Colorado is well probably the greatest states in the US to expertise the good outdoor. The state is residence to wonderful hikes, cozy cabin getaways, and a choice of the finest nationwide parks in the US. Are you beginning to plan your Colorado itinerary? These 12 finest Colorado nationwide parks and monuments are the best locations to begin.
Best Colorado National Parks
Colorado has 4 nationwide parks: Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Great Sand Dunes National Park. These nationwide parks have some massive ticket gadgets, particularly in the Rocky Mountains. In reality, they’re a number of the most visited nationwide parks in the US.
From the nation’s tallest sand dunes to UNESCO World Heritage Site cliff dwellings and exhilarating whitewater rafting, there’s something for everybody. Let’s check out these fab 4 Colorado nationwide parks.
If you intend to go to a number of Colorado nationwide parks, buy a National Parks and Federal Recreational Land Pass. The National Park Service presents an annual move to all NPs for $80 a 12 months that can be utilized at greater than 2,000 recreation areas. Get extra particulars right here. The finest technique to see these nationwide parks is by driving. Compare automotive rental charges at RentalCars.com
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
When folks focus on US nationwide parks, Rocky Mountain National Park is often the extra common nationwide park to crop up. Rocky Mountain National Park is probably 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 can also be one of many nation’s highest nationwide parks, and the Rocky Mountains are famously snow-capped in sections. The entirety of the Rocky Mountain National Park is stuffed with craggy mountains, alpine tundra, and exquisite forests. It is right for horseback using holidays, climbing, and mountaineering. You’ll often spot stray bighorn sheep too.
Getting there: Rocky Mountain National Park is a 1 hour and 20-minute drive from Denver, Colorado. You can lease a automotive to get there. Download your self-drive audio tour to find one of the best viewpoints, climbing trails, mountain passes, and lakes as you observe GPS coordinates.
When to go to Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is finest visited in early spring, however provided that you don’t need to entry Trail Ridge Road. In March and April, there are fewer crowds than you’ll discover in summer season. Spring is once you’ll see flowers and different vegetation blooming into motion after winter. There will nonetheless be snow in locations, however it is a peaceable interval to go to the park.
If you need to entry Trail Ridge Road, we suggest visiting the park in late May or June. The highway (Colorado’s highest steady paved highway) may have simply opened, however crowd numbers will nonetheless be low.
Things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Spot bears and elk close to Estes Park. Hike round Bear Lake. Drive Trail Ridge Road. Read extra: 15 Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Where to remain in Rocky Mountain National Park
Blue Door Inn is 4 miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance and is ready 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 an exquisite property with a beautiful pool with views of the encompassing surroundings. The lodge is right for large teams and channeling luxury-loving vitality, with a scorching tub and dramatic-looking firepit.
Rams Horn Village Resort is ideal for a vacation resort vibe. Guests get a two-bedroom vacation residence with a full kitchen and scorching tub entry. There’s additionally a enterprise heart and a gymnasium to take pleasure in once you aren’t exploring Rocky Mountain National Park – aka Colorado’s most visited nationwide park.
2. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is one other implausible addition to our Colorado nationwide parks. But 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 National 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 Top Loop Road. This highway passes some outstanding historic points of interest, together with Petroglyph Point Trail. Mesa Verde National Park actually is the guts of tradition in 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 National Park is a 7-hour from Denver, Colorado. 6 hours from Salt Lake City, Utah, and 4 hours from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The closest metropolis to Mesa Verde is Cortez Colorado. You can lease a automotive to get there. Get your self-drive audio tour to find one of the best viewpoints, climbing trails, mountain passes, and lakes as you observe GPS coordinates.
When to go to
So, when do you have to go to this nationwide park? Either June or early September. While in an excellent world, you could possibly keep away from the crowds in the autumn or spring, this isn’t a good suggestion if you wish to see the historic websites.
Attractions like Cliff Palace don’t open till late May and shut in late September. To actually get probably the most out of Mesa Verde National Park, it’s best to go to in June or early September to go to one of the best points of interest with the fewest crowds.
