Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado State Parks offer some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the United States. With over 40 parks to choose from, visitors can explore everything from the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the tranquil waters of Chatfield Reservoir. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a seasoned angler, or simply looking for a scenic spot to set up camp, Colorado State Parks have something for everyone. In this blog, we’ll dive into the best parks, activities, and amenities that Colorado has to offer, so you can make the most of your next outdoor adventure.
Colorado State Parks offer an abundance of natural beauty and outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy year-round. With over 40 parks to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to explore first. To help you plan your next adventure, we’ve put together this guide to Colorado State Parks that answers some of the most popular questions
Table of Contents
- 0.1 How Many Colorado State Parks and What to Do
- 0.2 Are Colorado State Parks Open Year Round
- 0.3 Most Popular Colorado State Parks
- 0.4 Can you camp at Colorado State Parks?
- 0.5 Are Colorado State Parks dog-friendly?
- 0.6 What Can you Do at Colorado State Parks?
- 0.7 What State Parks Are Open For Motorized Boats?
- 0.8 Are there any cabins or lodges available to rent at Colorado State Parks?
- 0.9 Are there any Natural Hot Springs in Colorado State Parks?
- 0.10 Can you Fish in Colorado State Parks?
- 1 What are the Best Hiking Trails in Colorado State Parks?
- 1.1 Walking Trails
- 1.2 Intermediate Hiking Trails
- 1.3 Advanced Hiking Trails in Colorado State Parks
- 1.4 What Wild Life Can Be Seen in Colorado State Parks
- 1.5 Can You Make Reservations at Colorado State Parks
- 1.6 How much does it cost to enter a state park?
- 1.7 What Is the Best Time to Visit A Colorado State Park
- 1.8 What are the Least Popular Colorado State Parks
How Many Colorado State Parks and What to Do
There are 42 Colorado State Parks throughout Colorado. These parks vary in size and terrain, with some located in mountainous regions while others are situated in grasslands or near lakes and rivers. Each park offers its own unique opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, and more.
Are Colorado State Parks Open Year Round
Most of the parks are open year-round, although some have seasonal closures, like Vega State Park. Visitors should note that while the majority of Colorado State Parks offer year round access, many campgrounds and facilities are closed throughout the state.
Most Popular Colorado State Parks
Colorado State Parks are known for their stunning natural beauty and abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, and as such, many of them are quite popular with visitors. Some of the most popular Colorado State Parks include:
- Chatfield State Park: Located just south of Denver, Chatfield State Park is a popular destination for boating, fishing, hiking, and camping.
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers visitors opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping, as well as stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
- Roxborough State Park: Known for its towering red rock formations, Roxborough State Park is a popular spot for hiking and wildlife viewing.
- Cherry Creek State Park: Located just east of Denver, Cherry Creek State Park is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and camping, as well as swimming at the park’s beach.
- Mueller State Park: Situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Mueller State Park offers visitors opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and camping, as well as stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
Can you camp at Colorado State Parks?
Yes, camping is a popular activity in Colorado State Parks. There are over 3,900 campsites available for visitors, including options for tent camping, RV camping, and cabins. Some of the most popular parks for camping include Chatfield State Park, Mueller State Park, and Cherry Creek State Park.
And while the majoirty of Colorado State Parks allow camping of some sort, here are a few Colorado Parks that do not allow camping. Here are some examples:
- Eldorado Canyon State Park: Camping is not allowed in this park, likely due to the sensitive plant and wildlife species that inhabit the area.
- Castlewood Canyon State Park: This park also does not offer camping facilities, although it does have picnic areas and hiking trails.
- Roxborough State Park: Camping is not allowed in this park, although visitors can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing.
- Barr Lake State Park: While camping is allowed in some areas of the park, it is not allowed on the wildlife refuge trail.
Are Colorado State Parks dog-friendly?
Yes, many Colorado State Parks are dog-friendly, although each park has its specific rules and regulations regarding pets. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed in certain areas of the park, such as swimming beaches and designated wildlife areas.
While many Colorado State Parks are dog-friendly, there are a few that do not allow dogs in order to protect sensitive wildlife and natural areas. Here are a few examples:
- Barr Lake State Park: While dogs are allowed in some areas of the park, they are not allowed on the wildlife refuge trail.
