Colorado is definitely among the finest states within the US to expertise the nice open air. The state is residence to superb hikes, cozy cabin getaways, and a number of the greatest nationwide parks within the US. Are you beginning to plan your Colorado itinerary? These 12 greatest Colorado nationwide parks and monuments are the best locations to start out.
Greatest Colorado Nationwide Parks
Colorado has 4 nationwide parks: Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park. These nationwide parks have some huge ticket objects, particularly within the Rocky Mountains. In truth, they’re a few of the most visited nationwide parks within the US.
From the nation’s tallest sand dunes to UNESCO World Heritage Web site cliff dwellings and exhilarating whitewater rafting, there’s something for everybody. Let’s check out these fab 4 Colorado nationwide parks.
If you happen to plan to go to a number of Colorado nationwide parks, buy a Nationwide Parks and Federal Leisure Land Cross. The Nationwide Park Service provides an annual go to all NPs for $80 a yr that can be utilized at greater than 2,000 recreation areas. Get extra particulars right here. One of the best ways to see these nationwide parks is by driving. Evaluate automobile rental charges at RentalCars.com
1. Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
When individuals focus on US nationwide parks, Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park is normally the extra in style nationwide park to crop up. Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park is essentially the most visited nationwide park in Colorado. The park covers a staggering 265,461 acres and stretches throughout a number of states – Colorado included.
It’s also one of many nation’s highest nationwide parks, and the Rocky Mountains are famously snow-capped in sections. The whole lot of the Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park is stuffed with craggy mountains, alpine tundra, and exquisite forests. It’s excellent for horseback using holidays, mountaineering, and mountain climbing. You’ll normally spot stray bighorn sheep too.
Getting there: Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park is a 1 hour and 20-minute drive from Denver, Colorado. You can hire a automobile to get there. Obtain your self-drive audio tour to find the perfect viewpoints, mountaineering trails, mountain passes, and lakes as you comply with GPS coordinates.
When to go to Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park is greatest visited in early spring, however provided that you don’t need to entry Path Ridge Highway. In March and April, there are fewer crowds than you’ll discover in summer season. Spring is once you’ll see flowers and different flora blooming into motion after winter. There’ll nonetheless be snow in locations, however this can be a peaceable interval to go to the park.
If you wish to entry Path Ridge Highway, we suggest visiting the park in late Could or June. The highway (Colorado’s highest steady paved highway) can have simply opened, however crowd numbers will nonetheless be low.
Issues to do in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
- Spot bears and elk close to Estes Park.
- Hike round Bear Lake.
- Drive Path Ridge Highway.
- Learn extra: 15 Greatest Hikes in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
The place to remain in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
Blue Door Inn is 4 miles from the Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park entrance and is about towards a backdrop of snowcapped peaks. The services are ace, too, with a seasonal pool, basketball courts, and barbeques with picnic tables.
Grand Lake Lodge is a wonderful property with a stunning pool with views of the encircling surroundings. The lodge is right for large teams and channeling luxury-loving power, with a scorching tub and dramatic-looking firepit.
Rams Horn Village Resort is ideal for a vacation resort vibe. Friends get a two-bedroom vacation residence with a full kitchen and scorching tub entry. There’s additionally a enterprise heart and a health club to get pleasure from once you aren’t exploring Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park – aka Colorado’s most visited nationwide park.
2. Mesa Verde Nationwide Park
Mesa Verde Nationwide Park is one other improbable addition to our Colorado nationwide parks. However whereas the Rocky Mountains are famed for his or her dramatic peaks and alpine lakes, Mesa Verde is famed for its historic websites. Mesa Verde Nationwide Park is the place you’ll discover Cliff Palace – the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
For much more historic websites, you’ll be able to drive Mesa Prime Loop Highway. This highway passes some exceptional historic sights, together with Petroglyph Level Path. Mesa Verde Nationwide Park actually is the guts of tradition within the Colorado nationwide parks. It has over 4,700 archeological websites, and this statistic consists of over 600 cliff dwellings.
