17 AMAZING NATIONAL PARKS IN COLORADO, Colorado’s National premises are some of the most different and stunning in the United States. Colorado is the ‘ Gateway to the Rockies ’ and some indeed call it the ‘ Switzerland of America ’. Colorado has four National Parks – Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, the Great Sand Stacks and Rocky Mountain National Park.

As well as these big-name national parks, Colorado also is home to 13 other national park sites, including historic sites, trails, monuments and recreational areas. A fantastic way to explore Colorado is to take a National Parks road trip around the state. So, whether you hit the road, book a trip to one of the more significant national parks or visit a couple, check out this guide to our 17 Colorado national parks sites.



national parks near colorado
One of the best Colorado national parks to explore in winter is Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is the jewel of Colorado, and you simply visit Colorado without going to the famous Rocky Mountains.

This national park covers 415 square miles (1074 sq km) and encompasses mountains, alpine tundra, meandering rivers and thick forest.

It has two distinct halves connected by Trail Ridge Road.

The park’s east side includes some of the top attractions, such as Longs Peak, Bear Lake, Moraine Park and Sprague Lake.

This side of the park is much busier than the western side, where you’ll find Grand Lake, the Kawuneeche Valley, and a lot of the backcountry.

Visit this incredible park in summer for snow-free hiking trails, gorgeous wildflowers and stunning colours.

national parks colorado mountains and greenery
A lovely view of Horseshoe Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

To enter during the peak summer season (between 27 May and 10 October), you will need a timed entry permit and a park pass for your vehicle.

The Timed Entry Permit is a way for the park to manage the increasing visitor numbers to the third most popular park in the USA.

With this permit, you must inform the National Park Service (NPS) of the exact times you will be visiting the park and can purchase this timed entry permit and parking pass directly on the NPS website.

The Rocky Mountains is also a popular national park in winter, and the change in season brings an incredible new snow-covered landscape.

Although many mountain passes are closed due to snowfall, much of the park can be explored by cross-country skiers.

Don’t miss:

best national parks in colorado waterfall over rocks and sign that says 'Alberta Falls'
Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is one of the lovely natural features to see.
  • Drive Trail Ridge Road – the 48-mile (77 km) road from Estes Park to Grand Lake.
  • Hike Gem Lake – 3.4 miles (5.5 km) of moderate trail offers incredible views of the mountains.
  • Bear Lake – this walk is super easy and has stunning views.
  • Moraine Park – this is an excellent place for spotting herds of elk.
  • Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing – the Kawuneeche Valley is perfect for winter sports.
  • Sprague Lake is the place to be for reflections of the Rockies in the lake.


national parks near denver colorado a small figure standing in the distance on a giant dune at sunset
If you’re considering going on a Colorado national parks road trip, put Great Sand Dunes National Park on your to-see list.

Perhaps there is no stranger yet more beautiful area than Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes backed by the Rocky Mountains.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is in southern Colorado, around 230 miles (370 km) south of Denver.

The park covers 232 square miles (603.1 sq km) of space and is home to North America’s tallest dune, the Star Dune.

This is one of Colorado’s quietest national parks because it is a little out of the way from other Colorado attractions but worth visiting.

Your reward for making an effort to drive down is fewer visitors and mind-blowing views.

Don’t miss:

what national parks are in colorado footsteps in the sand dunes
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is one of the best national parks in Colorado to get away from the crowds.
  • Medano Creek – cool off from the heat and splash around, with views of the dunes and the Rocky Mountains.
  • Stargazing – In 2019, the park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park, so stargazing is a fantastic experience for night photography enthusiasts.
  • Sandboarding and sand sledding – You can enjoy this activity practically anywhere on the dunes if it’s away from vegetated areas.
  • Hike up and down the dunes – You’ll be itching to explore these impressive dunes and find all the spectacular vistas.


national parks in colorado springs sunset over plunging canyon cliffs
A dramatic view of the sun setting over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which is one of the national parks in Colorado you won’t want to miss.

