Colorado, crossed by the imposing ones Rocky Mountains (Rocky Mountains), is the state of the great hills, with the greatest concentration of peaks that exceed 14000 feet (over 4200 meters), but if you think that this state can reserve interesting things only for lovers of mountain trekking and ski slopes you will soon have to change your mind. This state, like the other neighbors of the South West and Real America areas, is ideally suited for on-the-road tours, thanks to a large number of scenic roads e natural wonders unexpected events that do not require great effort to be enjoyed.
So what to see in Colorado? Here is my personal Check these top 10 of the most fascinating natural attractions of the state, strictly… in no particular order!
- Garden of the Gods
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Colorado national monument
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Rocky Mountains National Park
- Red Rocks Amphitheater
- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
- Canyons of the Ancients
- McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area
Garden of the Gods
Characterized by imposing red rock towers that rise among the uniform vegetation, the Garden of the Gods is a unique place in the world, it is no coincidence that the ancient native tribes attributed to it a supernatural power, capable of giving life to implausible rock formations that seem to defy the laws of physics, such as the "Balanced Rock" (an imposing boulder in constant precarious balance) and “Three Graces” (3 thin rock walls with an unusual shape).
But in the Garden of the Gods you will not only find beautiful views and unlikely shaped rocks, but also a series of ancient rock carvings that attest to the activity of the ancient populations of the region. The park boasts 19 noteworthy rock formations, which you can explore on your own following the directions on this map. Alternatively, you can contact the visitor center for natural and historical tours carried out by the rangers, or refer to the numerous excursions and guided tours that you can find at the link below:
Tour di Garden of the GodsAccomodation: The best place to stay overnight is Colorado Springs, one of the most interesting cities in the entire state at the foot of Pikes Peak, one of the highest peaks in the entire Rocky Mountain range. The distance is suns 14 minutes of car.
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Great Sand Dunes National Park
Speaking of unlikely and unique places in the world, this unjustly little-known national park certainly has a special place: almost 80 square km of imposing sand dunes (reaching even over 200 meters in height) framed by a memorable backdrop, that of the majestic peaks (over 4000 meters) of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains.
The park offers numerous hiking trails but the activity that you absolutely must not miss here is the sandboarding: basically it is about having fun sliding with a board over the dunes (an activity that you can also do in the White Sands park in New Mexico). In the video below the park rangers explain the technique to be applied ... nothing transcendental in reality ... the boards can be rented at the entrance of the park (Oasis Store) or in the nearby town of Alamosa (Kristi Mt. Sports). To find out more, you can read our guide to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Accomodation: there are some lodges in the immediate vicinity of the park, while the nearest towns are Hooper and Alamosa (the latter has more facilities), at a distance of 35-40 minutes.
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Colorado national monument
The impressive natural red rock spectacle of the Colorado national monument it is one of those mysteriously little known and unfairly underestimated wonders. Those looking for the typical views of the American West, such as Monument Valley to be understood, should seriously consider this destination.
To fully enjoy it you can take the Historic Rim Rock Drive, one of the most scenic US scenic drives in the area. The route is 23 miles long and is a wonderful succession of panoramas consisting of countless red rock canyons interspersed with vegetation rich in junipers. Be careful while driving because the road is quite challenging for some sections.Accomodation: The main base in the area is Grand Junction, half an hour away.
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Note: Did you know that about an hour away, another fascinating panoramic road stretches between red rock canyons? It is about the unpronounceable Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway, find all the directions to reach it and follow it in our article on Gateway in Colorado.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
If the immense chasm of the Grand Canyon impresses in its breadth, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison arouses the same effect due to its dizzying depth. It is the narrowest and steepest canyon in the States, whose imposing rock faces have been carved out by the erosive action of millions of years of the Gunnison River.
Both sides of the canyon (South and North Rim) are lined with beautiful scenic roads dotted with observatories to admire the chasm up close (in some cases you will have to take short paths to reach them). The side that offers the most impressive views of the canyon is the north one, and in particular I suggest you stop at the following overlooks:
- Chasm View
- Narrows View
- Kneeling Camel View
Accommodation in Montrose and park surroundings
Mesa Verde National Park
The Mesa Verde Park constitutes the most relevant testimony of the ancestral culture of the pueblos, an ancient tribe that founded their own rocky villages inside rocky niches (i cliff dwellings); if you add to these archaeological wonders the splendid views offered by the wooded plateaus (“mesa”) of the park, you can easily understand how Mesa Verde constitutes one of the most fascinating attractions of the entire state.