Things to do in Mesa Verde National Park
Visit Cliff Palace. Hike Petroglyph Point Trail. Visit Step House Read extra: 29 Best Places to Visit in Colorado
Where to remain in Mesa Verde National Park
Far View Lodge is ready proper inside Mesa Verde and is a wonderful base in case you don’t need to journey in and out of the park entrance day by day. You gained’t really feel reduce 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 Bed and Breakfast is an easy nation retreat. Get prepared for easy pleasures – mountain views, air-conditioning, and a espresso machine. This property is liked for its location and peaceable ambiance.
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is unfortunately missed by many vacationers. Don’t make this error. Black Canyon National Park is likely one of the finest Colorado nationwide parks. The park’s predominant attraction is (clearly) its black canyons. The nationwide park is stuffed with slender and terrifyingly steep canyons reduce out of Precambrian metamorphic rock by the Gunnison River over hundreds of thousands of years. You can entry numerous viewpoints and trails on each the south rim and the north rim.
However, Black Canyon National Park can also be residence to peregrine falcons – the quickest chicken in the world. Bring a pair of binoculars; you may get fortunate with a sighting. And maintain your eyes peeled at evening, too, as Black Canyon is a world darkish sky park with a few of Colorado’s most lovely starry skies.
Getting there: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is 4 1/2 hours from Denver, Colorado and 4-hours from Colorado Springs. You can lease a automotive to get there.
When to go to
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is finest visited between mid-April and November when the National Park Service operates the ranger station and opens roads to the south and north rim. Of this era, late-April and early May are the nicest occasions to go to.
The crowds are scarce, the temperatures are milder, and flora is beginning to perk up after winter. Nearby, Curecanti National Recreation Area is excellent right now of 12 months, with a serene assortment of three scenic reservoirs. Similarly, the Gunnison River tends to be extra spectacular right now of 12 months. The melted ice and snow do wonders for elevating rivers and creating dramatic rapids.
Things to do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Drive South Rim Road. Hike Chasm View Nature Trail. Visit the Museum of the Mountain West.
Where to remain in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Old School Lodge is a surprising interval property with mountain views, simply exterior one of the vital famed Colorado nationwide parks in Montrose. The inside is an image of class and an excellent base for anybody searching for luxurious close to Gunnison.
The Blue Bungalow is a beautiful two-bedroom vacation residence with a attribute blue-painted exterior. Guests 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 implausible close by Colorado nationwide park.
Hotchkiss Inn Motel is finest described as primary however comfy. This motel is in the city of Hotchkiss and is ideally located to discover the Black Canyon National Park. It additionally has some further considerate particulars, like a day by day continental breakfast and 24-hour reception.
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park
On the opposite hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park doesn’t undergo from under-tourism. This weird however utterly encapsulating nationwide park is likely one of the finest Colorado nationwide parks to take pleasure in a dramatic panorama. The park is residence to the tallest sand dunes in the US. And with sharp mountain peaks behind the rolling dunes, the setting is like one thing out of a film.
Greats Sand Dunes National Park has many individually well-known dunes, together with Star Dune (rumored to be the tallest at 755 ft). While acknowledged as one of many Colorado nationwide parks, the park additionally has dunes accessible wheelchairs that’s free to make use of. Get extra data on the National Park Service right here.
You can nonetheless stroll freely over all of the sand dunes, plus go sandboarding if you would like some further pleasure. Just 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, Great Sand Dunes is the one which requires probably the most cautious planning on the subject of timing your go to.
Getting there: Great Sand Dunes National Park is a 3-hour from Denver, Colorado. You can lease a automotive to get there.
When to Visit
Considering this, it’s no marvel that one of the best time of 12 months to go to is exterior of summer season. September and October are optimum months, with cooler climate and fewer crowds. While avoiding the noon warmth when visiting the dunes continues to be advisable, you shouldn’t discover it purple scorching underfoot now.
