Discover National and State Parks in Colorado

Discover National and State Parks - They're Gorgeous

Discover National and State Parks in Colorado. There are over one hundred thousand square miles within Colorado, and over a third of that land belongs to the people in the form of parks and public land. And maybe we’re a little biased, but it’s not just any land—the parks in Colorado are some of the most beautiful in the country, with gorgeous mountainscapes, thick forests, grassy plains, dramatic canyons, and thousands of cultural heritage sites. The world is at your fingertips in Colorado, so get out there and explore it!

Discover National Parks 

Colorado’s four national parks are the big guns, with some of the most gorgeous and unique landscapes and views in the Rockies.
  • For sweeping mountain vistas, elk, and high elevations, there’s Rocky Mountain National Park, which is one of the most popular national parks in the US.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of the country's least visited national parks. It's named for the deep, shadowy canyon that receives little to no sunlight in places.
  • At the state's southern edge, Mesa Verde National Park offers a fascinating look at over five thousand ancestral heritage sites of the ancient Pueblo people.
  • Amongst the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest dunes in North America and some truly unique and gorgeous scenic views.
discover national mesa verde

Discover State Parks

There are forty-two state parks in Colorado, and while they range in size, location, and landscape, it’s safe to say that many of them are just as beautiful and varied as their nationally-recognized counterparts. If you’re looking for fishing, hiking, water sports, horseback riding, snowshoeing, rock climbing, or other outdoor activities, chances are there’s a state park nearby that’s got you covered. While every one of Colorado’s State Parks has something unique and gorgeous to offer, from the massive dog park at Cherry Creek State Park to the serene paddleboarding and summer wildflowers at Paonia State Park, below are the five you should add to your bucket list this year, or check out the State Park's Guide for information on all of them:
  1. Arkansas Headwater Recreation Area - This park in Salida is where the Arkansas River originates, and it is home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the country, maybe the world.
  2. Eldorado Canyon State Park - Known as “Eldo” by locals, Eldorado Canyon State Park is easily accessible from Boulder and has plenty of gorgeous opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, and rock climbing, just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the Front Range.
  3. Rifle Falls State Park - Located in Garfield County, the centerpiece of this beautiful park is the 70-foot triple waterfall and the abundant wildlife you can spot there if you’re patient.
  4. Eleven Mile State Park - The waters of the South Platte bottleneck west of Colorado Springs at Eleven Mile State Park, where you’ll find some of the best trout fishing in the state.
  5. Highline State Park - West of Grand Junction is Highline State Park, where mountain biking enthusiasts will find a veritable playground, including the world-famous 18 Hours of Fruita Loop.
discover national discover state park

Discover National Forests, Wilderness Areas & More

Visitors to Colorado and locals alike are extremely fortunate to have such a natural playground at their fingertips. So much of Colorado is unbelievably beautiful, and there’s much to explore even after you discover national and state parks. Wilderness areas like Lost Creek Wilderness in Bailey, CO, offer miles of trails for hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and more, and spaces like Rainbow Falls Mountain Trout Recreational Area in Sedalia allow visitors to fish and explore.

Tips for Enjoying the Great Outdoors

When you’re cooped up all day due to social distancing regulations, it can be more tempting than ever to hit the trails and get some fresh air. But spending time in parks without thinking ahead can be more dangerous than it’s worth—you might find yourself in an unnecessarily crowded space or get into a sticky situation in the backcountry. To keep you and the people around you as safe as possible, here are some tips for spending time outside:
  1. Avoid crowded areas. If you pull up to the trailhead and the parking lot is packed, or cars line the side of the street, do everyone and yourself a favor and move on. Make it your mission to find the hidden gems of the Colorado parks system.
  2. Go on off-peak days. Many of us might be working from home these days, but it’s still technically working, which means weekends when those people have days off are still a much more crowded and popular time for people to use the parks system. If you can, try to schedule your family hike for, say, a Tuesday morning rather than a Saturday afternoon.
  3. Keep your distance on the trail. We’re unsure how many other ways to say this, but please keep your distance. Stay at least six feet from other trail users whenever at all possible.
  4. Be wise in the backcountry. Accidents happen, and they are even more likely to happen in the backcountry. getting off the trail in the forest or wilderness can be tricky. It's a great way to get really lost unless you're an expert with maps, a compass, or navigation. Sticking to the trail is the best bet.
  5. Pay attention to the news. Official restrictions change daily, and park admittance can change due to unforeseen issues such as forest fires or a pandemic. Check social media and websites for wherever you plan to visit to ensure it’s open, and read about any restrictions or special instructions for using that park.
For more information on closures, conditions, and more, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

by Emily Krempholtz


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