To visit the cave villages you will need to make use of the guide of the rangers, while other areas are freely explorable. Find all the details in our article dedicated to Mesa Verde National Park.Accomodation: also in this case we have already dealt with the subject in our article; you can directly access the section dedicated to Mesa Verde accommodation.
Rocky Mountains National Park
For those who love alpine landscapes the Rocky Mountain National Park it is a marvel not to be missed: over 1000 sq km of snow-capped peaks, mountain lakes and expanses of wild flowers. It is one of the most visited parks in the States, therefore, if you are looking for a little intimacy, I suggest you go hiking (there are almost 500 km of trails waiting for you).
If, on the other hand, you want to admire the wonders of the park from the comfort of your car, you can take the Trail Ridge Road, America's highest paved road: viewpoints such as Forest Canyon, Fairview Curve, Alpin Visitor Center, Gore Range and Lava Cliff offer stunning mountain views.
PS: If you don't have enough, the park also offers another scenic drive, the Old Fall River Road.Accomodation: there are no accommodations inside the park but you can find accommodations in the nearby communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake.
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Red Rocks Amphitheater
In the middle of a beautiful natural esplanade, on a protruding red rock conformation, stands one of the most spectacular amphitheaters in the world: from here you can not only admire a landscape that extends as far as the eye can see but also listen to live music, seen that the Red Rocks Amphitheater hosts numerous concerts.
But that's not all: the famous amphitheater is inserted inside the parco Red Rocks, where there are numerous hiking trails, the best known is the one leading to the Geologic Overlook. For more information on how to visit the amphitheater take a look at our article onRed Rocks Amphitheater.Accomodation: The closest base is in Golden (15 minutes), but you can also stay overnight directly in Denver, 25 minutes away by car.
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Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Here is one of the many surprises that reveals the Colorado, a protected area dotted with rocky pinnacles with the most imaginative shapes and the most varied colors, which change continuously according to the light of day. These bizarre rock formations are made of clay and sand and for a long time the native Indians used them to make artifacts and to decorate their bodies for war purposes.
It is a very delicate ecosystem, for which visitors are asked not to touch the rocks, but to always keep to the path of about 3 miles that ventures into the park. The area has parking and bathrooms but do not expect other services in the area. Would you like to know more? Read our guide dedicated to Paint Mines Interpretive Park.Accomodation: near the area of interest you will find some remote towns (Calhan and Eastonville for example) where some accommodation is available. The nearest town with a relevant accommodation offer is Colorado Springs, 45 minutes away.
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Canyons of the Ancients
The conspicuous number of testimonies and archaeological finds (over 6000) make it Canyon of the Ancients a priceless treasure, one of the places, together with the Mesa Verde park, where you can come into contact with the ancestral culture of the Anasazi people. At the same time, a series of plateaus, rocky conformations and canyons can also be admired on the site, making it very interesting also from a natural point of view.
The Canyon of the Ancients is crossed by some paved roads, but most of them are unpaved paths; almost all the most interesting canyons and mesas are not accessible by car, but by hiking. The most visited archaeological sites are Lowry Pueblo, Painted Hand Pueblo e Sand Canyon Pueblo, but if you feel like venturing off the beaten path you'll soon find that this ancestral site has so much more to offer.Accomodation: The nearest town to find accommodation is Cortez, 30 minutes away.
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McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area
Near Grand Junction, northwest of the Colorado National Monument, is another unknown and noteworthy pearl: McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which includes the region Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness, the area with the second highest concentration of natural arches in the USA after Arches National Park, and numerous fossils, pictographs and petroglyphs unearthed by archaeological excavations.
To organize your visit to this park, you should refer to the interactive map available online, where you will also find information on parking.Accomodation: The main base in the area is Grand Junction, half an hour away.
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