Colorado's Top Five State Parks
Here in Colorado there’s no shortage of wilderness to explore. From wide-open landscapes on the plains, to rugged peaks deep within the Rocky Mountains, and everything in between, there’s an outdoor adventure waiting for you. More than one third of the entire state
is set aside for the public to enjoy, and that includes 42 wonderful state parks and four national parks.
Each Colorado state park is unique and has something to offer, but we’re going to share our five favorites with you.
A quick 40 miles away from Colorado Springs, you’ll find a water-lovers paradise. The Eleven Mile Canyon Dam has created a massive reservoir that’s perfect for fishing, boating, paddling, and windsurfing. There’s gold medal fishing for a variety of trout, along with northern pike. You can even bowfish for carp near the shore.
But, the water isn’t the only draw at Eleven Mile. Variety is the name of the game here. Wetlands and grasslands surround the water, and these spots offer some great hiking and camping opportunities. There’s a decent number of back-country campsites where you can hike or boat in to your home away from home. The environment here also makes it easy for tons of wildlife to flourish, including white pelicans, bald eagles, black bears, antelope, and more.
If you love seeing different types of wildlife in their natural setting while you hit the trails, then Mueller State Park is the one for you. It’s one of Colorado’s best state parks as far as hiking is concerned, with more than 50 miles of trails just waiting to be experienced. Pets aren’t allowed on the trails, which is both a downfall and a perk. Keeping pets off the trails increases your chances of seeing wildlife, after all.
The park is also home to many aspen meadows, making autumn an excellent time to visit to see the changing leaves. The meadows aren’t just for looks, though. They’re vital to the survival of the area’s elk herds. To see these majestic animals in their element, just keep hiking.
You simply can’t beat Golden Gate Canyon State Park’s proximity to Denver and the surrounding metro area. It’s only 30 miles from Denver and has over 12,000 acres to enjoy. There’s an excellent trail system with 35 miles of maintained trails, and there’s something for every skill level and preference. You can hike, mountain bike, ride your horse, snowshoe, cross-country ski… well, you get the point—the trails at Golden Gate support tons of outdoor activities.
The camping is excellent, too. RVers, backcountry tent campers, and everyone in between will find something to love. The park is open for fun throughout the entire year, but it does get quite busy during the peak summer months. Once you visit, you’ll immediately see why it’s so popular.
Ouray is often called the “Switzerland of America,” and Ridgway State Park is only 15 miles away from this idyllic mountain town. The gorgeous mountain scenery and generally sunny skies are two of the main draws in the area, but there’s so much more to Ridgway than a pretty face.
There are tons of camping options, including yurt rentals for those seeking something a bit different (they’re also perfect for winter camping.) The park even has a scenic reservoir for boating, fishing, and swimming. If you’re feeling lucky, this slice of Colorado heaven also entices gold panners to come and see if they can strike it rich.
We had to save one of the best for last, and State Forest State Park is certainly something special. Why is it so special? Well, it’s the moose viewing capital of Colorado. The park has more than 600 of these giant animals throughout it’s 71,000 acres. Hit the trails and see how many moose you can spot, just remember to keep a safe distance!
Since State Forest is tucked away between Rocky Mountain National Park and two scenic National Forests, it’s no stretch to say that the scenery is a photographer’s dream. You can even enjoy this park throughout the winter, and the winter recreation trails are top-notch.