Another of Colorado’s underrated national parks, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, is a vast and imposing canyon in western Colorado.

The park has three areas: South Rim, East Portal Road, and North Rim.

South Rim is the park’s most popular area, and the seven-mile (11.2 km) drive along the South Rim Road has 12 vantage points to stop at.

The Black Canyon is 2,722 ft (829 m) deep, enough to make anyone feel queasy.

Don’t miss:

  • Drive the South Rim Road – You must drive this road and stop at every single vantage point. The views are spectacular!
  • East Portal – This is the best spot to see the canyon from the bottom and gaze up at this immense steep-sided valley.
  • Camp in the canyon – Camping in this spectacular spot is a fantastic experience in Colorado to immersive yourself in nature.
  • Take a boat trip – During summer, the Curecanti National Recreation Center offers boat tours along the canyon.


national parks near colorado springs cliff dewlling homes in the rockface
One of the impressive national parks in Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park, is home to a prehistoric site of cliff dwelling ruins.

Mesa Verde National Park is significant for its well-preserved cliffside Puebloan settlement.

These ancient dwellings carved out of the cliff face are around 700 years old.

Mesa Verde is not just a national park but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most significant archaeological preserves in the USA.

This unique, historical, and breathtaking landscape should absolutely be on your Colorado National Park bucket list.

Don’t miss:

  • Cliff Palace – This is the park’s main attraction, so be sure to take a guided tour to discover the area’s rich history.
  • Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum – Budding architects will love this museum, which provides visitors with a look into Mesa Verde’s history.
  • Petroglyph Point Trail – This 2.4-mile (3.86 km) circular trail is the only place in the park to see petroglyphs.
  • Head to the rim to see the cliff dwellings – With Puebloan settlements, cliff views and expansive valley landscapes, what more could you ask for?

Also read:

  • 21 Colorado Landmarks
  • 20 Things To Do In Breckenridge
  • 20 Things To Do At Night In Denver
  • Best Time To Visit Colorado
  • 17 Colorado National Parks
  • 20 Places To Go Glamping In Colorado
  • 20 Things To Do In Manitou Springs
  • 20 Things To Do In Denver
  • 20 Things To Do In Buena Vista
  • 20 State Parks In Colorado
  • 20 Things To Do In Pagosa Springs
  • 20 Things To Do In Telluride
  • Tales from Telluride
  • 20 Things to Do In Salida
  • 20 Things To Do In Idaho Springs



Amache National Historic Site was a Japanese-American incarceration camp with a harrowing history that isn’t often shared with the world.

As a result of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered the relocation of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to this camp.

This was one of 10 camps built at the time, and by 1943, 7,318 people were living at Camp Amache.

Visiting this historic site will teach you a lot about an untold part of America’s history.

The Amache National Historic Site is close to the Kansas border in southeast Colorado.


Old West history fans will love Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

This site isn’t a military fort as you might expect, but a reconstruction of the old fur trading post.

Rangers wander the post dressed in traditional outfits making this feel more like a living history museum.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is in southeast Colorado, about an hour’s drive from Amache National Historic Site, and is a decent stop-off if you are in the area or road-tripping.


colorado national parks road trip sandstone formations at Sand Creek
Enjoy the rugged landscape with red sandstone formations
in Sand Creek National Monument Colorado.

The Sand Creek massacre happened in 1864 when Colonel John M. Chivington commanded around 675 U.S. volunteer soldiers to attack a village where 750 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians lived.

This harrowing and horrific event is documented at this historic site, where more than 230 Native Americans were massacred.

The interpretive ranger talk lasts around 40 minutes and is an excellent way to learn about Native American culture and the hardships they have faced by their oppressors.

National Historic Trails In Colorado


The California Historic Trail is an example of the most significant mass migration in American history.

The trail spans 5,665 miles (9116 km), covering 10 states. About 1,100 miles (1770 km) of the trail still have remains of the original trail.

Hike parts of Colorado’s California Historic Trail to see more of the state and how far people used to walk before transportation.


The Old Spanish Historic Trail passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California, covering 2,700 miles (4345 km).

