The Best National Parks in Colorado
Colorado is a paradise for fans of the outdoors. Mountains, canyons, and old gold mining towns entertain locals and tourists alike. Activities outside of the cities are hiking and biking along the many peaks and canyons. And you can find lots of cabins for rent in Colorado for a relaxing few days to get reacquainted with nature. Here are the must-visit national parks and nature reserves.
The Rocky Mountains National Park:
Rocky Mountains National Park is the pride of Colorado. Several mountain peaks at almost 4000 meters provide a mesmerizing background to the beautiful scenery. You can take part in several activities including hiking on the hundreds of kilometers of trails and camping. Expect wildlife, an abundance of flowers, and clear nights gazing up at the Milky Way above.
The Trail Ridge Road is a must. Drive from one end of the mountain range in Grand Lake to Estes Park along almost 80 kilometers of steep and exciting road. You’ll see the terrain change as you climb up the steep road and spot the wildlife. This is the highest paved road in the United States and is sure not to disappoint. Just make sure the car is full of gas, and the camera has a full battery.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve:
The Great Sand Dunes is in the San Luis Valley towards eastern Colorado. This desert wonderland houses the most extensive number of dunes in the United States reaching a height of more than 200 meters. Dunes surge into the sky and span out into the distance like an ocean of sand.
Surrounding the dunes are wetlands and grasslands bursting with wildlife. A little further afield are alpine lakes and snow-capped peaks. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind make the perfect photograph. Favorite activities are trekking and climbing the dunes.
Despite the altitude, summer times are hot and scaling the dunes under the midday sun is uncomfortable. The best time to visit is spring or early fall. Winter regularly sees subzero temperatures. Head to the visitor center before to learn a little about their background.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:
Black Canyon, in western Colorado, has some of the oldest rocks and steepest drops in the United States. A vast gorge passes through the national park with vertical cliffs dropping more than 600 meters down. The most important of these is the Painted Wall falling a mindboggling 685 meters into the canyon below.
You can find trails for all levels of ability on the North and South Rims. Most are short but involve steep ascents next to steep vertical drops. The South Rim has more trails and gives a good view of the Painted Wall. Wildlife, including elk, deer, and eagles call the Black Canyon home and are easy to spot when you’re out and about exploring. However, be aware of bears sniffing out your picnic basket!
Other activities include rock climbing, going down into the canyon itself, and fishing. This makes a perfect day to enjoy the natural beauty or to have a few days camping under the stars of the clear Colorado skies.
Mesa Verde National Park:
Mesa Verde is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northwest Colorado. Thousands of archaeological sites dating back to the 6th century from the Indian Pueblo tribes litter the landscape. Dwellings and rock houses make this a unique place to visit to get an idea of how the indigenous people lived for almost 700 years.
The residents built more than 600 dwellings inside the sandstone of which some have several rooms and are quite sophisticated in their design. Visitors to Mesa Verde can learn about and experience one of the United States’s most important archeological sites. Some hiking trails take visitors through the surrounding forested areas too.
Curecanti National Recreation Area:
Curecanti, in western Colorado, along the Gunnison River is a favorite spot for fishing and water sports. Three broad and deep reservoirs provide the perfect place for boating and kayaking through the lush landscapes. Salmon and trout are in abundance and attract fishers from around the country. Head to Blue Mesa Reservoir if you want to try to catch some salmon.
Many people come for a relaxing few days and camp on one of the ten campgrounds inside the National Park. Other activities include hiking, taking a one and half hour boat ride through the Black Canyon, and bird watching.
Garden of the Gods:
More than 300 natural rock formations in the sandstone rise from the ground in the Garden of the Gods against the mountains in the background. This 1367 acre park near Colorado Springs became a National Natural Landmark in 1971.
The red geological structures are a result of fault line movements over millions of years. Combine this with rainfall and erosion, and you have the almost mystical rocks jutting high into the air. Admission is free, and you have the flexibility to explore the area on your own time. Some like to hike around and spend a few hours marveling at these bizarre structures.
Tours are available at the visitor center to take you around the more significant structures and explain the how they were formed over time. You can also explore the area on the back of a horse.
Colorado is a Heaven of Natural Beauty:
From the United States’s highest road to dunes and cave dwellings, Colorado has it all. Enjoy the natural beauty on foot or spend the day fishing for salmon. You won’t regret visiting the national parks in this state.