4 Ways to Celebrate the National Park Service in Colorado

Honor the National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, by visiting Colorado’s four national parks, nine national monuments, 11 national forests, three national historic sites and two national grasslands. Here are just a few ways to explore a sampling of these lands.

By: Colorado.com Staff Writer
Updated: March 9, 2024

1. Relive Ancient History

The past is present at these archeological marvels.

Mesa Verde National Park

Near Cortez
Take a tour of the 150-room Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park, the largest cliff dwelling in the striking stone village built by Ancestral Puebloans.

Dinosaur National Monument 

The wall of 1,500 dinosaur bones in Dinosaur National Monument's Quarry Exhibit Hall reminds us of the colossal creatures who once called Colorado home.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Near Dolores
Stop by the Canyons of the Ancients National Monumen Visitor Center & Museum to get the lowdown on what to see among more than 6,000 archeological sites representing native cultures.

2. Delve Into the Dark Side

Low light pollution and high altitudes facilitate dreamy locales for stargazing.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Near Montrose
Planet walks, night photography workshops and programs featuring local astronomers and sky rangers are the types of experiences you'll find during the annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve 

Near Alamosa
Moonless nights and evenings with a late moonrise are choice times to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Hovenweep National Monument

Near Cortez
Galaxies far, far away seem much closer at the Ancestral Puebloan structures of Hovenweep National Monument, where gloriously dark skies facilitate the sight of up to 15,000 stars.

3. See Colorado's Famous Creatures

From grasslands to alpine tundra, varied landscapes support our wild inhabitants.

Pawnee National Grassland 

Near Raymer
A tour of the Pawnee National Grassland rewards onlookers with sights of Front Range flyers like red-tailed hawks, mountain plovers and burrowing owls.

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Between Estes Park & Grand Lake
Spot some of our most iconic mammals at the exquisite Rocky Mountain National Park, including moose, bighorn sheep, black bears and elk.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Commerce City
More than 330 species of wildlife occupy the urban oasis of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where you can spy on bald eagles, painted turtles, bison, white pelicans and deer.

4. Do Something Epic

Once-in-a-lifetime to-dos abound on Colorado’s public lands.

Hike the Maroon Bells

Near Aspen
Ramble the Crater Lake or Maroon Creek trails to capture flawless vistas of the famous snow-streaked Maroon Bells and surrounding White River National Forest.

Bike the Kokopelli Trail

Near Fruita
Padded by gorgeous desert landscapes, this doozy of a trail in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area offers avid two-wheelers a taste of Fruita’s mountain-biking nirvana.

Stroll a Petrified Forest

Near Cripple Creek
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument holds some of the largest petrified sequoias in the world. Inspect them up close on the Petrified Forest or the Walk Through Time trails. 

Raft the Arkansas River 

Near Buena Vista & Salida
The Arkansas boasts some of the best whitewater rafting in the world, and it carves its way right through the heart of scenic Browns Canyon National Monument. Connect with one of many area outfitters to ride the waves. 

Meet Our Newest National Monument: Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument

Designated in 2022, Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument is perched way up high in the Rocky Mountains. The monument site is currently being developed, and visitor information will be posted as soon as it's available. 

Want More?

Read about all our national parks and national monuments.

Find more ways to revel in the magic of Colorado's public lands