Things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Hike Star Dune. Go sandboarding. Stop by the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center.
Where to remain in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Marriott might be not an unfamiliar identify, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Alamosa is a credit score to its chain. As effectively as assembly and eating services, the lodge has an indoor pool and health heart – excellent luxuries after a day on the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Hampton Inn Alamosa is equally trendy. The lodge is ideally located to go to the Great Sand Dunes and has services that embody an indoor pool and gymnasium. The Hampton Inn Alamosa has a continental breakfast every morning and even presents takeaway breakfast baggage.
The Best Western Movie Manor is beautiful. There aren’t any two methods about it. The manor has a seasonal drive-in movie show, gymnasium, and enterprise heart. And with a complimentary breakfast every morning, you’ll be well-fed earlier than visiting the Great Sand Dunes.
Planning Your Trip to Colorado
Are you planning a visit to Colorado? Check out our Colorado journey guides to assist plan your itinerary
Best Colorado National Monuments
Fancy a extra particular expertise of pure surroundings in Colorado? Forget the colossal Colorado nationwide parks and see a number of the finest nationwide monuments as an alternative. A nationwide monument is anywhere the federal government protects due to its pure magnificence and historic or scientific significance.
These Colorado nationwide monuments are a number of the finest locations to go to in the state. Check out these high 8.
7. Chimney Rock National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument is an enchanting nationwide monument. The 4,726 acre incorporates an unlimited archaeological website that dates again over 1,000 years. The most hanging 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 offers it its nickname ‘chimney’, and it’s an imposing landmark for these wanting good views in addition to historical past. Chimney Rock National Monument is a spot to tick off your bucket listing. The monument takes no less than a couple of hours to totally recognize. You can head out on guided excursions commonly all through the day throughout the vacationer season.
Historically, Chimney Rock National Monument was a Pueblo II neighborhood between 900 to 1150 AD. The historic residences are extremely important to the indigenous inhabitants and are a outstanding testomony to the neighborhood’s ancestral historical past. Of course, its astronomical worth can also be price mentioning. The historic buildings had been devised with astronomy in thoughts – which you’ll be able to be taught extra about on a guided tour.
Chimney Rock National Monument is in San Juan National Forest, southwest Colorado. It is well mixed with a go to to Mesa Verde, so maintain it in thoughts if you would like a nationwide monument to pair with one of many Colorado nationwide parks.
8. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a bit bigger – best when you’ve got extra time to discover its 6,000 historic websites. The protected space covers 176,000 acres, linked by a community of climbing trails and dusty roads. The space’s central hub is the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, which we suggest visiting first. This method, you’ll be able to apply all of the partaking data and displays to the ruins and archaeological points of interest dotted across the monument. And when you find yourself carried out, there are pictographs, historic dwellings, and scenic desert landscapes galore.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a implausible monument to go to if you wish to discover a bigger website. While a lot smaller than the Colorado nationwide parks, this monument nonetheless warrants a protracted weekend to take pleasure in totally. We love that, although, and it provides an adventurous enchantment. The museum can also be a superb contact.
In phrases of historic significance, it’s fairly clear that the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is likely one of the most important spots in Colorado. The space is likely one of 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 is a straightforward drive from Mesa Verde or San Juan National Forest. You can base your self in one of many important southern Colorado cities like Cortez and discover a blended itinerary of Colorado nationwide parks, forests, and monuments.
9. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is one thing a bit completely different. Unlike the opposite two monuments we’ve mentioned, this space is legendary for pure historical past reasonably than people. For science and geology, look no additional than Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Situated in central Colorado, this monument is simply exterior of Colorado Springs. This monument is ideal if you would like an accessible monument to go to from a metropolis break. You can hop on a direct flight to Colorado Springs after which lease a automotive to succeed in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
So, what pure historical past can you discover in this protected space? Mainly insect and plant fossils. We suggest taking a guided stroll to get probably the most out of the expertise. After all, it may be straightforward to overlook one thing actually profound in case you don’t have an knowledgeable eye. In addition to those fossils, you’ll be able to spot petrified redwood stumps. Florissant Fossil Beds is residence to the world’s solely identified trio of petrified redwood timber, and you’ll observe them from a shaded viewing platform.
