Getting outside: Our favorite parks and towns in Colorado 

When we picture Colorado, we think of vast mountain ranges, winding hiking trails, and endless adventures. With so many places to explore, we often feel like tourists in our own state. That’s why we’ve pulled together some of our favorite parks and towns for a staycation this summer. 

Garden of the Gods: 300 Million Years of Breathtaking Geological History 

Garden of the Gods at sunset

Located in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods showcases huge sedimentary rock formations resulting from erosion and being covered by glaciers in the Pleistocene Ice Age, according to the park’s website. Some of the formations look as though they have been carved purposefully into figures like the “Sleeping Giant” and the sweet “Kissing Camels.” The park is free and has a trail running around the rocks. Visitors can also opt to go rock climbing or horseback riding among other activities.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park: Bright-colored Clay Formations 

Landscape view highlighting the unique colors of the Paint Mines

 Paint Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County looks like a work of art with bright orange, yellow, and pink hues wrapping around clay deposits. Native Americans used to collect the clay and use it as paint, giving the park its name. There are four miles of trails traversing the area for visitors to admire the colorful marvel. 

Estes Park: Tall Peaks and a Spooky Hotel

Wide angle view of Stanley hotel and surrounding mountains

 Estes Park, 90 miles northwest of Denver, houses Rocky Mountain National Park with over 100 peaks towering above 11,000 feet in altitude. Visitors may run into chipmunks, mule deer, and elk. The Stanley Hotel also sits in Estes Valley – the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining.” It is supposedly haunted, and guests can take a spirited night tour where a guide will tell stories of the ghosts supposedly inhabiting the halls.

Mesa Verde National Park: Explore Ancient Cliff Dwellings

Cliff dwellings of mesa verde at dusk

 Explore the history of the Ancient Pueblo people who lived in cliff dwellings for over 700 years in Mesa Verde National Park, located in southwest Colorado. Their structures are built into the cliffs, ranging from one room to 150 rooms. Visitors can sign up for a tour of the cliff dwellings to climb through them with a guide. Almost 5,000 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings make this National Park a must-see destination.

Pagosa Springs: A Hot Springs Oasis 

View of hot springs resort at Pagosa Springs

47 miles east of Durango, Pagosa Springs is a great spot for those looking to just relax. Visitors searching for a peaceful activity can venture to one of the 30 downtown hot springs pools. The town also has the world’s deepest geothermal spring – Mother Spring aquifer – at 1,002 feet. The spring carries water to The Springs Resort, The Overlook Hot Springs, and Healing Waters Resort & Spa. The Springs Resort offers 24 pools with different temperature levels for those looking for a calm spot to swim or soak in the warm water. At The Overlook Hot Springs, guests can enjoy mountain views from rooftop tubs or hang out inside in their indoor pools. Healing Waters Resort & Spa boasts pools filled with 100% mineral water open to the public year round. 

Telluride: Grand Peaks and Stunning Falls

View of mountain range in Telluride
Photo by Jeff Jones

Telluride – located in the southwest corner of the state near the border of Utah – has more to offer after the ski season with stunning 14,000 foot peaks to admire on a hike or from lodging with a drink in hand. Visitors can hike Ajax Peak for panoramic views of Telluride. They can also embark on a 1.8 mile journey to Bridal Veil Falls – the tallest free falling falls in the state.

Palisade: Wineries, Vineyards, and Lots of Peaches 

Landscape view of Palisades in Colorado at sunset reflecting off vineyards

Raise a glass to Palisade! Located north of the Colorado River, visitors can choose from over 30 wineries and vineyards to visit in the town. You may have heard of the popular Palisade peaches, too. The 55th Annual Peach Festival begins on August 17th with orchard farm tours, live music, a 5k run, peach eating contests, and more. 

Grand Lake: Lakeside Charm in the Colorado Rockies

Lake Granby from a distance

"Mirrored Sunrise, Grand Lake, Co 8-12" by inkknife_2000 (11.5 million views) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

You’ll find the largest natural lake in Colorado 98 miles from Denver: Grand Lake. The lake is near Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapaho National Forest, so there are plenty of hiking, mountain biking, sailing, and fishing opportunities during the summer season. The town is also known for their 4th of July celebration with a 30 minute firework show over the lake.

Breckenridge: Golf Courses Among Towering Mountains

Golf course at Breckenridge with mountains in background

Journey to Summit County to visit the small, charming town of Breckenridge. Visit shops on Main Street or choose one of hundreds of hiking trails. Tee off at the Breckenridge Golf Course with three nine-hole courses: the Bear, the Beaver, and the Elk. Or take the gondola to the ski slopes and hop on a sled on the Alpine Slide running down a 2,600 foot track on Peak 8.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Camping, Rock Climbing, and Getting Outdoors 

View of Black Canyon from high angle, highlighting unique coloring of canyon

Head to western Colorado to visit the breathtaking Black Canyon of the Gunnison. With Gunnison River traveling through the center, the canyon was formed over a two million year period. Drive along one of the oldest canyons in North America for views of the 2,000 foot drop or hike through trails above. If you’re experienced, you can rock climb and obtain a permit to hike to the canyon floor. You can also camp at three campgrounds in the area.

Whenever you travel, make sure to bring your favorite Wallaroo hat! We would love to be a part of your next adventure.