Colorado has really got it all, it’s no wonder it has become such a popular spot to live, work, and play. If you find yourself in this state, make sure to visit some of its many diverse parks, filled with wildlife, sandstone rocks, trails, and even a natural amphitheater.
1. Red Rocks Park
Just under a 30 minute drive from Denver is Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. It’s made up of sandstone formations, most notably the natural formation that’s used as a concert venue and can accommodate over 9,000 people. Throughout the park there are walking and biking trails. All that walking make you hungry? In the visitor center, there’s a restaurant with views of the park. Tip: Buy a ticket to a concert held at the amphitheater even if you don’t know the band – it’s a one-of-a-kind music experience you do not want to miss out on!
2. Rocky Mountain National Park
Making up around 415 square miles in northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is quite large. You could spend several days hiking or camping here. If you’re short on time, consider a drive through areas of the park. I did about a half day trip there while on a road trip throughout the state. I couldn’t drive too far into the park because of road closures (most likely due to runoff from melted snow), but the drive leading to and into the park itself was beautiful. Mountains and forests set the backdrop, as elk graze in the fields by the road. Serene and peaceful, it’s a perfect place for photographers, hikers, campers, and nature-lovers. Check ahead to see if certain trails or roads are closed due to snow or floods.
3. Garden of the Gods
This public park in Colorado Springs is free to visit, and can be seen in just a few hours (even an hour is sufficient if you’re on a road trip!). There’s a 1.5 mile paved trail that runs through the park, as well as 15 miles of other trails surrounding the park. The incredible sandstone rock formations are set against a backdrop of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak mountain (that makes up a portion of the Rocky Mountains!). If you have time, you can go to Pikes National Park after which is only 12 miles from here.
4. Great Sand Dunes
Less than a 3 hour drive from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is Great Sand Dunes National Park. This park, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is sort of like an oasis. There’s camping and trails and its open 24 hours a day. A star attraction is – you guessed it, the sand dunes – the tallest dunes in North America. The largest dune is Star Dune and if you’re feeling energetic, you can climb up the dune with a board and “sand board” or “sand sled” down (like snowboarding but not). Sometimes there’s a seasonal creek called Medano that’s at the base of the dunes.
*If you’re looking to sand board, do some research in advance. I called one sports store that rents the boards and they told me it honestly was not a good day to rent boards because of 50 MPH winds. So while that dream was postponed (not crushed) I decided to continue with going to the park. If you look at my my previous post on Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll see just how bad the weather looked, almost like a tornado would hit (but thankfully didn’t). There were some people sand boarding, but the cold, wet May weather made it more challenging.