Getting there: Mesa Verde Mountain Nationwide Park is a 7-hour from Denver, Colorado. 6 hours from Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah, and 4 hours from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The closest metropolis to Mesa Verde is Cortez Colorado. You can hire a automobile to get there. Get your self-drive audio tour to find the perfect viewpoints, mountaineering trails, mountain passes, and lakes as you comply with GPS coordinates.
When to go to
So, when do you have to go to this nationwide park? Both June or early September. Whereas in a really perfect world, you possibly can keep away from the crowds within the fall or spring, this isn’t a good suggestion if you wish to see the historic websites.
Sights like Cliff Palace don’t open till late Could and shut in late September. To actually get essentially the most out of Mesa Verde Nationwide Park, it’s best to go to in June or early September to go to the perfect sights with the fewest crowds.
Issues to do in Mesa Verde Nationwide Park
- Go to Cliff Palace.
- Hike Petroglyph Level Path.
- Go to Step Home
- Learn extra: 29 Greatest Locations to Go to in Colorado
The place to remain in Mesa Verde Nationwide Park
Far View Lodge is about proper inside Mesa Verde and is a superb base in the event you don’t need to journey out and in of the park entrance day by day. You received’t really feel minimize off from the motion with three eating places onsite and guided excursions working from the reception desk.
Retro Inn at Mesa Verde is a extra budget-friendly, city various. The motel is cheery, with comfy furnishings and varied room sorts, together with household rooms. And once you’ve visited the close by Colorado nationwide park, you’ll be able to benefit from the city of Cortez.
Grizzly Roadhouse Mattress and Breakfast is a straightforward nation retreat. Prepare for easy pleasures – mountain views, air-conditioning, and a espresso machine. This property is liked for its location and peaceable environment.
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park is unfortunately neglected by many vacationers. Don’t make this error. Black Canyon Nationwide Park is among the greatest Colorado nationwide parks. The park’s most important attraction is (clearly) its black canyons. The nationwide park is stuffed with slim and terrifyingly steep canyons minimize out of Precambrian metamorphic rock by the Gunnison River over tens of millions of years. You’ll be able to entry numerous viewpoints and trails on each the south rim and the north rim.
Nonetheless, Black Canyon Nationwide Park can be residence to peregrine falcons – the quickest fowl on the earth. Convey a pair of binoculars; you would possibly get fortunate with a sighting. And preserve your eyes peeled at evening, too, as Black Canyon is a global darkish sky park with a few of Colorado’s most stunning starry skies.
Getting there: Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park is 4 1/2 hours from Denver, Colorado and 4-hours from Colorado Springs. You can hire a automobile to get there.
When to go to
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park is greatest visited between mid-April and November when the Nationwide Park Service operates the ranger station and opens roads to the south and north rim. Of this era, late-April and early Could are the nicest instances to go to.
The crowds are scarce, the temperatures are milder, and flora is beginning to perk up after winter. Close by, Curecanti Nationwide Recreation Space is excellent presently of yr, with a serene assortment of three scenic reservoirs. Equally, the Gunnison River tends to be extra spectacular presently of yr. The melted ice and snow do wonders for elevating rivers and creating dramatic rapids.
Issues to do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park
- Drive South Rim Highway.
- Hike Chasm View Nature Path.
- Go to the Museum of the Mountain West.
The place to remain in Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park
Previous College Lodge is a shocking interval property with mountain views, simply outdoors probably the most famed Colorado nationwide parks in Montrose. The inside is an image of magnificence and a really perfect base for anybody in search of luxurious close to Gunnison.
The Blue Bungalow is a beautiful two-bedroom vacation residence with a attribute blue-painted exterior. Friends entry a patio, solar terrace, and homely comforts like a backyard and front room. And located in Montrose, the bungalow is ideal for exploring the improbable close by Colorado nationwide park.
