National Park Service is by far the best government agency in the US – and possibly the whole world – and national parks are its crown jewels, the pride and joy of the system. Colorado is proud to have four of these gems, which are all worth a visit:
Great Sand Dunes National Park
When my family roadtripped around Colorado in the 90s, this place had yet to gain its park status, but that didn’t keep us from hiking up those hills, sledding down the sandy slopes and feeling the enormous heat of the warm dunes through our sneakers. A couple years ago, my husband and I camped next to the dunes, waking up together with the sun to hike to the highest point of the dunes before they were too hot to handle. One of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Our closest national park will always hold a special spot in my heart, and not just because I got married there. This park is a dream come true for any hiker, full of wonderful trails where anyone can find their favorite, be it wildflowers, mountain vistas, alpine lakes or secluded groves. And even if you’re not into hiking, there’s always Trail Ridge Road, the highest altitude paved highway in the US with amazing views of the Rockies.
Mesa Verde National Park
There’s only one national park in the US that was founded mainly to protect human heritage, and that is Mesa Verde. Here you can ponder what forced the ancestral Pueblo people to abandon their homes more than 700 years ago after they had built a civilization on the sides of canyons. You need at least a couple hours for a visit, but we spent a whole day there to explore the cliff dwellings.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon is actually not a canyon but a gorge, one of the steepest and deepest in the US. More than 800 meters deep at most and only around 350 meters wide at its narrowest, it’s probably the darkest gorge around, and that’s where it got its name: at parts of it, sunlight reaches the bottom only 30 minutes a day. We contemplated hiking to the bottom but thought it best to leave it for some other time, as you can always roll down a mountain if you get tired, but a gorge is a whole lot tougher business to hike up.