GloboTreks is reader-supported through affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support! – Norbert
Colorado is best known for its vivid landscapes and great hiking trails and tracks, but the state also has some of the most stunning and historically rich national parks in the US.
With amazing forests, monuments, rivers, and much more to offer, these parks offer more than raw natural beauty. They offer a glimpse to the country’s aboriginal culture and history, and its geological evolution.
Nicknamed ‘Colorful Colorado’ the state lives up to this with seamlessly endless sand dunes, red-rock canyons, and snow-capped mountains.
This is why Colorado and its national parks make for an excellent outdoors destination.
The best way to experience all these parks will be to take an entire loop around the state, while also visiting some other travel treasures along your journey.
Colorado has a total of four national parks all in the state, with one national park near Denver.
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park
Each of these national parks in Colorado has its own history, activities, and natural appeal and should all be on your traveling bucket list.
To help you get situated, below you’ll find a map displaying the location of all four national parks in Colorado. This map could come handy when planning your road trip to hit all four parks.
With four national parks in Colorado, each one has something special and a reason to visit at least once. Here’s what makes each park unique and special.
Rocky Mountain Park is one of the national parks close to Denver and is a family favorite destination to visit. With views that will leave you in awe, be sure to pack your camera and take in its diverse beauty.
If you are a wildflower-lover, this is the place to be, with a breathtaking sight of hillsides and grasslands boasting a botanic color. Viewing the natural scenes is even better when you look over them from peaks higher than 3,500 meters high.
The Rocky Mountains aren’t only amazing during the day, they are just as breathtaking during the night.
Stargazing on the plains or in the grasslands is one of the most magnificent moments that you can possibly have, especially when there’s nothing but clear skies.
This is one of the best parks in Colorado where you can enjoy much more than the beauty. You can camp out, go on a hiking trip, enjoy some fishing next to the river or even experience mountain climbing.
Take your experience to the next level by exploring the Colorado Springs landscape and learning about its history and geology while riding on an open-air jeep. This tour allows you to visit popular landmarks as well as more secluded area via dirt roads that are often untouched by visitors.
Where to stay: Murphy’s River Lodge
Mesa Verde is one of the most interesting archaeology sites that you will find in the state.
Named a World Heritage Site in 1978, the park is home to tons of ancient buildings that were believed to be inhabited between 600 to 1300 AD.
Mesa Verde has so many sites that you should visit with Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Spruce Tree House being the most famous. Mesa is a historic national park and offers archaeological sites and great views from its peaks.
When you visit the site, make sure to spend some time exploring it more. The steep canyons, lush valleys, and magnificent hills are perfect to hike around and discover Verda’s natural beauty.
With guided hiking and driving tours available, you can take it all in visually and get informed about the rich history.
If you’re interested in getting an in-depth historical tour of Cliff Palace and the Mesa Verde National Park, then I highly recommend taking this half-day tour.
Where to stay: Hampton Inn at Mesa Verde
The tallest dunes in North America, the Sand Dunes are one of the most enjoyable parks that you can visit in the country. With dunes up to 750 feet tall, this is more of a playground rather than a national park.
You’re able to release your inner child and have some fun sliding down the dunes and enjoy epic views at the same time. Open 24/7, the park allows you to roam around freely and enjoy it until you run out of steam.
Enjoy a hike around any of the five dunes located in the park and reach the top to discover there are even more dunes to take on.
Then there’s the Medano Creek which can only be viewed in certain seasons, but offers some of the best views around the park.
Since the park is 24/7, you can experience some of the most mesmerizing stargazing with clear skies and sparkling stars taking over the skies.
The Great Sand Dunes has so much to do and the best part is that you won’t need a guide so you can come and go as you’d like and you won’t have to follow someone to experience all the park has to offer.
Where to stay: Great Sand Dunes Lodge
The least popular of the other parks, the Black Canyon is one of the most fascinating sights in the state. The canyon was formed by the Gunnison River a few million years ago and offers activities in and around the park.
Around 680 meters deep, the canyon is viewed from a rugged edge where you can view the river at the bottom of the canyon.
Looking over the canyon can leave you dizzy at times but you can take phenomenal pictures while looking down at the river and the surrounding rocks.
But the park isn’t just about the deep canyon. Its scenic rocky surroundings make it perfect for rock climbing and kayaking but should only be considered by seasoned professionals.
The park is perfect for taking hikes and camping if you feel like stargazing at night.
I’d suggest you visit as soon as you can to experience the best the park has to offer before crowds start flocking to it in the future.
Where to stay: Stay Wise Inns of Montrose
Which One Of The Colorado National Parks is Your Favorite?
If you are looking for a destination with a good choice of national parks, Colorado would be the perfect destination. All you need is a map of national parks in Colorado and our list, and I’m sure you’ll find your way to all of them.
If you are traveling from outside of the United States, be sure to research what is essential for traveling to the US.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Regarding cheap airfare, I highly recommend using Skyscanner and Expedia. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
Additionally, I recommend getting the WayAway Plus membership to save money on cheaper fares and earn cashback (sent straight to your PayPal) on your bookings.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
For hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and other types of accommodation, I highly recommend Booking.com. They are my go-to booking site because they usually have the cheapest fares.
If you’re a registered Booking.com user (“Genius”), you can take advantage of their “Genius discount” to save even more money. I almost always book my accommodation with Booking, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with their Genius discount.
And of course, as one of the largest travel booking sites in the world, Expedia is another excellent accommodation booking site with a free reward program and discounted member prices.
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels with shared dorms and private rooms. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness.
I use HeyMondo to insure my trips and recommend them. Their affordable plans offer a 24/7 assistance platform for claims, medical coverage for every traveler, adventure sports and covid-19 coverage, and more. And better yet, GloboTreks readers get 5% off their plan! Get a quote.
Alternatively, if you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on long-term travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.
BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.
If renting a car, then I highly recommend DiscoverCars to get the largest car selection at the best price.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!