Colorado is known for its natural beauty – and its dedication to preserving that bounty. The state has 42 parks, 23 million acres of public land, thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails, and plentiful lakes, rivers and ponds.
You’re no doubt already familiar with some of the state’s parks. But there are a plethora of areas that are largely undiscovered. Ready to try something new?
Here are a few not-to-be-missed state parks you might not know about, recommended by Matador Network:
Mueller State Park: “This is one of the best state parks in Colorado for birders and wildlife watchers as it is home to black bears and mountain lions, plus more than 100 species of birds,” reports Matador. The park, located between Cripple Creek and Florissant, contains more than 5,000 acres and “massive granite rock formations,” as well as three log cabins, a campground and meadows resplendent with wildflowers in July and August. You can also attend “star parties” hosted by the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society.
State Forest State Park: Northwest of Rocky Mountain National Park, this park’s 71,000 acres offer diverse landscapes, everything from “glacial-carved cirques, endless meadows and sand dunes.” notes Matador. Better yet, the park is known for its large moose population, estimated at 600. Additionally, those who like to hike and bike will find plentiful scenic trails, and visitors can enjoy cabins, yurts and four campgrounds– or roam the backcountry independently.
Pearl Lake State Park: If kayaking is your passion, this is your place. The park north of Steamboat Springs is “known for its wakeless water,” notes Matador, “and is one of the best state parks in Colorado for kayak camping trips along the shoreline.” It’s also perfect for fishing native cutthroat trout and grayling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing in winter. Fall brings a “dazzling display of quaking golden aspens.” Visitors will find 36 campsites (closed in winter) and two yurts with views of the lake open year-round.
Rifle Falls State Park: Northwest of Glenwood Springs, this is a relatively small state park, with a big payoff, as it features a 70-foot high triple waterfall, surrounded by “moss-covered rocks and lush foliage,” which, according to Matador, attracts “photographers and movie crews from around the world.” Three hiking trails take visitors to the top of the falls or to a creek for trout fishing. It also allows for cave exploration. Resources are limited – the park has only 13 drive-in and seven walk-in campsites— so Matador urges those interested to book early.