Near Colorado Springs are national parks! The Garden of the Gods is just a tiny portion of the Centennial State’s offerings. In this post, we’ll introduce you to the magnificent national parks a day’s drive from the center of Colorado Springs.
In the years after I retired from teaching in 2018, I’ve visited several of these fantastic places. Is it necessary to remind you that I teach history? I have dedicated my life to instructing others on the significance of these historical locations. Then, I got to witness them personally. And now I’m telling you the tales of these unique locales. There is nothing better than that!
It is an excellent location for outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado Springs. It’s one of the finest locations to live for various reasons, including the mountain vistas, outdoor activities, and many career options.
You can reach all the incredible national parks in a day or less by car.
So, What Is A National Park?
Because there is a distinction between a “national park” and a “national park site,” we frequently receive this question. Please read our article What Is A National Park Really to better grasp the difference.
The book Moon Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs: Getaways, Outdoor Recreation, Bites & Brews (Travel Guide) by Mindy Sink is one I strongly suggest if you’re considering a vacation to Colorado Springs.
So, let’s continue with six reasons why you should get in your car and drive to one of these great locations from Colorado Springs for the day.
- Arches National Park
I-70 W travel time from Colorado Springs is 6 hours 15 minutes.
The good news is that Colorado Springs and Arches National Park are accessible by car daily. The bad news is that you should bring a lunch because the drive will take most of the day, but it will be well worth it.
Of all the parks in Utah, Arches National Park may be the most engaging since it has scenery that appeals to the inner kid in all of us. Sand walks are ideal for sandals or bare feet, sandstone corridors and caves, and red rock panoramas that provide a fantastic experience.
Due to its closeness to Moab, the Park may get rather crowded at times, so when visiting, make the most of the early hours and think about going in the shoulder seasons.
The famous arch on the Utah license plate and around which every traveler bases their itinerary is the Delicate Arch (seen in the top image). Although a significant elevation and some sandstone navigation are involved, most people may quickly complete the journey up to Delicate Arch.
The most enormous arch in the world, measuring 306 feet of worn sandstone, is known as the Landscape Arch. This hike is a must-do while visiting the Arches; it is only 1.5 miles roundtrip.
The Double O Arch in the picture above is a very unusual arch on top of another turn. Plan appropriately and pack lots of water because this 4.1-mile out-and-back walk is a little more challenging.
2. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
Distance via US-50 W from Colorado Springs: 4 hours 20 min.
This is one of the most underappreciated national parks in the country. Since it is a relatively new park, it has yet to be on many park-goers’ summer trip itineraries.
This is lovely news for Black Canyon enthusiasts since we will enjoy more of the Park.
This stunning landscape deserves the same extended gazes given to locations like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
The Park is distant; when we say remote, we mean remote. Since the nearest amenities are far from the Park’s entrance, you should pack everything.
However, if you can afford it, this one is worthwhile to see.
3. Canyonlands National Park
I-70 W travel time from Colorado Springs is 6 hours 30 minutes.
It’s another lovely park well worth the journey, so pack another lunch and be happy you did.
One of the parks with vistas that one could ostensibly stare at for days without becoming bored or realizing just how big the area is in Canyonlands National Park.
Mesa Arch is home to one of the most popular sunrises and Green River, one of the most spectacular sunsets in this national Park.
The problem? Drive all four wheels. If you have it, you’re good to go and can explore all the fantastic locations the Park offers.
Without it, you’ll spend most of your time in the Park only enjoying the views from above, which are still well worth the journey.
The Needles, which make up the southeastern part of the Park, received their name from the towering sandstone spires that dot the landscape. Numerous hiking trails and 4WD roads leading to intriguing ruins are available in the Needles region.
Most visitors to the Park congregate around Mesa Arch to take pictures of the arch with a vista, the most photographed attraction in the Park. The light rises through the arch at sunrise, illuminating the vast countryside, making it the ideal time to visit.
The Shafer Trail is the best 4WD trail in the country. Here, you may test the limits of your high clearance, four-wheel-drive SUV on this treacherous, unpaved, and downright terrifying route.
4. Garden of the Gods
Thirteen minutes via E. Colorado Ave. and S. 30th St. from Colorado Springs.
It’s not a national park location, so that warned. Having said that, if you’re coming from Colorado Springs, you won’t need to bring lunch because it’s only a little more than 15 minutes away.
Why the Garden of the Gods? Remember that Garden of the Gods is more than simply a park—we’re More Than simply Parks.
What exactly is Garden of the Gods, then? I’m thrilled you inquired.
The National Park Service has designated Garden of the Gods Park a National Natural Landmark. Imagine stunning scenery with 300-foot-tall sandstone rock formations, Pikes Peak in the distance covered in snow, and clear, sunny skies. Additionally, it is home to a premier visitor center. There is also a museum with brand-new interactive displays that is the most popular tourist destination in the area.
There are 21 miles of pathways to explore in the Garden of the Gods if you enjoy nature exploration, which you do because you are reading this post in the first place.
So many trails, so little time
There are some great trails, such as:
- PERKINS CENTRAL GARDEN TRAIL: Less than a 30-foot elevation marks the simple 1 1/2 mile round trip walk. This walk sits in the Park’s center at the bottom of the highest rock formations.
- RIDGE TRAIL: A gentle, half-mile loop with a 100-foot or less ascent. You feel as though you are walking amid the rocks along this trail.
- SIAMESE TWINS TRAIL: Less than 150 feet rise throughout the straightforward one-mile loop. The twins’ built-in window has a unique view of Pikes Peak.
- CHAMBERS/BRETAG/PALMER TRAIL: It is a three-mile moderate trek with a gain of under 250 feet. This track traverses undulating, rocky terrain away from the traffic, nearly encircling the entire Park.
- SCOTSMAN/BUCKSKIN CHARLIE TRAIL: It is a gentle walk around the Park. Take the distant vistas of the Central Garden landforms from these sweeping, rocky pathways. (Source: Visitor & Nature Center at Garden of the Gods)
5. Fantastic Sand Dunes National Parks
I-25 S and US-160 W can take you there in two hours and 26 minutes from Colorado Springs.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of America’s most underappreciated national parks. Picture the Sahara Desert with the Rocky Mountains in the background.
Great Sand Dunes is a magnificent park with some of the most gorgeous and extraordinary landscapes anywhere in the world. It sits in southern Colorado.
Although the Park is somewhat out of the way and not close to other significant sites, the trek is more than worthwhile. Because of its secluded location, you won’t have to cope with the crowds, now an issue in many other once-tranquil parks.
We suggest late summer for the best weather in the Great Sand Dunes. The dunes see fewer pests and cooler temperatures in the late summer, making trekking and overnight camping agreeable.
6. Mesa Verde National Park
I-25 S and US-160 W travel from Colorado Springs for six hours and seven minutes.
So why would you want to drive from Colorado Springs for over six hours? To view Mesa Verde’s cliff homes, which are the most beautiful. A national park for budding archaeologists.
This jewel of a distant desert park brims with wonderfully preserved ancient Pueblo homes and ruins.
For any history-loving American, the opportunity to stroll amid the stunning remains and consider the lives of individuals who called this area home so long ago is a rite of passage.
This remote Park sits in the southwest of Colorado, but if you can make it there, it’s well worth the trek.
Sunsets here are breathtaking as you stroll between enormous ruins and look over the endless sagebrush desert beyond.