As you could probably guess from the title of this article, this revitalizing road trip occurs across the graceful state of Colorado, taking you from elegant and scenic mountain ranges to archaic dwellings and sizable sand dunes. The Colorado Rockies Road Trip takes you across several parks in the state, including the Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and many others.
This road trip is accessible from large cities such as Colorado Springs and Denver, so don’t shy away from embarking on this trip as you may just be one plane ride away from an adventure of a lifetime!
Now onto why you really need to take this trip.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Never has there been such an influx of visitors coming to experience the splendor of Rocky Mountain National Park. During 2019 alone, this national park has recorded over 4.7 million visitors, the third most visited national park in the country. The 415 square miles of Rocky Mountain National Park encompass and protect a stellar mountain range along with other breathtaking natural features. While visiting the park, be sure to enjoy the tranquility of the Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at 12,000 feet and includes multiple overlooks for the ultimate snowcapped mountain viewing experience. Along with 300 miles of hiking trails, peaceful starry nights, wildlife, and adventure, you’re in for a seriously great time at Rocky Mountain National Park!
Though not uncommon to travel through a national park and not catch sight of any wildlife, it’s highly unlikely at Rocky Mountain National Park. From daily sightings of mule deer and chipmunks to rare elk viewing opportunities during the mating season, the wildlife in this park is immersive and makes you feel you’re a part of something wonderful.
Apart from the stunning landscape, Rocky Mountain National Park also offers a multitude of opportunities for relaxing and enlivening experiences. If you’re up to it, the park offers a variety of activities to do with friends and family, which include:
- Whitewater rafting and kayaking
- Mountain biking
- Backcountry skiing
- Horseback riding
- Attending a ranger program
- Visiting waterfalls
- Bird watching
Make sure to review the visitor information and seek out a visitor center for all the important details like where to go, what to do there, and how to prepare for a fun and safe experience at the park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Dive right into the tallest mountains of sand in North America. Yes, you heard that right, sand mountains, in Colorado. This goes to show how truly diverse the landscape is in this country. Enclosed where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains converge inwards, the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve have been growing for many years. A marvel of Goliath proportions, the entirety of the dunes only take up 30 square miles, though the tallest dune stands at over 750 feet high.
Your inner child will love sledding down the dunes all year round and digging into the smooth sand tracks of those who have climbed before you.
The park also offers several camping options. The Piñon Flats Campground, which is managed by the National Park Service, can be booked in advance. However, there are only 44 sites available and they’re distributed on a first come, first serve basis. For the more adventurous, free (mandatory) backcountry permits are also available at the park’s visitor center. Once you obtain the permit, you will be able to set up your tent anywhere in the 30-square-foot dune field situated outside the “day-only use” area. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on the type of person you are), you must hike a minimum of 1.5 miles across the dunes, but it will definitely be worth it. Backpacking (again, with permission) is also possible within the foothills.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Steering in a different direction, you’ll find the Black Canyon of The Gunnison. The power of mother nature is evident here, as this terrain characterized by steep, ancient rocks has been in the making for millions of years.
Just like any other park, you can take part in a variety of adventurous activities within the borders of the Gunnison’s Black Canyon. If you’re not afraid of heights, feel free to explore the inner parts of the canyon, but be careful, some parts of the hike may be a little tricky! If you’re not feeling up for a challenge during your visit, opt for a scenic drive along the rim of the river which will take you all the way down into it. Visitors can also go kayaking in the lake.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your calendar and set a date for your trip today, you will not regret it. Each season provides you with a whole new array of opportunities, making any time ideal to take this road trip!
Before your trip, plan a route using the map guide at the US-Parks website. However, you’ll want to plot your route using either Google Maps or any other GPS provider to ensure that you are aware of any potential road closures or construction work that may delay your road trip. This will help you optimize your time for all the fun activities along the way!