Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado, USA

Unlocking the Outdoors: 9 Best National Parks to Visit in Colorado

The next time you’re considering a wonderful family vacation into the great outdoors, why not skip the long lines at Disney or the crowded beaches of California and go for something a little more “fresh air?”

Colorado is home to four pristine national parks filled with natural wonders. Here, you can experience everything from herd migration to stunning sunsets to different ecosystems, all inside a state that loves vacationers and caters to their needs. In 2022, this one U.S. state welcomed over 90 million visitors to its natural beauty.

Why stick to the national parks when there are so many other regions of the state to experience?

  • It’s a cost-friendly way to spend time with your friends and family. All you need is a car and a pass, and you can enjoy a stunning environment.
  • Every national park is easily accessible with clear trails and roadways.
  • Enjoying a National Park is fun and educational. Your family will learn things they cannot describe from a video on social media.
  • Getting into nature is fantastic for your physical health. It lowers stress and gives you a boost of dopamine to get away from the business of daily life.

To experience all of these benefits and more, let’s look at the top national parks in Colorado, as well as the monuments, trails, and recreational areas you cannot find anywhere else.

1. Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park Colorado, USA

With endless hiking trails and picturesque canyon views, Mesa Verde National Park offers a close look at how life was for the Pueblo cliff dwellers. There are all kinds of archaeological sites to explore, so be sure to stop by some of the oldest known rock carvings along Petroglyph Point Trail.

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes Park Colorado, USA

There is nothing quite like climbing the orange/yellow sands of the great dunes in Colorado. You’ll feel transported to another land where massive dunes eclipse both the sunrise and sunset. This is a wonderful location for a family picnic or photoshoot with the expansive Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.

3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Colorado, USA

Along the massive Gunnison River is a natural walled gorge carved into the ground. This is where many of the world’s most renowned painters and photographers have vacationed, enjoying the mirror image of land, forest, and animals reflected in the calm—almost transparent—waters of Black Canyon National Park. Be sure to read up about the local wildlife first, as you will come across elk, beaver, deer, and golden eagles.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado, USA

With over 265K acres over an awe-inspiring 300 miles of hiking trails, you will never forget your next visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. This is where the earth’s Continental Divide created 14,000-foot mountains. It is an exceptional location with easy access, so you can explore all the seasons. However, you may want to call ahead as it can get crowded in certain months.

State National Monuments & Parks

The rest of our list of must-see parks in Colorado are not technically “national parks.” Instead, these are the leading monuments and natural recreation areas that are well-known for biodiversity, once-in-a-lifetime views, and plenty of outdoor activities for all your family members.

5. Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument USA

You have probably seen this monument in old Western films. It is a high plateau near Grand Junction with sheer-walled canyons and towering monoliths that create a wonderful canyon panorama.

6. Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Santa Fe National Historic Trail Colorado, USA

First developed by Missouri trader William Becknell, this historic trade route is now a beautiful hike connecting California to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. When you explore this long trail, you’ll come across Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site and plenty of indigenous monuments inside the Comanche National Grassland.

7. Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument Park Colorado, USA

Established in 1915, the Dinosaur National Monument area between Colorado and Utah is one of the most well-known dig sites for uncovering fossils. Over 200,000 acres are to explore, with whitewater rafting, historic cabins, and rugged terrain.

8. Browns Canyon National Monument

Browns Canyon National Monument Colorado, USA

One of the more recent monuments in Colorado, this vacation hot spot includes the Arkansas River, granite cliffs, and some of the most pristine territory untouched by modern developments. This is an outdoor enthusiast’s dreamland with fishing, hiking, camping, rafting, and horseback riding.

9. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Colorado, USA

Coming back around to fossils, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is where you will encounter incredible samples of well-preserved plants, insects, and other creatures. You’ll need to travel about 2 hours from Denver, but you may be surprised at the massive redwoods (some as big as 14 feet wide) that most people would associate with California instead of Colorado.

10. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Colorado, USA

Colorado has a rich and culturally diverse history. Deep inside the state is a park dedicated to preserving over 8,300 recorded sites that demonstrate how life was lived in ancient times. From small villages to sacred shrines to freshwater springs, you can learn a lot from the various archaeological and historical sites. One of the best locations to camp in the state!

The primary reason to visit any of these Colorado National Parks is to get some fresh air in a beautiful natural setting. However, while you pack up the tent and ensure your kids have plenty of bug spray, keep a close eye on the land development and housing opportunities around the parks.

Real estate investment near national park sites like these offers a wealth of benefits in the short and long term. Just an extra thought as you get outdoors and enjoy your upcoming vacation. Wherever you choose to go next, be sure to stop in at the local forest or park ranger facility. They can provide maps, details of upcoming events, and any safety precautions so your trip goes off without a hitch.

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