Mesa Verde has been inhabited since 7500 BC by nomadic tribes, and the experts estimate that the first pueblos were built in 650 AD. The impressive cliff dwellings that still bring visitors to the park were built in 1200 AD. See the Cliff Palace and spend some time learning about these native americans at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Don’t forget to explore the Mesa Top Loop Road for some excellent viewpoints and canyon overlooks.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre provides a unique natural landscape in which to listen to live music. Surrounded by and created from the incredible red sandstone monoliths from which it gets its name, the park offers a world-class line-up of musicians during concert season, from late spring to fall, the Film on the Rocks program and yoga sessions. You can walk around the stage and explore trails throughout the park.
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In twenty-five acres of Colorado, more gold has been mined than in all of Alaska and California combined. The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine was at the heart of Colorado’s gold mining industry, and this tour takes visitors into mine shafts and tunnels that have been worked since 1889. An elevator ferries visitors 1,000 feet below the earth, and it is not for the claustrophobic.
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.
On the Colorado-Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is an incredible testament to the natural and geological history of the area. You can see more than 1,500 fossils on display on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There are also petroglyphs of lost cultures and the abandoned homesteads of early settlers. For the adventurers, there are camping and whitewater rafting opportunities.
There are plenty of activities for outdoors lovers here. Explore the trails, you’ll find that they lead you through forests and wetlands that surround the dunes. You should also be sure to visit Medano Lake, one of several alpine lakes and filled with trout if you’re a fisherman. Trek out to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – the Medano Pass Primitive Road guides you through a canyon until you reach the mountains.
Kids will enjoy the carousel and trips in airplanes and trains that entertain without being frightening. Island Kingdom Water Park is a huge wet playground within Elitch Gardens with a whole assortment of water slides, including ones with enormous drops, and others that hurtle you at high speed. For families and children there are a lazy river, a wave pool, and slides geared to small tykes.
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.
The museum’s holdings of African art include rare sculptures and focus on the works of the Yoruba people of West Africa. The museum is family-friendly, providing backpacks of activities for visiting children to help them explore the world of art, and it offers free admission every day for youth under the age of 18. The museum has a popular restaurant, Palette, and a gift shop full of interesting souvenirs.
The park has day areas for picnics and changing rooms, or you can stay overnight if you want to extend your trip. Explore the nearby hiking trails or bring your bike if you’re a cyclist. You can always relax in the springs and soothe your sore muscles after. The beauty and unique stone formations around the springs will make your visit well worth it.
Not a drive for the faint of heart, as the trees disappear, so do the guardrails. Take your time around the curves for the sake of the views and your own safety. You’ll see mountain goats and bighorn sheep continue to graze without even batting an eye at your visit. Enjoy looking down on the world – the clouds don’t even make it up here all the time!
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, about 6mi (10km) outside the center of Golden, pays tribute to Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody. It sheds light on his life and Wild West shows and contains artefacts such as Sitting Bull’s bow and arrows, show outfits and other objects from the Old West. The gravesite and museum sit in Lookout Mountain Park, overlooking the natural beauty of the Great Plains and the Rockies. You may even catch sight of the herd of buffalo and other wildlife that live in the area.
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.
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad starts in Antonito, Colorado, and runs all the way through to Chama, New Mexico, spanning a track of 64 miles. Take a trip back in time on this old fashioned, narrow gauge heritage railroad and enjoy the countryside as you pass through it. You’ll have a front seat view of Toltec Gorge, the inspiration for the name of this railroad.
Mesa Verde (green table in Spanish) is located in southwest Colorado. The area was deemed a national park in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. It is a gorgeous national park and World Heritage site that preserves ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, and is an ideal destination for history and nature lovers alike. Grab your walking shoes and bring your camera when you visit Mesa Verde.