- Eldorado Canyon State Park: Dogs are not allowed on any trails within the park in order to protect sensitive plant and wildlife species.
- Castlewood Canyon State Park: Dogs are not allowed on the East Preservation Trail.
- Roxborough State Park: While dogs are allowed in some areas of the park, they are not allowed on any of the park’s trails in order to protect sensitive wildlife species.
- Cheyenne Mountain State Park: While dogs are allowed in some areas of the park, they are not allowed on any of the park’s trails in order to protect sensitive wildlife species.
What Can you Do at Colorado State Parks?
Colorado State Parks offer a wide range of activities, including hiking, fishing, boating, camping, wildlife watching, and more. Some parks also have additional amenities such as picnic areas, playgrounds, and visitor centers. Check the individual Parks for further information!
What State Parks Are Open For Motorized Boats?
Several Colorado State Parks have lakes or reservoirs that are open for motorized boats, including Barr Lake State Park, Trinidad State Park, Chatfield State Park, Eleven Mile State Park, Ridgway State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, and Pueblo State Park. These parks offer opportunities for fishing, waterskiing, and other water-based activities.
Are there any cabins or lodges available to rent at Colorado State Parks?
Yes, many Colorado State Parks have cabins or lodges available for rent. Some of the most popular parks for cabin rentals include Mueller State Park, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and Sylvan Lake State Park.
Are there any Natural Hot Springs in Colorado State Parks?
Yes, several Colorado State Parks have natural hot springs, including Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and Pagosa Hot Springs. These parks offer opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation in the midst of stunning natural scenery.
Can you Fish in Colorado State Parks?
Yes, fishing is a popular activity in Colorado as well as in Colorado State Parks, with many parks offering opportunities for both fly fishing and spin fishing. Some parks, such as Eleven Mile State Park and Spinney Mountain State Park, are designated as Gold Medal Waters, meaning they offer some of the best fishing in the state. Visitors should note a fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16.
What are the Best Hiking Trails in Colorado State Parks?
There are countless hiking trails to explore in Colorado State Parks, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks.
Some of the most popular, easy walking trails include …
- Steamboat Lake State Park
The Tombstone Nature Trail is listed in national publications as one of the best short trails in Colorado. This easy 1.1-mile loop trail at Placer Cove Day Use Area provides impressive views of Steamboat Lake and interpretive signs that highlight the area’s natural features and cultural history.
- Castlewood Canyon State Park
The 1.2-mile Canyon View Nature Trail is a wonderful self-guided trail, complete with interpretive panels, brochures, audiotape and stunning views of the canyon.
- Trinidad Lake State Park
The information-rich Visitor Center Trail connects interpretive features along a 0.75-mile path, including a Native American archeological site, watchable wildlife kiosk, scenic overlook and wayside exhibit on the Santa Fe Trail. The 1-mile Levsa Canyon Trail is slightly more difficult but offers numerous views of mountains, lakes and wooded coves.
- Ridgway State Park
There are three self-guided and educational nature paths among the many hiking trails at Ridgway State Park. Make sure to pick up the brochure for the 0.5-mile Forest Discovery Nature Trail to learn more about plant life, animals, local history and geological features of the park.
- Mueller State Park
The Wapiti Self-Guided Nature Trail is a short, self-guided 0.8-mile long trail that takes you through diverse habitats displaying a variety of plant and animal life through three life zones on Pikes Peak. Your scenic journey conveniently starts and ends at the Visitor Center.
Intermediate Hiking Trails
There are many great intermediate hikes in Colorado state parks. Here are some of the best ones:
- Staunton State Park – Staunton Ranch Trail: This 8.4-mile loop trail takes you through beautiful meadows, forests, and rock formations, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park – Raccoon Trail: This 7.5-mile trail features wildflowers in the spring and summer, as well as panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
- Roxborough State Park – Carpenter Peak Trail: This 6.2-mile out-and-back trail takes you to the top of Carpenter Peak, with stunning views of the red rock formations and Denver skyline.
- Mueller State Park – Lost Pond Trail: This 4.4-mile loop trail is a great option for families and features a beautiful pond, as well as views of the surrounding mountains.
