Article Summary: National Parks Near Colorado Springs
National Parks near Colorado Springs! There’s so much more to the Centennial State than the Garden of the Gods.
In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national parks that are within a day’s drive of downtown Colorado Springs.
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!
Colorado Springs is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream! Mountain views, an abundance of outdoor recreation, and ample job opportunities are just a few reasons that it’s one of the best places to live.
It’s also home to some amazing national parks which are within a day’s drive (or less) of 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 Colorado Springs then one book that I highly recommend is: Moon Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs: Getaways, Outdoor Recreation, Bites & Brews (Travel Guide) by Mindy Sink.
So let’s go ahead with 6 reasons why you’ll want to hop into your car and make a day’s drive from Colorado Springs to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Colorado Springs
National Parks Near Colorado Springs
- National Parks Near Colorado Springs
- 2. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
- National Parks Near Colorado Springs FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
National Parks Near Colorado Springs
1. Arches National Park
Distance From Colorado Springs: Six hours & 15 minutes via I-70 W.
The good news is that Arches National Park is within a day’s drive of Colorado Springs. The bad news is that you’d better pack a lunch because it’s a long day’s drive, but well worth it.
Arches National Park is perhaps the most interactive of all the Utah parks filled with scenery that brings out the child in all of us. Sandstone hallways and tunnels, rocks to climb on and over, sandy trails perfect for sandals or even bare feet at times, and red rock vistas that make for an unforgettable experience.
It’s close proximity to Moab does make it a bit of a crowded park at times so be sure to take advantage of early mornings when visiting and consider going during the shoulder seasons.
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 Colorado Springs: Four hours & 20 minutes via US-50 W.
Of all the underrated national parks out there, this one is near the top of the list. As a relatively new park it has flown under the radar of most park-goers’ summer travel plans.
For those who love Black Canyon, this is great news as it means more of the park for us.
The scenery here is breathtaking and warrants the same long gazes afforded to places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
The catch of course is that the park is remote, and when we say remote, we do mean remote. The nearest services are quite a ways from the park entrance so you’ll wan to bring everything you need with you.
That said, this one is worth a visit if you can swing it.
CHECK OUT: ALL 9 EPIC CALIFORNIA NATIONAL PARKS RANKED
3. Canyonlands National Park
Distance From Colorado Springs: Six hours & 30 minutes via I-70 W.
Pack another lunch, but be glad that you did because this is another amazing park that’s well worth the drive.
Canyonlands National Park is one of the parks that has views that one can seemingly gaze upon for days without losing interest or comprehending exactly the vastness of the landscape.
Mesa Arch here represents one of the most photographed sunrises in all of the national park system and Green River overlook one of the most dazzling sunsets.
The catch? Four-wheel drive. If you’ve got it you’re set and have full access to all of the unbelievable destinations the park has to offer.
Without it, your time in the park will be mostly limited to overlooks from above, which are still well worth the trip.
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.
4. Garden of the Gods
Distance From Colorado Springs: 13 minutes via E. Colorado Ave & S 30th St.
Spoiler Alert: It’s not a national park site. That having been said, you won’t have to pack a lunch if you’re travelling from Colorado Springs since it’s less than 15 minutes away.
Why Garden of the Gods? Remember: We’re More Than Just Parks and Garden of the Gods is more than just a park.
So, what is Garden of the Gods? I’m so glad you asked.
Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark. Imagine dramatic views, 300′ towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. And, it hosts a world-class Visitor & Nature Center. There’s also a museum that is the most visited attraction in the region with all new interactive exhibits.
If you love exploring nature (and you must or why else would you be reading this article in the first place) then you should know that there are there are 21 miles of trails to explore in the Garden of the Gods.
So many trails, so little time
There are some amazing trails which include:
- PERKINS CENTRAL GARDEN TRAIL: It’s an easy, 1 1/2 mile roundtrip path, with less than a 30 foot rise. This trail is in the heart of the Park at the base of the highest rock formations.
