town of Lake George and just west of Colorado Springs. The waters of the South Platte River collect at the Eleven Mile Dam and create a sprawling 3,400-acre reservoir that gives this state park life. Surrounding by stunning wetlands and grasslands, the resulting lake is 11 miles long (hence the name). It is a great place for outdoor activity.
There are over 300 campsites, and the park features a marina and a visitors’ center. The Eleven Mile State Park is a popular fishing site amongst many other water activities, including windsurfing, sailing, and more. There are a few small trails that make for a nice nature walk. The Eleven Miles State Park is one of the most beautiful reservoirs in the state.
Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park sits just southwest of Denver and offers 4,000 acres of beautiful landscapes and gorgeous red sandstone formations that date back to over 300 million years. It’s hard to miss the giant slabs scattered across the land at 60-degree angles that seem like they’re about to topple over at any moment. The park also has incredible spires and monoliths that date back to the cretaceous age.
There’s a ton of wildlife in the park. You might catch glimpses of black bears, elk, deer, foxes, mountain lions, and more. Of course, from a distance, we hope. The Carpenter Peak trail is one of the more popular hiking trails of this park and is a 6.3-mile trail that might offer you the best spots to view the abundant wildlife of this park.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Near Golden Colorado is a 12,119-acre park that is an outdoor lover’s dream and sits just 30 miles west of Denver. With over 35 miles of hiking trails and 27 of those open to bikes and horses, the state is the perfect place for a backpacking adventure. There are over 100 campsites to choose from, including a few cabins and yurt options for the less seasoned backpacker.
One of the park’s highlights is the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook which allows you to gaze over 100 miles of the Continental Divide. The diverse landscape includes wetlands, conifer forests, aspen groves, and the usual wildlife offerings that Colorado offers.
Cherry Creek State Park
You can find Cherry Creek State Park located at the base of the Rocky Mountains near the Denver area, just a short drive away and the perfect getaway from the bustling city life. Moreover, the park covers over 4,000 acres of wetlands and prairie. Also at the center is an 880-acre reservoir. The reservoir is a popular spot with the Cherry Creek Marina and Yacht Club on the north shore, making it a hot spot for boaters.
There is a public swimmable beach. Moreover, the park has over 47 miles of paved and multi-use trails for you to explore. It’s a great spot to enjoy the views of the Rockies. And also makes for a quick getaway with the proximity to the city.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
Just a stone’s throw from Boulder, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park features incredible striking sandstone cliffs and a popular outdoor activity haven for hikers and climbers alike. This park is named after the gorgeous canyon that lies in the center.
A true climbers paradise with over 500 technical rock-climbing routes that rock climbers worldwide come to challenge themselves on the golden cliffs. Enjoy the prairie and the wildlife by hiking or taking a mountain bike on the picturesque trails and connect with Boulder’s trail system. Enjoy these beautiful views and babbling streams for the perfect nature day.
Steamboat Lake State Park
Nestled in the Willow Valley at 8,000 feet elevation, Steamboat Lake is a Colorado gem with something to offer everyone. The lake has a full-service marina for the boaters and the fishers and two campgrounds to choose from. The marina offers paddleboard rentals for a nice athletic experience on the lake, paddling and exploring the shores of Steamboat Lake.
The wildlife in this park features over 200 species of migratory and resident birds, including the great blue heron and the occasional red fox and black bear. The park is known for the sweeping wildflowers to enjoy on the many easy hiking trails or accept a challenge and hike up Hahn’s Peak for sweeping views of the Colorado Rockies.
Rifle Gap State Park
Rifle Gap State Park has located in Garfield County, just a short drive from Rifle, Colorado. The 350-acre crystal clear reservoir is a popular park for locals and visitors at all times of the year. In the summer, the park can be full of people who love water activities, including boating, fishing, windsurfing, and swimming.
In the winter, the park comes alive with cross country skiers, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. There is the freedom to roam the park, but there are no dedicated hiking trails, so most people make their own.
Chatfield State Park
Chatfield Park surrounds the 1,423-acre lake that shares its name. Created by the South Platte River, this lake is a beautiful water-centric park that makes for a serene escape from nearby Denver. This lake has its own marina where visitors can rent boats and even dine at the floating restaurant.
Although the lake is at the center of the recreational activity, the park has its own Audubon Center dedicated to the 300-bird specified that makes it their home or migratory stopping point. If you’re lucky, you can spot coyotes, red foxes, prairie dogs, and rabbits.
Hiking is abundant with a web of trails that circle the lake. You can choose from over 200 campsites available at this park. Moreover, you can extend your stand and enjoy the peaceful nights that nature brings. Or also you may gaze at the stars far away from the lights of the city.
Ridgway State Park
The Ridgway State Park is nestled in the San Juan Mountains, close to the international ski town of Telluride. This park has spectacular views, 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, and a 5-mile-long reservoir that is popular in the summer for waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboards, or jet skis.
The park is a more peaceful place for skiing and ice climbing in the winter months. People love to hike and sled the park in the snowy season. The park offers three campgrounds, including yurts available for rent, or if you just plan a nice day trip, you can choose from the 80 picnic spots to enjoy a peaceful lunch.
Visiting any of the magical state parks is usually just a short drive away from any one of the major cities in Colorado. Mayflower Limo can take you on the journey so you can sit back and relax in comfort while we do all the driving. Hire a luxury car service to take you to your destination and back and relax after a strenuous hike.