Hotchkiss Inn Motel is greatest described as fundamental however comfy. This motel is within the city of Hotchkiss and is ideally located to discover the Black Canyon Nationwide Park. It additionally has some further considerate particulars, like a day by day continental breakfast and 24-hour reception.
4. Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park
Then again, Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park doesn’t endure from under-tourism. This weird however utterly encapsulating nationwide park is among the greatest Colorado nationwide parks to get pleasure from a dramatic panorama. The park is residence to the tallest sand dunes within the US. And with sharp mountain peaks behind the rolling dunes, the setting is like one thing out of a film.
Greats Sand Dunes Nationwide Park has many individually well-known dunes, together with Star Dune (rumored to be the tallest at 755 ft). Whereas acknowledged as one of many Colorado nationwide parks, the park additionally has dunes accessible wheelchairs that’s free to make use of. Get extra info on the Nationwide Park Service right here.
You’ll be able to nonetheless stroll freely over all of the sand dunes, plus go sandboarding if you would like some further pleasure. Simply be aware to keep away from the noon warmth when visiting close to summer season, because the sand turns into scorching. Out of all Colorado’s nationwide parks, Nice Sand Dunes is the one which requires essentially the most cautious planning in relation to timing your go to.
Getting there: Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park is a 3-hour from Denver, Colorado. You can hire a automobile to get there.
When to Go to
Contemplating this, it’s no surprise that the perfect time of yr to go to is outdoors of summer season. September and October are optimum months, with cooler climate and fewer crowds. Whereas avoiding the noon warmth when visiting the dunes continues to be advisable, you shouldn’t discover it pink scorching underfoot now.
Issues to do in Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park
- Hike Star Dune.
- Go sandboarding.
- Cease by the Nice Sand Dunes Customer Middle.
The place to remain in Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park
Marriott might be not an unfamiliar identify, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Alamosa is a credit score to its chain. In addition to assembly and eating services, the lodge has an indoor pool and health heart – good luxuries after a day on the Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park.
Hampton Inn Alamosa is equally trendy. The lodge is ideally located to go to the Nice Sand Dunes and has services that embody an indoor pool and health club. The Hampton Inn Alamosa has a continental breakfast every morning and even provides takeaway breakfast baggage.
The Greatest Western Film Manor is gorgeous. There aren’t any two methods about it. The manor has a seasonal drive-in movie show, health club, and enterprise heart. And with a complimentary breakfast every morning, you’ll be well-fed earlier than visiting the Nice Sand Dunes.
Planning Your Journey to Colorado
Are you planning a visit to Colorado? Take a look at our Colorado journey guides to assist plan your itinerary
Greatest Colorado Nationwide Monuments
Fancy a extra particular expertise of pure surroundings in Colorado? Overlook the colossal Colorado nationwide parks and see a few of the greatest nationwide monuments as an alternative. A nationwide monument is anyplace the federal government protects due to its pure magnificence and historic or scientific significance.
These Colorado nationwide monuments are a few of the greatest locations to go to within the state. Take a look at these high 8.
7. Chimney Rock Nationwide Monument
Chimney Rock Nationwide Monument is an enchanting nationwide monument. The 4,726 acre comprises an enormous archaeological website that dates again over 1,000 years. Probably the most putting a part of this website is Chimney Rock, an enormous rocky mound 7,000 ft above sea degree. The spire of the mound is what provides it its nickname ‘chimney’, and it’s an imposing landmark for these wanting good views in addition to historical past. Chimney Rock Nationwide Monument is a spot to tick off your bucket listing. The monument takes at the very least just a few hours to totally admire. You’ll be able to head out on guided excursions commonly all through the day throughout the vacationer season.