- RIDGE TRAIL, a moderate, 1/2 mile loop, with less than 100 foot rise in elevation. This path gives you the feeling of being among the rocks.
- SIAMESE TWINS TRAIL is an easy 1 mile roundtrip, with less than a 150 foot rise. There is a unique view of Pikes Peak through the natural window of the twins.
- CHAMBERS/BRETAG/PALMER TRAIL is a moderate, 3 mile hike with less than a 250 foot rise. Nearly circling the entire Park, this trail covers rolling, rocky terrain away from the traffic.
- SCOTSMAN/BUCKSKIN CHARLIE TRAIL is a moderate trail that loops through the Park. Enjoy the distant views of the Central Garden formations from these rolling, rocky trails. (Source: Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center)
5. Great Sand Dunes National Parks
Distance From Colorado Springs: Two hours & 26 minutes via I-25 S & US-160 W.
Imagine the Sahara Desert with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains – you’re looking at one of the most underrated national parks in America, Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Great Sand Dunes is a spectacular park located in southern Colorado that features some of the most breathtaking and unique scenery anywhere in the world.
The park is fairly remote and not necessarily near other big attractions, but it’s certainly more than worth the trip. Due to its remote location you won’t have to deal with crowds which are becoming more and more of a problem in many other once-quiet parks.
We recommend late-summer for optimal conditions at Great Sand Dunes. Late summer brings few bugs and slightly cooler temperatures on the dunes making for enjoyable hiking and overnight camping.
6. Mesa Verde National Park
Distance From Colorado Springs: Six hours & 7 minutes via I-25 S & US-160 W.
So why would you want to take a road trip of over six hours from Colorado Springs? To see the most amazing the cliff dwellings which protect Mesa Verde. It’s a budding archaeologists’ dream national park.
Ancient pueblo dwellings and ruins are beautifully preserved throughout this gem of a remote desert park.
Getting to walk amongst the exquisite ruins and ponder the lives of those who made this place home so long ago is a rite of passage for any historical-minded American.
Located in the southwest corner of Colorado this park is a bit out there but totally worth a trip if you can make it happen.
Sunsets here are spectacular as you walk amidst vast ruins and gaze out at the never-ending expanse of sage-brush desert beyond.
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.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance From Colorado Springs: One hour & 25 minutes via US-36 W/Denver Boulder Turnpike & US-36 W.
Tucked into the heart of Colorado’s Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park spans more than 400 square miles of breathtaking mountain scenery.
This national park is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the American Rockies and it’s no wonder why.
Rocky Mountain is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, beaver, deer, black bear, eagles, marmots, mountain lions, and so much more.
However, in recent years visitation has increased dramatically at the expense of the visitor experience (not to mention the impact on the park itself).
What was once mostly an issue reserved for the bear lake area of the park has now spread to the rest of the park (especially around the Estes Park entrance).
Crowd sizes have swelled to the point that the National Park Service has instituted a timed entry program to control the crowds. With population centers soaring near the park, we expect this issue to become more exacerbated with each passing year.
CHECK OUT: LIST OF 128 BEST US MONUMENTS RANKED
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.
Rocky Mountain was the first film we chose to shoot in all four seasons because of the amazing change that takes place throughout the park during that time. Our primary focus was the fall season due to the spectacular fall colors but also the elk rutting season which is incredible to witness.
The most popular sections of Rocky Mountain National Park are situated next to Estes Park, Colorado. We spent a great deal of time in this section of the park capturing it’s epic scenes.
National Parks Near Colorado Springs FAQ
Only 90 miles from Colorado Springs is the breathtaking Great Sand Dunes National Park. Boasting the tallest dunes in North America, with the stunning Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, this park offers spectacular views that you won’t find anywhere else.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Colorado Springs?
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 Colorado Springs
List Of National Parks Near Colorado Springs
- Arches National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Garden of the Gods
- 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!