Dating back to 1831, this trail marks its place in history as the key trade route connecting Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California.

There’s an excellent 13.3 miles (21.4 km) loop trail near Grand Junction in Colorado.

This moderately challenging trail allows you to hike some of the Old Spanish Trail.

So, pack your sun cream, water, and food and head out on this 5 ½ hour hike.


The Pony Express Historic Trail passes through eight states, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California, covering 1900 miles (3057 km).

Pony Express workers used the trail to deliver mail via horseback across the west of the United States.

They could deliver mail in 10 days from one end to the other, which is fast considering the terrain and how far they travelled.

However, after just 18 months of service, the Pony Express trail became obsolete when the telegraph was developed.


The Santa Fe Historical Trail was an old working trail that passed through five states connecting Franklin, Missouri, with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Along Colorado’s section of the trail, you’ll find Bent’s Old Fort, the Comanche National Grassland, Sierra Vista and the Lamar Welcome Center.

You’ll discover museums, interpretive centres and historic sites along Colorado’s Santa Fe trail.



best national parks colorado impressive rock cliffs
Stunning sunrise at Colorado National Monument.

The Colorado National Monument is a beautiful part of Colorado and although it does not carry the title of ‘national park’, this national monument is spectacular.

Colorado National Monument is in western Colorado and covers an area of 20,000 acres (8093 ha).

Huge, imposing monoliths cover an extensive plateau, creating stunning scenery and opportunities for photography.

A scenic drive along the Rim Rock Drive will not disappoint. It is a popular spot for hiking and stargazing as well.


colorado national parks map green, blue and yellow sign
Welcome to Dinosaur, Colorado, where you will find one of a fun Colorado national park site to explore.

Well, this national monument sounds cool, right? Dinosaur National Monument is a terrific outdoor attraction in Colorado to take kids.

You can still see the remains of dinosaurs embedded in many of the rocks at this national monument, which has an impressive landscape.

The Dinosaur National Monument is home to the Quarry Exhibit Hall, where you will find around 1,500 dinosaur bones and learn about these incredible dinosaurs.

The monument site covers 21,000 acres (8500 ha), so plenty of places exist to explore.

Echo Park should be on your Dinosaur National Monument itinerary and is the heart of Dinosaur Canyon.

One of the most adventurous ways to explore the canyon is by taking a white water rafting trip, guaranteed to be the highlight of your Dinosaur National Monument adventure.

Dinosaur National Monument is in northwest Colorado, close to the Utah border.

list of national parks in colorado Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is a U.S. National Monument on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah.


This site has one of the most diverse fossil deposits in the world.

You can see petrified redwood stumps, which provide great insight into world history.

Any geologist or archaeologist will love exploring this area.

This national monument is a two-hour drive south of Denver.


colorado national parks sunlight on the ruins
Explore the ancient ruins of pre-historic Indian cultures in Hovenweep National Monument, which is a Colorado national parks site.

This national monument is split across Utah and Colorado.

At Hovenweep, you will discover six prehistoric settlements built between 1200AD and 1300AD.

These villages were home to around 2,500 people.

Head to the visitor centre first to learn more about the area and pick up a ranger pack for kids.


This monument preserves a big unexcavated pueblo and was made a national monument site in 1919.

Largely untouched since then, visiting Yucca House is a great way to learn about the Pueblo Indian culture and their lifestyle.

Bring plenty of water with you as there isn’t a visitor centre or amenities.

Yucca House National Monument is between Mesa Verde and Ute Mountain in the Montezuma Valley.



national parks in colorado Blue Mesa Reservoir with blue sky
The Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which is a Colorado national park site in the south of the state.

This part of Colorado is a hidden gem of a recreation area with a series of three reservoirs along the Gunnison River.

It’s a fantastic place to try watersports or fish for salmon or trout.

Curecanti National Recreation Area is a fantastic way to spend a day in Colorado.

Check Also


ADVERTISEMENT BEST TRIP-DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO It’s a great shame that most people who travel …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *