Half of the grand state of Colorado is preserved in public land, and millions of visitors flock here every year to relax and recreate on the hallowed grounds of our national parks. But, did you know there are also 42 (lesser known and frequented) state parks in Colorado? We previously highlighted the wonders of Golden Gate Canyon State Park in our
camping segment, and here are seven other phenomenal state parks in Denver and the surrounding area with plenty of opportunities for activity and tranquility year-round.
1. Chatfield State Park
Tucked away in the foothills southwest of Denver is an almost 4,000-acre recreational paradise. Chatfield State Park is known for its hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, and even model airplane flying, but its biggest draw is undoubtedly the 1,423-acre reservoir on site. With its swim beach and full-service boat marina (including rentals), this park is a popular playground for kayakers, sailors, fishermen, canoers, and water-skiers. After plenty of fun in the sun, chow down at the park's floating restaurant, and don't forget your $8 entry fee to support the park upkeep and maintenance.
2. Eldorado Canyon State Park
At the edge of Eldorado Springs near Boulder, lies one of Colorado's most scenic canyons. The massive sandstone outcroppings at Eldorado Canyon provide world-class rock climbing and about 750 technical routes. But if that's not your (chalk) bag, there is also plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing to keep you entertained.
3. Cherry Creek State Park
Denver's backyard playground boasts an 880-acre reservoir, 12 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and over 100 newly renovated campsites (some with full hookups). Whether you're looking for birds, jet skis, or model airplanes, you'll spot them flying about at Cherry Creek.
4. Staunton State Park
Colorado's newest state park, which opened in 2013, is a geological wonder with soaring granite cliffs, varied water features, rare plants, diverse wildlife, and, of course, an abundance of recreational activities. The 3,828 acres of Staunton State Parks provide a fresh haven for climbers, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and local wildlife.
5. Barr Lake State Park
Speaking of wildlife, Barr Lake State Park is home to some of the best birdwatching in Colorado. It's the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and is also an Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Just 30 minutes from Denver, this 2,000-acre lake surrounded by willow grasses, cottonwoods, and marshland, truly is an "oasis on the prairie."
6. Castlewood Canyon State Park
This hidden canyon cut out long ago by Cherry Creek, which still flows along its canyon floor, is home to the historical Castlewood Canyon dam, Bridge Canyon Overlook, and a natural amphitheater. There are about a dozen trails just perfect for a mild to moderate hike or trail run and plenty of picturesque picnic areas. (Notes: There's a $7 entry fee; there's NO camping; dogs are not allowed on the East Canyon Preservation Trail.)
7. Roxborough State Park
The awe-inspiring red rock formations at Roxborough State Park are a true geological spectacle to behold! Its nearly 4,000 acres accommodates hikers of all levels, as well as boating and fishing on half of the park's lake. There are 1,000 acres designated as a wildlife refuge, and you could easily spy a black bear, mule deer, or red fox milling about the grounds. Over 350 avian species have been recorded, including nesting bald eagles that have returned every year since 1986. Ornithologists rejoice! This dramatic landscape provides a uniquely, tranquil escape from the city and is not to be missed. (Note: In order to preserve its beauty and wildlife, NO camping, biking, horses, or pets of ANY kind allowed. And, yes, that means Fido).
Want to share your experiences at these fabulous Colorado state parks? Did we leave any of your favorites off our list? Tell us in the comments.