Lake Agnes, State Forest State Park, Colorado
Lifestyle, Outdoor Adventures, Travel

Discover 7 Incredible Colorado State Parks

Colorado is a nature lover’s paradise. From the outdoor enthusiast trying to hit the trails every weekend to the family looking for a relaxing weekend getaway, the perfect escape can be found at one of our many state parks! Colorado has 42 diverse state parks which offer everything from mountain biking to water skiing to horseback riding to spending the night in a secluded yurt.

With the abundance of state parks scattered throughout Colorado, chances are there’s one close by, which makes them much more accessible than our four national parks. You’ve got plenty of choices for your next adventure, and the following seven incredible state parks are just a few of our favorite options.

Chatfield State Park

In 1870, Issac W. Chatfield, a Lieutenant in the Civil War, bought land to farm. After several years of flooding from significant rain, overgrowing the banks, and wiping out bridges, homes, and businesses, the State built the Chatfield Dam as flood control. Now a local’s favorite, Chatfield State Park is home to a reservoir, floating restaurant, and marina. Float whatever boat you wish on this large lake. There’s plenty of water for everyone, from sails to paddleboards, wakeboards, and fishing boats. Take a break from fishing, enjoy biking or hiking on trails, or take your pup to the dog park to meet new friends.

Location: Littleton, Colorado

Best known for: biking, boating, fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, hot-air ballooning, jet skiing, paddleboarding, swimming, water skiing.

Top Hiking Trails: Chatfield Internal Trails Network (10 miles of paved trails, 16 miles of unpaved trails), Chatfield Dam Trail.

Wildlife: Deer, elk, bald eagles, red fox, cottontail rabbits, bears, rattlesnakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, tiger salamanders, and over 200 bird species.

Camping: Stay for the day or a week at one of the park’s 200 campsites. With over 197 full hookup sites available and ten tent sites, there’s plenty of room and fun. Reserve your campsite up to six months in advance by reserving online at cpwshop.com.

paddleboarding at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado
Enjoy a day on the water at Chatfield State Park with our Colorado Recklss Paddleboard

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park is a hiking, and climbing mecca tucked away in the Front Range, just 8 miles south of Boulder. It’s known for its towering sandstone cliffs, scenic forests, fishing on South Boulder Creek, endless climbing, and miles of hiking and biking trails. Eldorado Canyon is enjoyed year-round. In winter, many visitors come back to enjoy the solitude and quiet beauty of the picturesque trails by cross country skiing or snowshoeing.

Location: Eldorado Springs, Colorado

Best known for: mountain biking, fishing, hiking, cross country skiing, horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing, and snowshoeing.

Top Hiking Trails: Eldorado Canyon Trail, Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, Fowler Trail, Streamside Trail, Crescent Meadows.

Wildlife: Mule deer, elk, black bear, bobcat, red fox, coyote and mountain lion inhabit the foothills in and around Eldorado Canyon.

Camping: While there is no camping in Eldorado Canyon, there are many nearby places to camp. Campgrounds near Eldorado State Park include Peaceful Valley, Camp Dick, Kelly Dahl, Rainbow Lakes, and Pawnee. Sites can be reserved online at www.recreation.gov.

Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, Colorado

Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls State Park is home to Colorado’s only 70-foot triple waterfall. The falls launch over a limestone cliffside and break into three distinct waterfalls. Mysterious limestone caves hidden along the base of the falls beckon curious hikers looking for more adventure. The spray and mist from the falls make the surrounding scenery unique and give visitors a taste of the tropics. Moss-covered rocks, flowers, brush, trees, and the roar of the falls make Rifle Falls State Park a natural oasis tucked in the middle of an otherwise dry landscape of western Colorado.

Location: Rifle, Colorado

Best known for: waterfall viewing, mountain biking, camping, cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, hunting, and snowmobiling.

Top Hiking Trails: Bobcat Trail, Squirrel Trail, Coyote Trail.

Wildlife: Turkey vultures, mule deer, and great blue herons call Rifle Falls home.

Camping: Visitors who come for the camping get a taste of the tropics with a lush area of trees and greenery kept moist by the spray of the cascading triple waterfall. A hiking trail connects the waterfalls to the campground for a unique camping experience. Rifle Falls has 13 drive-in RV/tent campsites and seven walk-in tent campsites located along Rifle Creek. Campsites are available year-round and can be reserved online at www.recreation.gov.

Waterfalls at Rifle Falls State Park in Rifle, Colorado

Staunton State Park

Staunton State Park was founded in honor of the legacy of Frances Hornbrook Staunton. This state park has a rich history beginning in the early 1900s, including a home, a ranch, logging for a sawmill, and 1,720 acres of grassland, granite cliffs, and rocky foothills. Over the years, the park received grants enabling the surrounding land to be purchased and included. Visitors can now experience over 3,828 acres of rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback, hiking, fishing, and more!

Location: Pine, Colorado

Best known for: waterfalls, biking, camping, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing.

Top Hiking Trails: Bugling Elk Trail, Elk Falls Trail, Historic Cabins Trail, Border Line Trail, Davis Ponds Trail, Mason Creek Trail, Marmot Passage Trail, Staunton Ranch Trail.

Wildlife: The combination of more than 2,000-feet elevation gradient, a variety of terrain, and water features in Staunton results in a diversity of wildlife within the park. Elk, red fox, deer, coyote, mountain lions, bobcats, black bears, birds, golden eagle, falcons, and hawks can all be found in Staunton State Park.

