The Most Popular National Parks in Colorado
When you think of Colorado, you think of the outdoors. Mountains, hiking, and plenty to see under the sky. People move to Colorado because they love being outdoors and people visit Colorado to get out of their inside routine and spend a little more time out in the sunshine. If that is the case for you, the great news is, there truly is plenty of stuff to do and sights to see if you want to spend your time outside for a few days. Some of those highlights? The national parks in Colorado.
The United States has 63 national parks. National parks are congressionally protected areas that are run by the government-funded National Park Service. They are chosen because of their natural beauty and geological features. The designation of national parks is meant to protect these areas and the diverse ecological systems that lay within them. Many are also preserved and protected because of their historical or archeological significance. The first national park was designated in 1872 and the remaining 62 have followed behind. Other designated areas of the country are protected by being named national monuments. Colorado has many of those as well.
Colorado has four official national parks in the state. These areas have been preserved because of their diverse ecosystems and geological features. Colorado is also home to many well-preserved archeological sites and those have been preserved as national parks as well. There is plenty to see outside of national parks. There are plenty of monuments and outdoor activities scattered throughout the state. The national parks are just part of what is in store.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountain National Park includes the span of the Rocky Mountains that stand between Estes Park and Grand Lake. Some of the peaks in this park are higher than 14,000 feet and it covers thousands of acres of land. Thick, lush evergreen forests and plenty of diverse wildlife perfectly encompass what Colorado is all about. If you picture the Rockies, this national park is what you are likely thinking of. The park spans 415 square miles and also has convenient and nearby lodging if you are looking to stay near the sight. If you are looking for something unique, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved road located within the United States. You can drive and get a one-of-a-kind look from atop the Rockies. There are waterfalls, alpine lakes, and plenty of spaces to score the perfect picture. Those visiting will surely come across hoards of deer, sheep, elk, and moose.
Mesa Verde National Park
This nationally acclaimed area is in Southwest Colorado. If you are looking for a bit of history, this national park is home to Ancestral Puebloan dwellings. They are extremely well-preserved and are tucked into cliff walls located in the park. The site is UNESCO listed and they are some of the most well-preserved archaeological sites in the country. Visitors can get involved with tours that allow them to climb ladders and take a peek into these ancestral homes. The One-hour walking tour of Cliff Palace involves a decent amount of climbing over uneven steps and ladders but gives you a peek into the largest cliff dwelling on the site. Cliff Palace has over 150 different rooms and 23 kivas.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
These incredibly high mountains of sand are consistently over 750 feet high. The United States has no other dunes that stand quite that high. Not only are they almost 800 feet tall, but they are already at an elevation of almost 9,000 feet above sea level. The dune field spans over 30 square miles and stands within the 150,000-acre park. It is near the town of Alamosa and also offers plenty of hiking opportunities and outdoor terrain for four-wheel-driving. Visitors can ski, snowboard, and sled down the dunes just as they would with snow-covered mountains.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
These are some of the steepest cliffs and oldest rocks located in North America. The Gorge has formed over two million years because of the Gunnison River and the impactful forces of weathering. Visitors are free to hike on both sides of the rims and if they are in the mood for some more difficult hiking experiences, they can venture into the inner canyon. Fishing and wildlife watching are also available and if you are into catching trout, this is one of the places to do so. There are nicely paved roads and scenic views for visitors to drive along the rim if they want to stay in their car or the weather is not great for hiking. In the winter, South Rim Drive is perfect for skiing and snowshoeing for those that are interested. If you are into stargazing and staring into the sky at night, this deep gorge is the perfect place to do so because of the lack of light pollution and city lights.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
If you are looking for a peaceful hike, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is the place to head. If you are interested in fossils, archeology, and prehistoric life, there is plenty to learn here. If you are into history, there is a pioneer’s homestead on-site as well.
Dinosaur National Monument
This spot is home to almost 1,500 dinosaur fossils and interesting exhibits for visitors to enjoy. If you are interested in hiking, there are plenty of trails to enjoy as well.
Chimney Rock National Monument
Colorado is home to many interesting archeological sites and Chimney Rock National Monument is one of them. This trail lets visitors follow the footsteps of the Puebloans that lived there long ago. The pathways have not changed in over 1,000 years and visitors get to eye ancient structures along the way.
Hovenweep National Monument
Another archeological site, this monument boasts six prehistoric Puebloan villages. They span over 20 miles and visitors can check them out via hiking trails or driving along the paved roads.