Discover Colorado’s State Parks: A Local’s Perspective
Guest blog by Monika McCarter
With an enormous variety of landscapes, Colorado boasts some of the most impressive and gorgeous scenery in the country, but one does not have to travel to the high country to enjoy some the state’s finest views.
Being located relatively close to the greater Denver metro area, there are a number of parks and hiking destinations that are especially charming and attractive to all. These destinations are ideal for tourists, and even elderly visitors need not embark on any strenuous hikes or long car rides to get a taste of Colorado’s beautiful scenery.
Our first destination brings us to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Florissant.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Florissant
The easiest way to get there is by taking I-25 South to Colorado Springs, then proceeding to Highway 24 West towards Woodland Park, and from there, continuing to the town of Florissant.
Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov/
The monument is the site of rich and extremely diverse fossil deposits along with a variety of petrified redwood tree stumps. The visitor center is a great starting point to get an overview of the site before heading out to explore.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument offers beautiful, sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and mountains, with a number of trails to choose from. The petrified forest loop is a short, easy-to-walk hike, where one will have the opportunity to stand in the presence of ancient tree stumps from Earth’s past. This hike leads through a meadow, which millions of years ago was a large lake, and offers a beautiful and quaint stroll for visitors. Should any visitor be curious about the site’s history and geology, trails are equipped with signs that provide additional information about each site.
Being particularly beautiful in early summer when local wildflowers are in full bloom, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is assuredly a gorgeous destination to enjoy easy hikes. It is suggested that visitors bring and enjoy lunch on the available picknick tables along the trails.
Next as a must-see destination is Roxborough State Park, which is located roughly 20 miles south of Denver.
Roxborough State Park
The best way to get there is by taking C-470 to the Wadsworth Boulevard exit and heading west for about 7 miles.
Picture credit: Wikipedia
Roxborough State Park is a magnificent location where Colorado’s golden plains meet the awe-inspiring majesty of the Rocky Mountains. The dramatic, red sandstone formations offer breathtaking views, especially against the backdrop of a true blue, cloudless, Colorado day. It’s visitor center also screens a film on the history of the park for visitors and offers all sorts of hands-on information.
For the hikers among us, Roxborough State Park has a number of trails ranging from easy to moderate with some elevation gain, with the highest point in the park reaching an altitude of roughly 7,300ft. The park is of course home to all sorts of wildlife such as coyotes, elk, deer, bear, and mountain lions. On a hot summer day, one might even catch a glimpse of a rattle snake, which also calls the park home.
Another interesting feature of the park is the historic Waterhouse Homestead, which gives one an idea about life in this part of Colorado many years ago.
As an additional benefit, Roxborough State Park does not favor a particular season, as Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer each offer a unique beauty any visitor is sure to enjoy, no matter what time of year.
The last park on our list brings us to Staunton State Park, located close to the town of Conifer.
Staunton State Park
To get there from Denver, simply take Highway 285 south about 6 miles past the town of Conifer.
Staunton State park opened its gates in 2013, and was donated to the state by Frances Staunton, to whom the original homestead and now park belonged.
The granite rock and boulder formations at Staunton are truly stunning and are nestled among meadows and forested trails. The elevation in the park ranges from about 8,000ft to approximately 10,000ft.
Staunton State Park is home to variety of trails which boast beautiful views of high meadows covered with wildflowers in early summer, and impressive mountain views year-round.
Elk Falls Trail, a favorite destination in the park, leads to a beautiful waterfall, but is only accessible via a 12-mile hiking trail. Of a more moderate caliber is the historic cabin trail, where one can get a glimpse of Frances Staunton’s original homestead cabins.
There are plenty if spots for a picnic lunch amidst the mountainous setting. Staunton State Park also includes plenty of spots to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch amongst awe-inspiring mountain views.
Although Staunton State Park is somewhat further away from the Denver metro area, it is well worth the drive to explore the numerous trails and rugged environment of this park.
Photo credit: Go Hike Colorado