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.

Emerald Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park
Browns Canyon National Monument
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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, the largest cliff dwelling in the striking stone village built by Ancestral Puebloans.

Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur

The wall of 1,500 dinosaur bones in the 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 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 at the annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival.

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 North America’s tallest dunes.

Hovenweep National Monument near Cortez
Galaxies far, far away seem much closer at these Ancestral Puebloan ruins, 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 area 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 this exquisite park, including moose, bighorn sheep, black bears and elk.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City

More than 330 species of wildlife occupy this urban oasis, 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 peaks 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 >>

Photo Credits: NPS/JacobWFrank, NPS/Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, NPS/Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, BLM/Bob Wick.