Article Summary: National Parks Near Aurora
National Parks near Aurora! There’s so much more to the Centennial State than the Millennium Bridge.
As someone who has seen a lot of national parks, two of my absolute favorites are within a short drive of the city.
In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national parks that are within a day’s drive of Aurora, Colorado.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Aurora is known for outdoor recreation, diverse food, vibrant arts scene, and a relaxing vibe.
With more than 450 neighborhoods, the city boasts a warm and welcoming environment with excellent schooling, great recreational activities, and majestic views of the mountains.
And let’s not forget about the fabulous national parks that are a day’s drive (or less) from the city.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Aurora area then one book that I highly recommend is: Moon Colorado: Scenic Drives, National Parks, Best Hikes (Travel Guide) by Terri Cook.
So let’s go ahead with 6 reasons why you’ll want to hop into your car and make a day’s drive (seven hours or less) from Aurora to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Aurora
National Parks Near Aurora
- Best National Parks Near Aurora
- More National Parks Near Aurora
- Check Out Our Rocky Mountain Video
- National Parks Near Aurora FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Aurora
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Aurora
1. Arches National Park
Distance From Aurora: 5 hours and 44 minutes (350 miles) via I-70 W.
Arches National Park is known for its striking natural sandstone arches and other unique rock formations. It covers an area of over 76,000 acres and contains over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, as well as several other fascinating rock formations such as spires, fins, and pinnacles.
One of the most famous and iconic attractions in the park is the Delicate Arch, a 65-foot tall freestanding arch that is a symbol of Utah and the American Southwest. The park also features hiking trails that lead visitors through the scenic landscape, including the popular Devil’s Garden trail, which passes by several of the park’s most famous arches.
Arches National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including pronghorns, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes, as well as several species of birds, lizards, and snakes. The park’s unique desert climate and geology make it a popular destination for nature lovers, photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Delicate Arch (featured in the first image above) is the iconic arch featured on the Utah license plate and the arch everyone plans their trip around. The hike up to Delicate Arch isn’t a walk in the park as it involves a solid incline and a bit of navigating the sandstone, but is more than doable for most visitors.
Landscape Arch is the largest arch on earth spanning some 306 feet of weathered sandstone. This one is an easy 1.5 miles round trip and a must on your Arches trip.
Double O Arch featured in the image above is a very unique arch on top of an arch. This 4.1 mile out and back hike is a bit more strenuous, especially in the summer heat, so plan accordingly and bring plenty of water.
2. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
Distance From Aurora: 5 hours and 7 minutes US HWY-285 S & US-50 W.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is known for its steep and dramatic canyon walls, which reach over 2,700 feet in some places and offer breathtaking views of the Gunnison River below.
The canyon is named for the Gunnison River, which has carved its way through the hard and dark rock of the surrounding landscape over millions of years, creating a deep and narrow chasm. The canyon is so steep and narrow that, in some places, the sun only reaches the bottom for a few hours each day, which has given rise to the park’s nickname, the “Black Canyon.”
The park offers several opportunities for visitors to explore and experience the canyon, including hiking trails that lead to scenic overlooks, as well as a scenic drive along the rim of the canyon that offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. There are also several campgrounds and picnic areas within the park, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
In addition to its breathtaking scenery, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, and several species of birds, as well as a rich and diverse plant life that is unique to the canyon’s unique and challenging environment.
3. Canyonlands National Park
Distance From Aurora: Six hours via I-70 W.
Canyonlands National Park covers an area of over 337,000 acres and is known for its stunning landscape of canyons, mesas, and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.
The park is divided into four distinct districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves.
The Island in the Sky is a flat-topped mesa that offers panoramic views of the surrounding canyons and the Colorado River far below. The Needles is named after the colorful rock spires that rise from the landscape, and it is a popular destination for hiking and backpacking. The Maze is a remote and rugged section of the park that is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, and it is considered one of the most challenging backcountry areas in the park system.
Canyonlands National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, pronghorns, and bighorn sheep, as well as many species of birds and reptiles. The park also has a rich cultural history, with evidence of Native American habitation dating back thousands of years.
Visitors to Canyonlands National Park can enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, camping, backpacking, rock climbing, and river running. The park is open year-round, but some roads and trails may be closed during the winter months due to snow and ice.
