Cross the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and see the many lakes, creeks and mountain ranges – there are 8 ranges in total. Climb Coney Summit, it’s 13,334 feet above sea level. Take a load off your feet and take a horseback ride, or grab a mountain bike. Explore the old mining towns and ancient Indian trails, and you can even treat yourself to a night or two at a ski resort while you’re there.
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.
Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, is perhaps the greatest archaeological wonder in the United States and a Unesco World Heritage site. Learn about the lives and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people as you visit Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, incredible cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages built between 600 and 1300. There are also a few hiking trails available within the park, including one to a petroglyph panel.
A registered National Natural Landmark just outside Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods Park is open year-round and offers stunning views of its 300ft (91m) sandstone rock formations, along with hiking, horseback riding and camping. The Visitor and Nature Center has all kinds of interactive exhibits. If you’re looking for souvenirs, the Trading Post, which lies on the edge of the park, features artwork by local artists. Admission to the park is free.
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.