In 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate 100 years of protecting national parks across the country. The state is home to four national parks, eight national monuments, four national historic trails, a national recreation area, two national historic sites and a river corridor. For more information on Colorado’s national parks, visit http://www.colorado.com/national-parks-colorado. For more information on Colorado’s national monuments, visit http://www.colorado.com/articles/quick-guide-colorados-national-monuments.
Colorado’s Four National Parks
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park –The drama of 2,700 feet of sheer black walls falling into the Gunnison River makes for one of the deepest canyons in the Western Hemisphere. When snow blankets the ground in winter, snowshoe trekking, cross country skiing and winter backcountry camping allow for views of the snowy canyon and pure white overlooks. In the summer, rafting, fishing and stargazing are just some of the ways to enjoy the canyon.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve — Mountains of sand stand higher in the San Luis Valley than anywhere else in North America. In late spring, visitors can soak in Medano Creek, a popular stream at the foot of the dunes. A new type of boarding adventure presents itself in the summer months, sandboarding. Late September and early October provide opportunities for photography with unusual contrasts of colorful trees, dunes and snowcapped mountains. The dunes are also great for sledding or cross country skiing in the winter.
Mesa Verde National Park — Southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde takes visitors back in time to showcase more than 700 years of Ancestral Puebloan history and is the largest archeological preserve in the U.S. Tickets can be purchased for ranger-guided tours throughout the largest cliff dwellings in North America. The abundant winter ecology allows for snowy hikes. Because of Mesa Verde’s bare trees, wildlife is more visible in the winter. Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are perfect opportunities to find animal tracks in the snow.
Rocky Mountain National Park — Nestled between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, 415-square-miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Trail Ridge Road takes visitors up to 12,183 feet in elevation on the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. During the fall, visitors can’t miss the annual elk rut when bull elk gather in meadows with viewing areas available for onlookers. In the colder winter months, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowshoeing are all popular diversions for those wanting to play in the snow.
Colorado’s Eight National Monuments
Browns Canyon, Colorado, Canyons of the Ancients, Chimney Rock, Florissant Fossil Beds, Dinosaur, Hovenweep and Yucca House are Colorado’s eight national monuments dedicated to protecting our state’s tremendous history and culture. These monuments include the highest density of archaeological sites in the country, one of the most diverse insect fossil sites in the world, prime white water rafting and stone towers built by the Ancestral Puebloan people.