Traditionally, Chimney Rock Nationwide Monument was a Pueblo II neighborhood between 900 to 1150 AD. The traditional residences are extremely vital to the indigenous inhabitants and are a exceptional testomony to the neighborhood’s ancestral historical past. In fact, its astronomical worth can be value mentioning. The traditional constructions had been devised with astronomy in thoughts – which you’ll be able to be taught extra about on a guided tour.
Chimney Rock Nationwide Monument is in San Juan Nationwide Forest, southwest Colorado. It’s simply mixed with a go to to Mesa Verde, so preserve it in thoughts if you would like a nationwide monument to pair with one of many Colorado nationwide parks.
8. Canyons of the Ancients Nationwide Monument
Canyons of the Ancients Nationwide Monument is somewhat bigger – excellent when you’ve got extra time to discover its 6,000 historical websites. The protected space covers 176,000 acres, linked by a community of mountaineering trails and dusty roads. The world’s central hub is the Canyons of the Ancients Customer Middle and Museum, which we suggest visiting first. This fashion, you’ll be able to apply all of the participating info and reveals to the ruins and archaeological sights dotted across the monument. And when you’re finished, there are pictographs, historical dwellings, and scenic desert landscapes galore.
Canyons of the Ancients Nationwide Monument is a improbable monument to go to if you wish to discover a bigger website. Whereas a lot smaller than the Colorado nationwide parks, this monument nonetheless warrants an extended weekend to get pleasure from totally. We love that, although, and it provides an adventurous enchantment. The museum can be a superb contact.
By way of historic significance, it’s fairly clear that the Canyons of the Ancients Nationwide Monument is among the most important spots in Colorado. The world is among the richest websites of Native American ancestral historical past. The land was inhabited by people for over 10,000 years, so there are many tales to be informed.
This monument is situated in southern Colorado, subsequent to the Colorado-Utah border. It’s a straightforward drive from Mesa Verde or San Juan Nationwide Forest. You’ll be able to base your self in one of many vital southern Colorado cities like Cortez and discover a blended itinerary of Colorado nationwide parks, forests, and monuments.
9. Florissant Fossil Beds Nationwide Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds Nationwide Monument is one thing somewhat totally different. Not like the opposite two monuments we’ve mentioned, this space is legendary for pure historical past quite than people. For science and geology, look no additional than Florissant Fossil Beds Nationwide Monument. Located in central Colorado, this monument is simply outdoors of Colorado Springs. This monument is ideal if you would like an accessible monument to go to from a metropolis break. You’ll be able to hop on a direct flight to Colorado Springs after which hire a automobile to achieve Florissant Fossil Beds Nationwide Monument.
So, what pure historical past can you discover on this protected space? Primarily insect and plant fossils. We suggest taking a guided stroll to get essentially the most out of the expertise. In any case, it may be simple to overlook one thing actually profound in the event you don’t have an skilled eye. Along with these fossils, you’ll be able to spot petrified redwood stumps. Florissant Fossil Beds is residence to the world’s solely recognized trio of petrified redwood bushes, and you may observe them from a shaded viewing platform.
Time-wise, you’ll be able to rapidly admire this monument in just a few hours. The positioning is round 5,998 acres and is value visiting as a day journey from Colorado Springs. Regardless of being established as a nationwide monument in 1969, the fossils date round 34 million years. The monument’s phenomenon was fashioned by close by volcanic eruptions, which coated natural world in a thick layer of ash – preserving them for eternity.
10. Yucca Home Nationwide Monument
This Colorado nationwide monument homes a single archaeological website south of Cortez in southwestern Colorado. The positioning was as soon as an enormous Ancestral Pueblo village and held a big place in Montezuma Valley. At simply 34 acres, it’s one of many smallest monuments in Colorado and might simply be explored on foot on a day journey. One factor to notice is that Yucca Home Nationwide Monument is unexcavated. To the non-archaeologist, this implies ruins that you simply in all probability wouldn’t discover in the event you didn’t know they had been there.