Camping: Staunton boasts 25 walk-in campsites throughout three campgrounds: Ponderosa Campground, Spruce Campground, and Aspen Campground. Camping reservations are required at all state parks and can be made online at cpwshop.com.

View of Lionshead in Staunton State Park near Conifer, Colorado

State Forest State Park

The largest state park in Colorado, State Forest, is 71,000 acres of rugged wilderness, scenic forest, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, and miles of trails. The park stretches along the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains and into the Never Summer Range. State Forest is not only the largest state park but also has the highest concentration of moose in the state. With an estimated 600 moose to be observed year-round, this state park has earned the nickname of the moose viewing capital of Colorado!

Location: Walden, Colorado

Best known for: Moose viewing, camping, bird watching, mountain biking, boating, cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, OHV riding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.

Top Hiking Trails: Lake Agnes Trail, Gould Loop Trail, Ranger Lakes Nature Trail, American Lakes Trail, Kelly and Clear Lake Trails, Ruby Jewel Route, Bull Mountain, Diamond Peaks.

Wildlife: Moose, beaver, porcupine, coyote, red fox, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, lynx, elk, mule deer, and shrews all inhabit the 71,000 acres of forest, jagged peaks, and alpine lakes of State Forest.

Camping: State Forest has six rustic cabins available for rent year-round set along the shore of North Michigan Reservoir. The cabins range in size and can accommodate 6 to 21 people. Never Summer Nordic operates eleven yurts within the State Park, offering a unique backcountry experience in a secluded wooden framed tent. But that’s not all! State forest offers campers 186 developed campsites within five campgrounds plus 44 primitive campsites in select areas. You also can backcountry camp at various locations, including Jewel, Kelly, Clear, and American Lakes. All campsites are by reservation only and can be booked online at www.recreation.gov.

Camper at State Forest State Park holding Colorado Flag Carabiner Mug from The Colorado Store
Camper at State Forest State Park with our favorite Colorado Flag Carabiner Mug

Eleven Mile State Park

Eleven Mile is located just a few miles from Florissant, Divide, and Woodland Park. With many campsite options, including sites with boat access, fishing, hiking, and kayaking, the Eleven Mile Reservoir is an angler family’s paradise. Reel in cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout, salmon, bass, and more from the scenic shores or by boat. Visitors who don’t fish will have plenty to do with nearly 5 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.

Location: Lake George, Colorado

Best known for: biking, birding, backpacking, boating, cross-country skiing, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, Sailboarding.

Top Hiking Trails: Coyote Ridge Interpretive Trail, Midland Trail, Black Bear Trail.

Wildlife: A perfect park for birders, three rare bird species have been observed at the park, the bald eagle, American peregrine falcon, and white pelican. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, porcupine, badger, black bear elk, cottontail rabbit, white-tailed jackrabbit, coyote, and muskrat are also residents of Eleven Mile State Park.

Camping: Eleven Mile has 325 campsites in nine separate campgrounds scattered around the lake. There is something for every camping style, from walk-in sites to lakeshore sites. There are 14 secluded backpacking campsites between 0.50 and .75 miles hiking distance, depending on the campsite location. Rocky Ridge Campground offers the parks only electric sites, and North Shore Campgrounds (Stoll Mountain, Cross Creek, Lazy Boy, Rocking Chair, Howbert Point, and Witcher’s Cove) all have a boat ramp access. Campsite reservations can be made online at cpwshop.com.

Eleven Mile State Park located near Lake George, Colorado

Ridgway State Park

Ridgway State Park is only 15 miles from the town of Ouray (also known as the “Switzerland of America”) and situated at the entrance to the stunning San Juan Mountains. The Uncompahgre River runs through the park offering beautiful scenery and plenty of opportunities for fishing. Still, the main attraction is the Ridgway Reservoir which makes this park a water sports paradise. Water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and windsurfing are all popular activities to do during the summer.

Location: Ridgway, Colorado

Best known for: mountain biking, bird watching, boating, camping, cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, water skiing, and whitewater rafting.

Top Hiking Trails: Mear’s Bay Trail, Marmot Run Trail, Enchanted Mesa Trail, ​Cookie Tree Trail

Wildlife: Elk, bobcat, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, yellow-bellied marmot, red fox, and cottontail rabbit are some of the wildlife species at Ridgway. More than 140 species of birds have been identified in the park, including the golden eagle, black-chinned hummingbird, red-naped sapsucker, and red-tailed hawk.

Camping: Ridgway State Park offers year-round camping. During the summer season, there are 258 campsites for RVs, trailers, campers, motorhomes, and 25 walk-in tent sites for a more remote experience. During the off-season, there are fewer campsites available due to snow. For a different lodging experience, you can stay in one of the three secluded wood-framed yurts! Yurts are open year-round, and some are even pet-friendly. Campsites for Ridgway State Park can be reserved online at cpwshop.com.

Rafters on the Uncompahgre River in Ridgway State Park

The next time you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, check out one of Colorado’s 42 state parks. You can view them all on the Colorado State Park website to find the one nearest you or find somewhere new to explore! 

Are you interested in learning more about Colorado’s four national parks? Check out our blog post, the Quick Guide to Colorado National Parks.

See you on the trails!

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