8 Places to See Colorado Wildlife Without Leaving Your Car

Left your hiking boots at home? Don’t worry, there’s no need to hit the trails to see Colorado’s wildlife in its natural habitat. Hundreds of scenic roads lead safely past elk, bighorn sheep, moose, bison, bald eagles and other watchable wildlife — making this the perfect activity for travelers of all abilities. With a pair of binoculars, you won’t even have to unbuckle your seatbelt.

By: Colorado.com Staff Writer
Updated: July 12, 2024

Below are eight places with good odds for spotting animals. For even more options, visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s wildlife-viewing page. And before you head out, check out their handy tips on watching wildlife and focusing your binoculars. It’s important to always keep a safe distance from the animals. Remembering never to feed, pet, chase or harass them will ensure you and the wildlife stay safe and healthy.

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk can be spotted bugling and sparring, especially during their fall rutting (mating) season, in Moraine and Horseshoe sections near Estes ParkRoute: Enter the park on the east side and follow signs to Moraine or Horseshoe.

2. Guanella Pass Scenic Byway 

Take in views of 14,065-foot Mount Bierstadt and spot notable players in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem, including bighorn sheep, beavers, mountain goats and a variety of birds. Route: From the town of Grant along U.S. Hwy. 285, drive north on Guanella Pass Road toward Georgetown. Continue on the paved road over the 11,669-foot pass.

3. State Forest State Park

The area in and around the park, near Walden, has been named the official moose capital of Colorado. More than 600 moose live there year-round, as well as elk, mule deer, beaver, fox, eagles and black bears. Route: 7 miles along County Road 41 inside the park.

4. South Platte River Trail

In the winter, more than 100 bald eagles can be found roosting on the branches of cottonwood trees along the river. Red-tailed hawks, kestrels, merlins and golden eagles also inhabit the area. Route: Hwy. 34 between Fort Morgan and Kersey.


5. Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway

Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots and pikas search for food along this 28-mile route that climbs more than 7,000 feet in elevation to the top of one of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners. Route: From Echo Lake, take Hwy. 5 to the top of Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans); near Idaho Springs. Closed in winter.

6. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Located just outside Denver in Commerce City is one of the largest urban refuges in the country. It’s home to more than 300 species, including mule deer, coyotes, bison, songbirds and bald eagles (winter). Route: Two-hour trolley tours from the visitor center during the summer (call for dates and times) or a 9-mile self-guided auto tour.

7. San Juan Skyway

See elk, foxes, eagles, goshawks, red-tailed hawks, bluebirds, kestrels and the occasional black bear as you traverse some of the state’s most magnificent passes. Route: Any portion of the 233-mile loop between Telluride, Ridgway, Silverton, Durango, Mancos, Cortez and Dolores.

8. Bighorn Sheep Canyon

Bighorn sheep can be seen year-round scaling the walls of the canyon and drinking from the Arkansas River, especially in the winter. Route: Hwy. 50 from Parkdale to Coaldale, near Cañon City.

Learn more about wildlife viewing in Colorado

Go Birding in Colorado

The Colorado Birding Trail can guide you to more than 400 avian species across the state. Visit the trail’s site for maps, birding basics and other resources. Read Birding in Colorado and Colorado's Top Birding Trails: Eastern Plains.