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.
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Rough it and bring some camping gear – you can sleep under the stars, you’ll be so far away from the city lights that the stars seem to burn even brighter. There are plenty of cliffs if you’re a mountain climber. Hike along the South or North Rims for some excellent vistas, you’ll feel like you’re somehow closer to nature and that time seems to not exist here.
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.
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.
Bring your camera to capture the sparkling turquoise waters and melodic waterfalls that feed into the lake. It is home to a delicate ecosystem that is maintained by refraining from swimming or splashing in the tempting water, a sacrifice well worth it to preserve the environment. Enjoy the naturally occurring hanging plant gardens and peace that comes with this tranquil lake.
Still haven’t packed enough into your Colorado vacation? Make time to see some of the great Colorado mountain attractions — tour a ghost town near Aspen, sail above the mountains in a balloon over Breckenridge, rock out at a music festival in Telluride, check out the nightlife scene in Vail and try your luck at a casino in Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek.