There are four National Parks in Colorado including Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Rocky Mountain National Park. These National Parks offer a variety of activities and scenic areas to explore. From the ancient world explored in Mesa Verde to the incredible views from Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are also multiple National Historic Sites and National Historic Trails to explore within Colorado National Parks. Do you have a favorite park you have visited in Colorado?
Colorado National Parks
Colorado is overflowing with breathtaking scenery, from the western slope where the Green River runs through Irish Canyon and meets up with the muddy Yampa (you can actually see the difference in the two rivers, the Green is literally green) to the Rocky Mountain range covered in thick forests and quiet lakes. It really is no wonder that we should want to preserve it through national parks.
When you think of Colorado, the first thing that comes to mind is the Rocky Mountains. But Colorado is actually a state with a large variety of landscapes and natural wonders to see. Let me take you on a short tour of this amazing state.
The State of Colorado boasts over 50 National Parks and Public Lands. Whether you love to hike, swim, climb mountains, ski, or just about any outdoor sport you can think of, it is here for you. This is definitely not a place where you want to stay indoors.
Colorado has four National Parks, all located in the western part of the state. While they have many things in common, each has its own distinct personality. Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park all have visitor centers, great scenery, campgrounds, hiking trails, and ranger programs.
Just those things alone would make each worth a visit. Their unique qualities are additional reasons to spend time in each park.
The national parks of Colorado have mountains, sand dunes, a mesa top, and a deep canyon.
[mv_video jsonLd="true" key="q6olabscxhsxsb6kadj7" ratio="16:9" thumbnail="https://mediavine-res.cloudinary.com/video/upload/q6olabscxhsxsb6kadj7.jpg" title="Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado"]
Amache National Historic Site
Top Things to do -Self-guided driving tour, visit the Amache Museum
Lodging - Amache National Historic Site does not offer lodging facilities within the site itself.
Camping- There is no camping in Amache NHS
Park Address - County Rd 23 5/10 Granada, CO 81041
President Biden designated this new Colorado National Park on March 18, 2022. Currently it is an authorized unit of the Park Service that is not completely established.
They are still waiting on the land acquisition.
The Amache National Historic Act was signed, designating the site in Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park Service.
The site protects the Granada Relocation Center which was one of 10 incarceration sites established during World War II by the War Relocation Authority.
The site detained Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States under Executive Order 9066.
More than 10,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at Amache from 1942 to 1945.
The site currently consists of a historic cemetery, a monument, concrete building foundations, and several reconstructed structures.
Top Things to do - Bent's Old Fort Hiking Trail, Ranger Programs, Self-guided tour, visit the Park Store, Bird watching
Lodging - While there are no lodging options within the historic site itself, you can find various lodging options in and around La Junta.
Camping- There are no camping facilities in Bent’s Old Fort NHS
Park Address - 35110 State Highway 194 La Junta, CO 81050
Bent's Old Fort NHS is located in southeastern Colorado approximately 65 miles east of Pueblo. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to visit a reconstructed 1830s trading post.
William and Charles Bent along with Ceran St. Vrain decided to build a fortified adobe trading post in 1833. The trading post was the only major settlement on the Sante Fe Trail between Missouri and Mexico.
It was the place to go to stock up on supplies and repair wagons. The trading post was abandoned in 1849. Today visitors can visit a 1976 reconstruction of the fort.
Top Things to do - Scenic Drives, Hiking Trails, Wildlife Watching, Fishing, Night Sky viewing, Exploring the Inner Canyon, Winter Activities
Lodging - There is n lodging within Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Camping- Black Canyon National Park has two campgrounds - one on either Rim. East Portal Campground, within the canyon by the river, is accessed through the park but within the boundary of Curecanti National Recreation Area. Backcountry camping within the inner canyon Wilderness is also allowed, but Wilderness Use Permits are required.
Park Address - South Rim Visitor Center, 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO 81401
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is located in west-central Colorado approximately 60 miles southeast of Grand Junction. The park is open year-round on the south rim and mid-April to November for the north rim. The park offers hiking, camping, and a scenic driving tour.
The canyon, formed by the Gunnison River, gets its name from its black, lichen-covered walls. The park's main attractions include a drive along the southern rim, camping, and hiking. There is access to the river, however, be warned that it can only be reached by a hike that takes about 4 hours going down, 6 coming back up.
Rock climbing and rafting activities are also available within the Canyon.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has canyon walls that drop 2000 feet. This canyon is deep and narrow. The only way to the bottom of the canyon is a day hike down and a day hike back up. The view from the top is worth a stop.
Colorado is a wonderful place for a plethora of activities and sight-seeing. Come prepared for all types of weather.
In the mountains, it can get very cold and rainy (or snowy!) even in the summer. Other areas are hot and sun-baked much of the year. It is in your best interest to have sunscreen on hand.
When you think of Colorado, the first thing that comes to mind is the Rocky Mountains. But Colorado is actually a state with a large variety of landscapes and natural wonders to see. Let me take you on a short tour of this amazing state.
The State of Colorado boasts over 50 National Parks and Public Lands. Whether you love to hike, swim, climb mountains, ski or just about any outdoor sport you can think of, it is here for you. This is definitely not a place where you want to stay indoors.
If you are into sightseeing, let me recommend to you the Comanche National Grasslands. With over 435,000 acres located in the Southeastern corner of Colorado, it is used for livestock grazing, wildlife habitation, and recreation.
There are trails allowing you to view all types of wildlife. The trails are home to over 257 species of birds, including Say's phoebes, Bullock's orioles, autistic rock wrens, western meadowlarks, lark sparrows and woodpeckers.
In the Picketwire Canyonlands area, you will see Dinosaurs tracks throughout the area. If you are not the hiking type, the park also offers horseback riding or mountain biking.
The Garden of the Gods, located just west of Colorado Springs on Hwy 67, is perfect for those who are up to the challenge of mountain climbing. It is the home of Pike's Peak. Named after Zebulon Pike, he was the first white man to see the peak in 1806. He predicted at that time that no one would ever be able to scale the mountain.
Since then it has been accomplished many times. For those who want to see the summit, but may not be in physical condition for a mountain climb, there is a road leading to the top. The Pike's Peak Highway was built in 1915 at a cost of $350,000 at the time.
For the more traditional type of person who wants to reach the top, without the modern idea of a car, there is the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, which was opened in June of 1891.
Colorado is a state that is abundant in nature and would take a lifetime to explore completely.
Top Things to do - Canyon Hiking, Scenic Driving, Historic Rim Rock Drive, Camping, Ranger Programs, Bicycling, Wildlife Viewing, Photography, Picnicking, Rock Climbing
Lodging - There are no lodges within the National Monument. The closest towns to the Monument are Fruita, Grand Junction, and Palisade.
Camping- If you would like to camp in the park, the Saddlehorn Campground has sites available year-round.
Park Address - 1750 Rim Rock Drive Fruita, CO 81521
Colorado NM is located in western Colorado approximately 10 miles west of Grand Junction. The park is open year-round and offers hiking, camping, and a scenic drive.
The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive offers the opportunity to view epic views of stunning rock formations.
Top Things to do -Hiking, Boating, Camping, Scenic Drives, Bird Watching, Fly Fishing, Scenic Drives, Evening Programs
Lodging - Lodging and food are available in the nearby communities of Montrose and Gunnison
Camping- There are eleven different campgrounds to choose from in Curecanti. There are several more campsites that are accessible by boat. Savor the scents of ponderosa pine, sage, and phlox in bloom, listen to the sound of the wind sweeping over Blue Mesa and nighthawks diving in the twilight, view the scenic mesas, buttes, and night skies filled with stars, feel the cool water of Blue Mesa and the sun-warmed stone, and taste your recent catch of kokanee salmon or lake trout.
Park Address - 102 Elk Creek Gunnison, CO 81230
Curecanti NRA is located in west-central Colorado approximately 80 miles southeast of Grand Junction. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to enjoy boating, swimming, and other water-based activities.
Just upstream from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, this NRA was created from three dams on the Gunnison River. The park offers boat tours into the canyons and hiking trails that lead into the canyon.
Top Things to do - Visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall, see petroglyphs, raft the Green or Yampa Rivers, take a scenic drive, go for a hike
Lodging - There are no lodging or hotels within Dinosaur National Monument. However, the nearby communities of Vernal, Utah, Dinosaur, Colorado, Craig, Colorado, and Rangely, Colorado, have lodging.
Camping- The monument has several campgrounds for those interested in tent or RV camping.
Enjoy the crackling of a campfire and sleep under a canopy of stars in Dinosaur National Monument. With six different campgrounds located around the monument and over 120 sites to choose from, options are plentiful. Three campgrounds are located on the Utah side of the monument (Green River is the shortest distance from the Dinosaur Quarry) and the other three are on the Colorado side. Prices for each campground vary with the seasons and availability of water. Check postings at each campground or contact the visitor center for more information.
Park Address - Quarry Visitor Center, 11625 E 1500 S, Jensen, UT 84035
Dinosaur NM is located in Northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. The park is open year-round though some roads may close in the winter with snow. The park offers the opportunity to view dinosaur fossils and rock art along with scenic drives, camping, and hiking.
Paleontologist Earl Douglas found eight vertebrae of a dinosaur called Apatosaurus in 1909 in the arid badlands of Eastern Utah. He had stumbled upon the world's greatest collection of dinosaur fossils.
Remains of 10 species of dinosaurs have been found in the area. These remains range in size from less than a foot to around 76 feet long.
The park also offers white water rafting and hiking trails.
Top Things to do - Start at the Visitor Center, Explore outdoor exhibits, Take a self-guided hike on the Ponderosa Loop, Petrified Forest Loop, or Geologic Trail, and Visit the grounds of the 1878 Hornbek Homestead. , During the Summer months, enjoy Art in the Park, Skats and Tracks hikes, Meet a Geologist, and the Fossil Learning Lab.
Lodging - No lodging is available within Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
Camping- No camping is available within the National Monument
Park Address - 15807 Teller County Road 1, Florissant, CO 80816
Florissant Fossil Beds NM is located in central Colorado approximately 35 miles west of Colorado Springs. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to see fossilized plants and small animals.
More than 1,700 species of plants and insects have been identified from fossilized remains within the National Monument. One interesting thing is there are no dinosaur fossils found within the park.
The park offers 14 miles of hiking trails and interpretive programs at the visitor center.
Top Things to do - Hiking and Backpacking, Sandboarding and Sand Sledding, Splashing in Medano Creek, Free Ranger Programs, Horseback Riding, Experience the Night, 4WD Medano Pass Road, Photography, Junior Ranger Program, Sandhill Crane Migration (Spring and Fall)
Lodging - There are no lodging options within the national park or preserve.
Camping- Piñon Flats is a National Park Service campground located one mile north of the Visitor Center, open April through October. All sites are by reservation on recreation.gov.
Park Address - Visitor Center, 11999 State Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146
Great Sand Dunes NP is located in south-central Colorado approximately 120 miles southwest of Pueblo. The park is open year-round though winter can be cold. The park offers the opportunity to go sandboarding, hiking, and explore the sand dunes.
Great Sand Dunes was originally a National Monument, only being renamed a national park in 2004. Here you can find sand dunes up to 750 feet, the tallest in America, and perhaps 12,000 years old.
Along with being home to these ancient sand dunes, the park contains a diverse landscape, including alpine lakes and tundra, mountains, forests, grasslands, and wetlands. If you are going to visit the dunes, it will require a little walking the Medano Creek. The park is located close to Alamosa, CO.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has the tallest sand dunes in the United States. The dunes were formed by the winds that blow sand along the San Luis Valley and pile it up in front of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. During part of the year, Medano Creek flows at the base of the dunes providing a contract between sand and water.
Top Things to do - Hiking, Bird Watching, Observing the Night Sky, Camping, Ranger-led Programs, Arts in the Park
Lodging - There are no restaurants or lodges in Hovenweep National Monument. The nearest restaurants and hotels are in Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff, Utah, and Cortez, Colorado. These towns are about 40-45 miles (one hour's drive) from Hovenweep.
Camping- Hovenweep National Monument has one campground, located ¼ mile from the visitor center.
Park Address -Hovenweep National Monument is scattered across a 20-mile span along the southeast Utah and southwest Colorado border. The closest town is Aneth, UT, approximately 18 miles southeast of the park visitor center.
Hovenweep National Monument Visitor Center
Montezuma Creek, UT 84534
Hovenweep NM is located in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah approximately 150 miles south of Grand Junction. The park is open spring through fall and offers the opportunity to tour thousand-year-old pueblo ruins.
There are six Pueblo communities protected within the park that encompass the remains of dwellings, kivas, and multistory towers. Four of the pueblos are in Colorado and two of them are in Utah. They are spread over 20 miles of remote area.
The only units accessible by paved roads are the visitor center and Square Tower Group.
Top Things to do - Take a Hike, Become a Junior Ranger, Stargaze, Camp Out, Attend a Cultural Dance or Demonstration, Attend an Evening Program, Go on a Cliff Dwelling Tour, Winter Activities, Bird Watching, The Four Corners Lecture Series, Geology, Observing Wildlife, Photography
Lodging - Far View Lodge is located 15 miles from the park entrance, and just six miles from the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling.
Camping- The Morefield Campground is located four miles from the park entrance. It has spaces for tents, trailers, and RVs, including 15 full-hookup RV sites (reservations recommended).
Park Address - Mile .7 Headquarters Loop Road, Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330
Settled within Montezuma County, CO, and east of Cortez, this park is one of the most popular sights to see. Here you will find the ruins of villages and homes built up to 13 centuries ago by the ancient Pueblo Indians. These dwellings reside mostly right on cliff faces, the most popular to see being Cliff Palace, possibly the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
This ruin features 220 identified rooms and 23 kivas. Unfortunately, Cliff Palace is not open during the winter months, and can only be viewed on ranger-guided tours.
However, there are many other notable sights to see in the Park, including the Mesa Verde Reservoirs, and other cliff dwellings. Lodgings and camping are available both within and near the park.
Mesa Verde was established to protect the ruins of the Ancestral Pueblo people. These ruins are found on the top of Mesa Verde and in the cliffs surrounding the mesa.
The ruins date from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. The road to the top of the mesa is very steep and winding. Located at 8000 feet the climate at the top is dry and cool. You can get snow in late summer and spring.
Follow the drive around the top of the mesa to see the ruins that are open to the public. Several of the cliff dwellings are open only by ranger tour. These require a reservation, so stop at the Far View Visitors Center and get your tickets early.
Check with the ranger before purchasing tickets as the climb down to some of the ruins is very strenuous. Many of the other cliff dwellings can be seen from the pull-offs as you follow the drive around the top of the mesa.
Be sure to take your binoculars to get the best view of these unusual dwellings. There are also ruins on top of the mesa. Most are only a short walk from the parking lot and are well worth the visit. There are paths with self-guiding tours to give you a history of each ruin.
You can see a lot of the park in one day but if you want to spend the night and do not camp Mesa Verde also has a lodge and restaurant in the park.
Top Things to do - Hiking, Scenic Drives, Wildlife Watching and Photography, Picnicking, Ranger-led Programs, visit the Visitor Centers, Camping, Fishing, Horseback Riding, Wilderness Camping
Lodging - There are no overnight accommodations in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are many lodging options in the nearby communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake.
Camping- Rocky has five established campgrounds, four of which are open to tent or vehicle camping (tent trailers, pickup campers, trailers, and motorhomes) and one that can only be used by tent campers. Reservations are strongly suggested during the busy summer and fall months. Visitors may also camp in the park's spectacular wilderness. Permits are required.
Park Address - 1000 US Hwy 36, Estes Park, CO 80517
Located northwest of Boulder, CO, and near the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. The park features stunning mountain views ranging from forests to tundra to lakes and streams. It is also home to the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Colorado River.