As a result of Yucca Home Nationwide Monument is unexcavated, it’s fairly a distinct segment place to go to in Colorado. In comparison with the sights within the 4 Colorado nationwide parks and a few of the state’s different monuments, some could not discover Yucca Home Nationwide Monument as participating. Nonetheless, for lovers or extra affected person vacationers, the monument is ideal for escaping the crowds and having fun with a lesser-visited archaeological attraction. And apart from, the community of unmarked gravel and grime roads you’ll use to achieve it makes visiting Yucca Home an actual journey. What higher strategy to journey to an historical farming village? Yucca Home is immersive and untouched, regardless of its monument standing.
Yucca Home was residence to the Historical Puebloan neighborhood between 1150 to 1300 AD. It’s unknown what prompted the mass migration (or doable evacuation) from the village on the finish of this era. Mysterious and minimally adjusted for vacationers’ eyes, Yucca Home is an enchanting historic attraction in Colorado.
11. Dinosaur Nationwide Monument
To immerse your self within the Jurassic period, neglect Colorado nationwide parks and head to Dinosaur Nationwide Monument. This area consists of over 1,500 preserved dinosaur stays – immortalized in fossils within the monument’s Quarry Exhibit Corridor. The stays date again as way back as 150 million years. And, in case you are fortunate, you’ll be able to even contact just a few dinosaur fossils.
Other than dinosaur stays, Dinosaur Nationwide Monument can be famend for its petroglyphs and white water rafting. You need to use mountaineering trails to catch glimpses of the petroglyphs up shut, together with at McKee Spring and Deluge Shelter. River rafting is greatest skilled on an organized tour. General, although, it’s simple to see why Dinosaur Nationwide Monument is so in style. It’s action-packed and enjoyable, with a singular alternative to get near dinosaur stays.
Measurement-wise, prepare for some driving and lengthy mountaineering trails. The monument is 210,000 acres and will take between three hours and two days to discover – relying on whether or not you need to see the dinosaurs or not. The quarry itself protects 80 acres of condensed fossils. The discovering was the work of paleontologist Earl Douglass in 1909. By 1915, the realm was formally introduced as a nationwide monument.
12. Browns Canyon Nationwide Monument
Browns Canyon Nationwide Monument is among the latest Colorado monuments, solely incomes its title in 2015. Brown Canyon is minimize out by the Arkansas River and has attribute granite cliffs and outcrops. Don’t simply go to the canyon and depart; the protected area round it is stuffed with forests, rivers, and wildlife-spotting hotspots. In summer season, you’ll be able to entry stunning mountaineering trails and admire gorgeous views of putting hues within the internal canyon. Convey binoculars, too, as Browns Canyon Nationwide Monument is understood for bobcats, falcons, and black bears.
At 21,536 acres, Browns Canyon Nationwide Monument may not be the dimensions of the Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park. Nonetheless, it nonetheless calls for an honest chunk of time to go to. So, why go to within the first place? Browns Canyon Nationwide Monument is among the most undisturbed riverbank ecosystems alongside the Arkansas River. Due to this, it’s teeming with wildlife and wonderful for these wanting a peaceable expertise in nature. You received’t discover the crowds you get at main US sights just like the Grand Canyon and even the Colorado nationwide parks. Good for a real wilderness expertise.
Colorado Nationwide Parks and Monuments Map
These high 12 Colorado nationwide parks and monuments extremely deserve an itinerary spot. Severely, you’ll love them. Having the tallest dunes within the US and the Rocky Mountains in the identical state is unimaginable. To not point out the attractive alpine lakes and historic cliff dwellings.
If you happen to can, go to all of them, however in the event you actually need to slim it down, we hope you’ve discovered your excellent match. As an all-year-round vacation spot, Colorado has numerous out of doors sights no matter whether or not you go to in winter or summer season. If you happen to plan to go to in winter, take a look at our greatest issues to do in Aspen information first. In any other case, get pleasure from Colorado.