While the city of Denver is a site for outdoor activities. It also holds the benefit of being close to some of the most breathtaking national parks in the country.
Not only do these parks provide amazing scenery but they collectively offer activities such as guided tours, hiking, fishing and camping. As well as hosting a variety of historical and cultural sites, that span from archaeological ruins to historical buildings. Each park also hosts its own museums, tours and research centers that provide collaborative activities for people of all ages.
Get ready to add the following to your bucket list, as after you see our picks, you’ll be running to your car ready to embark on your newest adventure.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park: 67 miles / 1.5 hours
We begin our list with the Rocky Mountain National Park. This National Park is the closest one to Denver, being only one and a half hours from our hometown. This makes it viable for day trips with the family or a quick change of scenery from your day-to-day.
The Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 415 square miles of various forms of mountainous terrain. If you are in the mood to take it easy, take a scenic drive through the various terrains that the park offers, or go on a lake stroll with your loved ones while you take in the amazing sights. If you want a more intense trip the park has more than 300 miles in hiking that range from beginner to advanced. They also have biking trails, horseback riding, and camping grounds. So, if one day isn’t enough you can really get the lay of the land with all the different activities offered at Rocky Mountain.
For the more scientific types, the park has a research center that can be visited throughout the year. And it is home to over 600 historic buildings which have been protected and restored for visitors to experience today.
2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park: 238 miles / 4 hours
Our next park recommendation is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. You can reach this park after a four-hour drive from Denver. But it is worth the drive as you will experience the embodiment of a melting pot of nature. Great Sand Dunes hosts the tallest sand dunes in North America which contrasts the vast landscapes of grassland, forests, and alpine mountain peaks.
Great Sand Dunes park is open all day year-round. Spend your days hiking on the various terrains, sandboarding down the massive dunes, swim in Medano creek or visit the park during a full moon to experience a glowing trek in the night as you scale the dunes and search for surrounding wildlife.
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Denver to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: 252 miles / 5 hours
TheBlack Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is approximately a 5-hour drive from the city of Denver. Black Canyon is the result of two million years of erosion which has resulted in some of the oldest rock formations that have created some of the steepest cliffs in the region.
Black Canyon is essentially designed for adventurers who aren’t afraid to take on a challenge. As they offer hiking trails that are not for the faint of heart, with their instant drops and steep inclines. If hiking isn’t enough the park also offers a “Explore the Inner Canyon” package. Where park visitors can rock climb, hike, and kayak through the most difficult parts of the canyon.
If you’re ready to get your heart rate pumping and your adrenaline boosting, then Black Canyon is the place for you.
4. Arches National Park
Denver to Arches National Park: 350 miles / 5 hr 26 min
Although not located in Colorado, the Arches National Park is only 5 and a half hours away from Denver. In the neighboring state of Utah. Arches offers visitors an escape from reality as you will find yourself immersed in over 2,000 natural stone arches, massive pinnacles, and fins. These amazing formations are unique to the park and make it a definite bucket list addition to any explorers.
Other than taking in the breathtaking rock formations on foot visitors can also partake in horseback riding, biking or go on an 18-mile guided auto tour of the park. Arches also has opportunities for canyoneering and rock climbing.
5. Mesa Verde National Park
Denver to Mesa Verde National Park: 417 miles / 7.5 hours
Finally, we want to talk about Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is around 7-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver and is a direct representation of human interaction with nature as it is home to the archeological heritage site of the Ancestral Pueblo people who had made it their home for over 700 years. With some of the most incredible sites being 600 cliff dwellings that have entire towns built into the rock of Mesa Verde. The entire park protects over 5,000 archeological sites, which are some of the best-preserved sites in the US.
The park has both self-guided and ranger-guided tours of different lengths and difficulty of the various historical site. As well as an expansive Archaeological museum detailing the history of the cliff dwellings.
We hope our list has satisfied your inner explorer and has prepared you to embark on your newest adventure today.