Time-wise, you’ll be able to shortly recognize this monument in a couple of hours. The website is round 5,998 acres and is price visiting as a day journey from Colorado Springs. Despite being established as a nationwide monument in 1969, the fossils date round 34 million years. The monument’s phenomenon was shaped by close by volcanic eruptions, which coated wildlife in a thick layer of ash – preserving them for eternity.
10. Yucca House National Monument
This Colorado nationwide monument homes a single archaeological website south of Cortez in southwestern Colorado. The website 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 may simply be explored on foot on a day journey. One factor to notice is that Yucca House National Monument is unexcavated. To the non-archaeologist, this implies ruins that you just most likely wouldn’t discover in case you didn’t know they had been there.
Because Yucca House National Monument is unexcavated, it’s fairly a distinct segment place to go to in Colorado. Compared to the points of interest in the 4 Colorado nationwide parks and a number of the state’s different monuments, some might not discover Yucca House National Monument as partaking. However, for fans 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 succeed in it makes visiting Yucca House an actual journey. What higher technique to journey to an historic farming village? Yucca House is immersive and untouched, regardless of its monument standing.
Yucca House was residence to the Ancient Puebloan neighborhood between 1150 to 1300 AD. It is unknown what precipitated the mass migration (or doable evacuation) from the village on the finish of this era. Mysterious and minimally adjusted for vacationers’ eyes, Yucca House is an enchanting historic attraction in Colorado.
11. Dinosaur National Monument
To immerse your self in the Jurassic period, neglect Colorado nationwide parks and head to Dinosaur National Monument. This area consists of over 1,500 preserved dinosaur stays – immortalized in fossils in the monument’s Quarry Exhibit Hall. The stays date again as way back as 150 million years. And, if you’re fortunate, you’ll be able to even contact a couple of dinosaur fossils.
Apart from dinosaur stays, Dinosaur National Monument can also be famend for its petroglyphs and white water rafting. You can use climbing trails to catch glimpses of the petroglyphs up shut, together with at McKee Spring and Deluge Shelter. River rafting is finest skilled on an organized tour. Overall, although, it’s straightforward to see why Dinosaur National Monument is so common. It is action-packed and enjoyable, with a singular alternative to get near dinosaur stays.
Size-wise, prepare for some driving and lengthy climbing 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 National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument is likely one of the latest Colorado monuments, solely incomes its title in 2015. Brown Canyon is reduce 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 lovely climbing trails and recognize beautiful views of hanging hues in the inside canyon. Bring binoculars, too, as Browns Canyon National Monument is thought for bobcats, falcons, and black bears.
At 21,536 acres, Browns Canyon National Monument won’t be the scale of the Rocky Mountain National Park. However, it nonetheless calls for an honest chunk of time to go to. So, why go to in the primary place? Browns Canyon National Monument is likely one of the most undisturbed riverbank ecosystems alongside the Arkansas River. Because of this, it’s teeming with wildlife and wonderful for these wanting a peaceable expertise in nature. You gained’t discover the crowds you get at main US points of interest just like the Grand Canyon and even the Colorado nationwide parks. Perfect for a real wilderness expertise.
Colorado National Parks and Monuments Map
These high 12 Colorado nationwide parks and monuments extremely deserve an itinerary spot. Seriously, you’ll love them. Having the tallest dunes in the US and the Rocky Mountains in the identical state is unbelievable. Not to say the attractive alpine lakes and historic cliff dwellings.
If you’ll be able to, go to all of them, however in case you actually must slender it down, we hope you’ve discovered your best match. As an all-year-round vacation spot, Colorado has quite a lot of out of doors points of interest no matter whether or not you go to in winter or summer season. If you intend to go to in winter, take a look at our finest issues to do in Aspen information first. Otherwise, take pleasure in Colorado.