National Parks, Monuments, Grasslands, Historic Sites and Landmarks in Colorado
Experience Colorado's National Treasures Run by the National Park Service US Department of the Interior
Colorado has a large selection of National Park Service destinations from remote grasslands to natural and historic landmarks to national parks and monuments. While vacationing in Colorado be sure to explore one of our national treasures. Congress established the National Park Service in 1916 -- Colorado is blessed to have one of the First! On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act. Happy Birthday Rocky Mountain National Park!
The largest, Rocky Mountain National Park, features some of the world's most spectacular scenic high-mountain terrain; Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadows All-American Road climbs to 12,183 feet on its route from Grand Lake to Estes Park through RMNP. Mesa Verde National Park reflects more than 700 years of Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) history; in 1978 it was designated a World Heritage Site. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is home to North America's tallest dunes, rising 700 feet above the valley floor with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains framing the landscape. Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site was a stop along the Santa Fe Trail, now a Scenic and Historic Byway, is a reconstruction of the 1833 trading post along the Arkansas River. Dinosaur National Monument and Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas Natural National Landmark are known for their vast fossil bone quarry, with more than 1,500 bones from 11 different species of dinosaur. US Air Force Academy Cadet Area National Historic Landmark was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004 with its distinctive design, modernist style, and extensive use of aluminum suggesting the outer skin of aircraft or spacecraft.
Explore our two maps: Colorado's National Parks, Monuments, Grasslands and Colorado's National Historic Sites and Landmarks. You'll be planning years of Colorado Vacations!
2023 National Park Free Days!
January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 22: First Day of National Park Week
August 4: Great American Outdoors Act Anniversary
August 7: Colorado Day
September 23: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day
National Park: These parks are owned and protected by our national government because of their natural beauty and/or the importance to history or science authorized by acts of Congress. They are generally large natural places having a wide variety of attributes, often including significant historic assets, wildlife viewing, hiking, and sight-seeing. Hunting, mining and consumptive activities are not authorized.
National Monument: The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the President to declare, by public proclamation, landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest situated on lands owned, protected or controlled by the government to be national monuments.
National Historic Site: A National Historic Site contains a single historical feature that is directly associated with the development and/or expansion of our Country. Derived from the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a number of historic sites were established by Secretaries of the Interior, but most have been authorized by acts of Congress.
National Natural Landmark: A natural area that has been designated by the Secretary of the Interior to recognize some of the best examples of biological or geological resources in the nation. Some National Natural Landmarks are on privately owned land like Indian Springs Trace Fossil Site National Natural Landmark near Cañon City. The site represents a diverse group of trace fossils from medium to large arthropods: trilobites, eurypterids, merostomes, and limulids (horseshoe crabs).
National Historic Landmark: National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States.
National Grasslands: The origin of our national grasslands hearkens back to the Homestead Act of 1862; and then official designated in 1960. Colorado's 2 grasslands in eastern Colorado showcase our open prairie indigenous and ranching culture before the "west was won": Comanche and Pawnee National Grasslands.
National Trails System: The National Trails System is a network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement. Colorado and New Mexico have three trails connecting us: Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The Pony Express National Historic Trail dips into Colorado as it makes its way across Nebraska. See a National Map for more information.
National Heritage Area: This designation is relatively new to our National Park Service. In 1984, the first National Heritage Area in the country was signed into law by President Reagan. The National Heritage Areas feature large-landscapes that include active communities, a multi-disciplinary emphasis, and community-based coordination. Colorado has three: Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area, Sangre De Cristo National Heritage Area, and South Park National Heritage Area.
National Historic District: This national designation honors, preserves, and protects buildings and areas that have been determined to have a special character and historic, architectural, or aesthetic interest or value to a city or region. There are currently 12 national historic districts in Colorado: Boggsville, Breckenridge, Central City - Blackhawk, Crested Butte, Cripple Creek, Durango, Fort Collins, Georgetown - Silver Plume, Lake City, Leadville, Silverton, and Telluride. PLEASE NOTE: Additional towns have historic districts that local officials have designated and are not on this list.