- Cheyenne Mountain State Park – Sundance Trail: This 5.5-mile loop trail takes you through meadows and forests, with views of the mountains and Colorado Springs.
Advanced Hiking Trails in Colorado State Parks
Colorado’s state parks offer many challenging and advanced hiking trails for experienced hikers. Here are some of the best advanced hiking trails in Colorado state parks:
- Mount Sanitas Trail – Boulder Mountain Park: This 3.3-mile trail features steep terrain and switchbacks, with stunning views of Boulder and the surrounding mountains.
- Rim Rock Trails – Castlewood Canyon State Park: This 2.14-mile trail takes you through rugged terrain and steep climbs, with stunning views of the canyon and surrounding rock formations.
- Elk Falls Trail – Staunton State Park: This 10-mile loop trail takes you to the base of Elk Falls, with steep climbs and rocky terrain throughout the hike.
These hikes offer a variety of terrain and scenery, and are great options for intermediate hikers looking to explore Colorado’s state parks. Remember to always be prepared for changing weather conditions and to follow Leave No Trace principles while hiking.
What Wild Life Can Be Seen in Colorado State Parks
Colorado state parks offer a variety of habitats that support a diverse range of wildlife. Visitors to these parks may encounter many species of animals, including:
- Elk – Colorado is home to a large population of Rocky Mountain Elk, and they can often be seen in all the state parks.
- Deer – Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer are common in many Colorado state parks.
- Black Bears – Visitors to Colorado State Parks may encounter black bears, especially near the end of summer, early fall when they have come down off the mountains in search of food.
- Bighorn Sheep – Colorado is home to a large population of Bighorn Sheep, and they can often be see in parks, and on the sides of hills.
- Mountain Lions – Although they are rarely seen, mountain lions are present in many Colorado state parks, particularly in more remote areas.
- Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other small mammals – Visitors may also see a variety of smaller mammals in Colorado state parks.
In addition to these mammals, Colorado state parks are also home to many species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians, making them great destinations for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
Can You Make Reservations at Colorado State Parks
Yes, many Colorado state parks offer reservations for campsites, cabins, and other amenities. Reservations can be made online or by phone.
How much does it cost to enter a state park?
All Colorado State Parks have entrance fees. Colorado Parks and Wildlife charges $10 per vehicle day passes, while annual passes are available for $80, unless you are a Colorado resident who is registering a vehicle, then you automatically get a CSP pass for $29! Obviously there are additional fees may apply for camping, fishing, and other activities.
Check out Colorado Parks and Wildlife for the various different parks passes you can purchase and choose the one that works best for your family adventures!
What Is the Best Time to Visit A Colorado State Park
The best time to visit Colorado state parks depends on the individual park and the activities you want to do. Summer is the most popular time to visit, but spring and fall can also be great times to enjoy cooler temperatures and fall foliage. Some parks may have winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
What are the Least Popular Colorado State Parks
If you are like us, you prefer to avoid crowds and timed access to state and federal parks. So, just for you, I compiled a list of the least frequented Colorado State Parks … plan accordingly!
- Sweitzer Lake State Park – Located in Delta County, Sweitzer Lake State Park offers fishing, boating, and camping. It’s one of the smaller state parks in Colorado and is often overlooked by visitors, despite it’s plethora of fun activities, includine jet skiing!
- Paonia State Park – Also located in Delta County, Paonia State Park is known for its fishing and hiking opportunities. It’s a relatively small park with only 20 campsites.
- Crawford State Park – Located in western Colorado, Crawford State Park offers fishing, boating, and camping. It’s a popular spot for locals, but is often overlooked by visitors, despite it’s big draw for motorized boating!
- Harvey Gap State Park – Located near Rifle, Colorado, Harvey Gap State Park is known for its fishing, boating, and hiking opportunities. It’s one of the smaller state parks, but it’s water is crystal clear and beloved by locals.
It’s worth noting that even the least visited state parks in Colorado offer beautiful scenery and unique outdoor experiences.
In conclusion, Colorado State Parks offer a wealth of outdoor activities and natural beauty for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a scenic spot to camp, a challenging hiking trail, or a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring, Colorado State Parks have something for everyone. With over 40 parks