Highlights At Canyonlands
The Needles makes up the southeastern corner of the park and is named after the multi-colored spires of sandstone that dominate the area. The Needles area offers a multitude of hiking opportunities as well as 4WD roads leading to fascinating ruins.
Mesa Arch is the most photographed feature in the park and is where you’ll find the bulk of tourists looking to snag their very own photo of this arch with a view. Sunrise is the best time to head over and see the sun makes its way up through the arch while illuminating the vast landscape.
Shafer Trail is perhaps the pinnacle of 4WD trails in the United States. Here you can put your high clearance four-wheel-drive SUV through the wringer on this challenging, unpaved, and downright scary road.
More National Parks Near Aurora
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Distance From Aurora: 3 hours and 40 minutes via I-25 S.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is known for its stunning sand dunes, which are the tallest in North America and rise up to 750 feet (230 meters) above the valley floor. The sand dunes are surrounded by mountains and are a popular destination for sandboarding and hiking.
In addition to the sand dunes, the park also features several other unique and diverse ecosystems, including alpine lakes, wetlands, forests, and grasslands. Wildlife in the park includes pronghorns, black bears, mountain lions, and over 330 species of birds.
Visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park can participate in a variety of activities, including hiking, backpacking, camping, sandboarding, and stargazing. The park also offers ranger-led programs, including interpretive walks and talks, as well as educational activities for families and children.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or simply a place to relax and soak up the beauty of nature, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a must-visit destination.
5. Mesa Verde National Park
Distance From Aurora: 7 hours via 285-S & US-160 W.
Mesa Verde National Park is known for its remarkable cliff dwellings, which were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people over 700 years ago.
The park covers over 52,000 acres and is home to over 4,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, which provide a unique glimpse into the lives and culture of the ancient Pueblo people.
The most famous of these cliff dwellings is Cliff Palace, which is the largest cliff dwelling in North America and has over 150 rooms. Visitors to Mesa Verde National Park can take guided tours of several of the cliff dwellings, including Cliff Palace, as well as participate in ranger-led programs, such as hikes and campfire talks.
In addition to its rich cultural history, Mesa Verde National Park is also known for its stunning natural beauty. The park features a range of landscapes, including mesas, canyons, and meadows, and is home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, coyotes, and a variety of birds.
CHECK OUT: 14 MIGHTY UTAH NATIONAL PARKS & MONUMENTS
Mesa Verde Highlights
Cliff Palace is the show-stopper and the main attraction at Mesa Verde. A guided tour is required and is highly enjoyable as a park ranger explains to you historians limited understanding of what went on at Mesa Verde so long ago.
Cedar Tree Tower is a great example of the many ruined towers that have been discovered along mesa tops in this area. It requires a very short hike and is self-guided so you can take your time exploring the area.
CHECK OUT: LIST OF 128 BEST US MONUMENTS RANKED
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance From Aurora: 1 hour and 52 minutes via US-36 W/Denver Boulder Turnpike & US-36 W.
Rocky Mountain National Park was established as a national park in 1915 and covers over 265,000 acres of stunning mountain landscapes, including snow-capped peaks, alpine lakes, and vast forests. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and over 280 species of birds.
One of the park’s most iconic features is Longs Peak, which is the highest peak in the park and a popular destination for climbers and hikers.
Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park can also participate in a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching. The park also offers ranger-led programs, such as guided walks and campfire talks, as well as educational activities for families and children.
In addition to its natural beauty, Rocky Mountain National Park is also known for its scenic drives, including Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest continuous paved road in the United States and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Check Out Our Rocky Mountain Video
ROCKY MOUNTAIN 8K is the culmination of several years spent filming in the rugged mountains of Colorado.
Situated in the heart of Colorado’s Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park spans more than 400 square miles of jaw-dropping mountain beauty. Journey with us as we experience all four seasons of life high in the wild heartland of the continental divide.
National Parks Near Aurora FAQ
Top 5 National Parks to See the Northern Lights in America
North Cascades National Park, Washington.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota.
Glacier National Park, Montana.
Denali National Park, Alaska.
Rocky Mountain National Park. At only an hour and a half drive from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, the park is a memorable summer day trip
The Best Colorado National Parks:
Rocky Mountain National Park. Location: Central Colorado. …
Great Sand Dunes National Park. …
Mesa Verde National Park. …
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. …
Dinosaur National Monument. …
Colorado National Monument. …
Browns Canyon National Monument. …
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Aurora?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Aurora
National Parks Near Aurora
- Arches National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
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