You can find Longs Peak, the highest point in the park, reaching 14,259 feet (the only peak in the park that reaches 14,000 feet). If you are looking to stay awhile, there are several designated camp areas throughout the park, many with nearby access to some of the hiking trails and lakes.
There's plenty to do within Rocky Mountain National Park, including rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and fishing.
Rocky Mountain National Park is full of the scenery that most people associate with Colorado. One of the best mountain drives in America is Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge takes you through the park from Estes Park on the east to Grand Lake on the west.
There are great pull-offs with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys. The elevation rises from 8000 to 12,000 feet along the 48-mile route.
You can see mountain wildflowers, elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, and hawks along the route. Take your camera. Trail Ridge Road is closed in the winter.
Top Things to do - Ranger Talks: Learn about the massacre from an interpretive ranger. Walk to the top of Monument Hill, Rest among the trees in the Visitor Use Area, Pay Respect
Lodging - There are no lodging options within the site
Camping- No camping within Sand Creek NHS
Park Address - 1301 Maine Street, Eads, CO. 81036
Sand Creek Massacre NHS is located in eastern Colorado approximately 125 miles east of Colorado Springs. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to take a ranger-guided program and wander a self-guided historical trail.
On November 28, 1864, Colonel John Chivington led his troops to attack an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho who were in their winter camp. Chief Black Kettle had established the camp and flown an American Flag to signal their hope for peace.
There were approximately 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho members in the village most of whom were women, children, and young men not old enough to hunt. Despite the white flag being raised for peace the troops attacked and killed between 150 and 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho.
The park was created in 2007 to help tell this story and hopefully assist in minimizing the potential of similar incidents in the future.
Top Things to do - Explore the trails/site, Bird watching
Lodging - There are no National Park Lodges within the park.
Camping- Camping is not allowed in Yucca House NM
Park Address - Off County Rd 20.5, Cortez 81321
Yucca House NM is located in southwest Colorado approximately 11 miles from Cortez. The park is not developed and is surrounded by private land.
Yucca House is known as an important center for the Ancestral Pueblo people from 1150 to 1300.
There are no facilities or informational signs, so you may want to download and print the Yucca House Visitor Guide before you go.
On the map, Colorado may look like nothing more than a rectangular state. However, encompassed by those four borders are some of this country's most breathtaking National Parks, monuments, and wildlife preserves.
More than one-third of the state's land is federally owned. Below is a list of all the protected federal lands that are considered part of the National Parks of Colorado.
List of National Parks in Colorado
- Amache National Historic Site (New Park established 2022)
- Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Colorado National Monument
- Curecanti National Recreation Area
- Dinosaur National Monument (also Utah)
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Preserve
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
- Yucca House National Monument
- California National Historic Trail (CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY)
- Old Spanish National Historic Trail ( AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT)
- Pony Express National Historic Trail ( CA, CO, KS, MO, NE, NV, UT, WY)
- Sante Fe National Historic Trail (CO, KS, MO, NM, OK)
There are 13 Colorado National Parks with over 7.6 million visitors each year. The National Park Service estimates that the Colorado National Parks produces over $742 million in economic benefits.
The National Parks in Colorado include 3 National Heritage Areas, 1 wild and scenic river managed by the National Park Service, 4 national trails, 24 national historic landmarks, and 1,558 national registers of historic place listings.
The Colorado National Parks also includes 15 National Natural Landmarks and 1 World Heritage Site (Mesa Verde National Park). The Colorado National Parks protects 9 threatened and endangered species within the parks.
Have you dreamed of becoming a Park Ranger and working in our gorgeous national parks? Check out How to Become a Park Ranger for information on what you need to do to become a park ranger.
Additional National Park Travel Resources
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
For a fun adventure, check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built-in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
National Parks in the Neighboring States
Do you know how many National Parks you have visited? Check out our printable list of all 424 National Park properties so you can check them off as you visit.
If you are focused on the 61 US National Parks check out this printable alphabetical list of the US National Parks.