Spring, Summer & Autumn is an ideal time to visit the beautiful natural features of Colorado. Visitors will find spectacular landscapes, national parks and monuments, as well as an excellent selection of scenic and historic byways.
National Parks: From the highest sand dunes in North America to one of the deepest canyons in the Western Hemisphere, Colorado’s four national parks encompass some of the most outstanding natural and cultural attractions in North America. At the Great Sand Dunes National Park you can hike your way to the top of the dunes then snowboard or slide down, or build a gigantic sand castle and do some birding. Hike the trails along the rim at Black Canyon of the GunnisonNational Park, then plunge into the wilderness 2,722 feet below for some great wildlife viewing and trout fishing. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the nation’s quintessential parks, thanks to its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife. And, MesaVerdeNational Park offers a look at Colorado’s beginnings with ancient cliff dwellings that chronicle more than 700 years of Ancestral Puebloan history.
National Monuments: The national government sets aside structures and natural landmarks of historic significance as national monuments. It comes as no surprise that Colorado is home to many such places. Whether you’re interested in fossils, geology or the lore of the gold rush, Colorado’s national monuments provide an ideal adventure.
Colorado National Monument, www.nps.gov/colm
Curecanti National Recreation Area, www.nps.gov/cure
Dinosaur National Monument, www.nps.gov/dino
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, www.nps.gov/flfo
Canyon of the ancient national monuments www.co.blm.gov/ahc/index.htm
National Forest & Grasslands: National forests and grasslands are established not only to provide recreation opportunities, but to ensure good stewardship of the land. Ranchers and ski resorts, among others, are able to use the land and its resources in a sustainable manner. But they also provide outdoor enthusiasts with amazing opportunities. Go hiking around the Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National Grassland, and you might see herds of pronghorn at the base of these grand buttes. Visit the Wheeler Geologic Area in Rio GrandeNational Forest to see rock formations that look like the sharp coral beds of an ocean floor. Or, travel deep into the San JuanNational Forest on picturesque snowmobile trails.
Town of Poncha Springs
Pike, San Isabel National forest & Cimarron Comanche National grasslands
Pawnee National grasslands
State Parks: From the mountains to the plains, Colorado’s 41 state parks are great places to experience the state’s natural beauty. There’s also no limit to what you can do while you’re there. Go boating in NorthSterlingState Park’s reservoir, featuring 3,000 acres of water. Check out the great rock climbing at EldoradoState Park, outside of Boulder. Spend the night tucked warmly into a Mongolian-inspired yurt at MancosState Park. Or, navigate your way through the terrain in a geocaching event at State Forest State Park. The Colorado state parks make a great backdrop to any adventure.
Geological marvels: Simply put, Colorado has to be seen to be believed. From the incredible red rock formations jutting up from the earth at Garden of the Gods to the towering sand dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, you’ll see things here you can’t see anywhere else. Colorado’s natural wonders are everywhere you look, just waiting to be explored.
Scenic and Historic Byways: Colorado is home to 25 scenic and historic byways, from the South Platte River Trail in the east, an early train route, to Grand Mesa in the west, along the highest flattop mountain in the United States. Drives along these roads can last between 30 minutes and 8 hours and range in length from 31 to 380 kilometers. They include ghost towns, ancient ruins, alpine tundra, grasslands, some of the oldest trains in the West and much more. Find out more about these routes at www.coloradobyways.org.
There's nothing like setting out on the open road and seeing where Colorado can take you. No state in the nation boasts more nationally designated scenic byways than Colorado. But while you may think this has to do solely with the immaculate scenery of Colorado, think again. These byways trace timeless routes of historic and cultural significance, and their status as America's Byways® is a testament to the inter-linked communities that have worked so hard to preserve their heritage. In addition to the 10 nationally designated byways, Colorado also boasts 15 Scenic and Historic Byways recognized by the state for their historic, cultural and scenic value. All told, the byways make Colorado the ultimate road trip destination in America. In Colorado, all roads really do lead to adventure.
Alpine Loop (Southwest)
Cache la Poudre – North Park (Front Range/Northwest)
Collegiate Peaks (South Central)
Colorado River Headwaters (Northwest)
Dinosaur Diamond (Northwest)
Flat Tops Trail (Northwest)
Frontier Pathways (Southeast/South Central)
Gold Belt Tour (South Central)
Grand Mesa (Northwest/Southwest)
Guanella Pass (Front Range)
Highway of Legends (Southeast)
Lariat Loop (Denver/Front Range)
Los Caminos Antiguos (South Central)
Mount Evans (Front Range)
Pawnee Pioneer Trails (Northeast)
Peak to Peak (Front Range)
San Juan Skyway (Southwest)
Santa Fe Trail (Southeast)
Silver Thread (South Central/Southwest)
South Platte River Trail (Northeast)
Top of the Rockies (South Central)
Trail of the Ancients (Southwest)
Trail Ridge Road (Front Range/Northwest)
West Elk Loop (Southwest/Northwest)
Scenic and Historic Trains: Welcome back to the romantic era of travel — seeing Colorado by rail. The moment you step aboard and the whistle blows, you'll be transported to an earlier time. So sit back, relax and take in the scenery in an experience you'll only find aboard one of Colorado's scenic and historic railroads. You'll be rewarded with truly unique views in some of the state's most remote areas.
Here are just a few of Colorado's scenic trains:
Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad: Enjoy a four-mile round trip through historic Victor and past old mining sites, then back to the gold-rush town of Cripple Creek, now known for its low-stakes gambling as well as its restored Victorian-era town.
Cumbres & Tolec Scenic Railroad: The longest and highest narrow-gauge line in North America, it stretches 64 miles from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. From an open-air sightseeing coach, you can take in the sights and enjoy on-train refreshments.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: In its heyday, more than $300 million in gold and silver were hauled on the narrow-gauge tracks. Authentically restored 1880 passenger cars will sweep you into days gone by and abandoned mine sites and virgin forests, while chugging along the wild Animas River up into the San Juan Mountains, with a stop at the gold-mining-era town of Silverton, before returning to Durango.
Georgetown Loop Historic Mining and Railroad Park: You can hop on at either the Georgetown or Silver Plume Depot; this historic narrow-gauge railway loops through both as it makes its way through Clear Creek Canyon. Originally built in 1884, the railway is a major attraction in Georgetown, and it's easy to see why as you gaze out from open-air or covered cars at the rugged wilderness going by.
Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad: Nestling in the alpine valley under the shadow of Colorado's highest peak, Leadville was settled and developed by miners and merchants in the 1800s. Discover the mining and railway history of Leadville while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Arkansas River Valley as you travel to the Continental Divide.
Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway: The world's highest cog (rack) railway, this line takes passengers to the 14,110 ft (4,300 m) summit of Pikes Peak, and its one-of-a-kind views.
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad: Colorado's newest scenic train offers steam engine rides out of Alamosa. Enjoy hundreds of miles of historic rail, through mountain valleys and passes.
Royal Gorge Scenic Railway: The little train with big views of the spectacular Royal Gorge. An incline railway with open-air cars allowing breathtaking vistas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Royal Gorge region on this three-mile, 30-minute round-trip ride.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad: This 1950s-era rail line forges through one of America's most spectacular canyons. Travel in comfortable cars (including three recently added historic observation dome cars) as you chug along the bottom of the gorge and look up 1,200 feet (366 m) to the Royal Gorge Bridge spanning the top.