National Parks in Colorado
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National Parks in Colorado

These are the four National Parks located in Colorado. The state of Colorado is one of the few states in the United States with multiple National Parks. Just over half the states in the United States have a National Park, but just 12 states have more than one. Colorado has a total four National Parks, two that have been around for many years and two that are less than 15 years old.

These are the four National Parks located in Colorado. All are worth visiting, though some more than others. I've been to all four of the National Parks in Colorado, and the best one is located around an hour northwest of Denver. The other three parks are in more remote locations, but visitors can camp in each park, and find hotels, motels and other places to stay not too far from each park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular park located in north-central Colorado in the heart of the Rocky Mountains northwest of Denver. Containing 265,761 acres, Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915. 

A drive over the Trail Ridge Road that runs through Rocky Mountain National Park is an unforgettable experience for most tourists and visitors. Trail Ridge Road crosses over the Continental Divide and reaches heights as high as 12,183 feet. It gives the best views of the mountains, lakes and valleys in Rocky Mountain National Park with frequent spectacular overlooks along the way. The road is only open after the snow clears in late spring and summer.

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Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park can stay in the comfort of the great hotels in Denver, or you can stay in cabins, lodges, spas, motels, hotels and retreats located in and near the park. You can also camp in the park if that's your thing. Rocky Mountain National Park can be reached along Highways 34 or 36 in Colorado northwest of Denver.  

Mesa Verde National Park

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Located in southwestern Colorado near the city of Cortez, Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to protect the Anasazi people's ancient cliff dwellings by President Teddy Roosevelt. The Anasazi people built and occupied the cliff dwellings from roughly 550 to 1300 AD. It's a great mystery why the Anasazi left the cliff dwellings, and where did they go?

Most of the cliff dwellings visitors to Mesa Verde National Park see today were built after 1100. It's pretty cool to see and walk among these ancient cliff dwellings and ponder what life was like for the Anasazi. Mesa Verde National Park can be reached off Highway 160 east of Cortez and west of Durango in southwestern Colorado. Motels and other lodgings and accommodations for visitors are available in both cities. You can also camp in the park if so inclined.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was established in 1999 and encompasses some 30,750 acres in west-central Colorado near the city of Montrose. The park preserves 12 miles of the great canyon carved into the area by the Gunnison River.

 Image Source by Tim Engelman

The canyon in the park is very steep which often prevents the sun from shining right into the canyon which makes the canyon walls often look dark, hence the name Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Visitors to the park can drive along both the south and north rims with frequent viewpoints down into the canyon. You can reach the bottom of the canyon along East Portal Road from the south rim. You have to enter the park from either the south rim  area or the north rim area, the two are not connected.

The south rim entrance is located off Highway 347, which is off Highway 50 east of Montrose. The north rim road is located off Highway 92 about 11 miles south of Crawford. I visited the Black Canyon of Gunnison when it was a National Monument prior to its being made a National Park in 1999. It's a cool place but lacks a lot of diversity beyond seeing the canyon.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

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After being a National Monument since 1932, Congress turned Great Sand Dunes into a National Park in 2004. Having been to both places, I think making the Black Canyon of the Gunnison into a National Park was a questionable move, but I think making Great Sand Dunes into a National Park was long overdue.

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At Great Sand Dunes National Park you will feel like you stepped into a different world. The tallest sand dunes in North America are in Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park is 84,997 acres large and is located in south-central Colorado. To reach Great Sand Dunes National Park from the south take Highway 160 to Highway 150 north out of Alamosa, Colorado. If coming from the north or west take State Highway 17 south to County Lane 6 to the park. Just follow the signs.

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