The Rocky Mountains are the birthplace of the Arkansas River, the most popular river in the United States. It is also perfect for white water rafting, whether you want to go for a half day, or turn it into a multi-day trip extravaganza. There are many different rafting routes depending on your level of expertise, from family-friendly to expert Class IV.
The Denver Art Museum is a world-class conservatory of over 70,000 works of art from around the world and in varied media. It has an excellent collection of American Indian art, which represents nearly every tribe across North America, and has the world’s foremost collection of American West art. Lovers of European art will be delighted by its inclusion of works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Pissarro.
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The natural grasslands beauty can be a refreshing contrast to the beauty found at mountains or beaches. Explore the area and the prehistoric drawings, or head out to the Picketwire Canyon to see dinosaur tracks! Hit the trails on foot or bicycle, or even on horseback. You can “rough it” at the local campground or head back to a hotel to put your feet up.
Visit any of the 5 visitors centers in the park; one is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places and was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. There is a variety of landscapes to explore, from mountains to mountain tundra, and a wide array of wildlife. Whether you come for a day and do a short hike, or stay and camp out to go on longer treks, the scenery will impress you. Don’t miss the Arapaho National Forest or Indian Peaks Wilderness.
If playing in a giant sandbox appeals to you, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa is a must-visit. This giant dune field of 30sqmi (78sqkm) features at least one dune that’s more than 750ft (229m) high. Sledding down the dunes is a popular pastime, as is hiking and camping. There are also horseback riding trails and the scenic four-wheel drive on Medano Pass.
Cliff Palace and Balcony House are ancient cliff dwellings that the ancestral Pueblo Indians inhabited in the 12th and 13th centuries. Located in Mesa Verde National Park, both are World Heritage Sites and National Monuments. Balcony House had forty-five rooms and two kivas (ovens), and it can only be accessed on ranger-guided tours. Tour participants must climb a thirty-two foot ladder and then crawl through a twelve-foot tunnel to access Balcony House.