calm alpine lake at sylvan lake state park outside of eagle, colorado

The majestic Rocky Mountains along with the incredible surrounding scenery in the area is one of the many reasons that visitors are drawn to the Centennial State in the first place. Of course, many visitors plan on exploring Colorado’s national parks. But you certainly don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore some of the best state parks in Colorado, as well.

From lakes, waterfalls and caves, Colorado state parks all have something special to offer. Take time to explore some of these more off the beaten path parks. Bike, hike, camp, fish, or enjoy water sports. Here are a few of what we consider the best state parks in Colorado to visit! 

Believe it or not, winter is also a special time to visit Colorado’s state parks.

Chatfield State Park 

Located in Littleton and still a part of the Denver metropolitan area, the Chatfield State Park is a nature sanctuary that urban-dwellers can go to escape the pressures of everyday life. The park has several trails that are mostly used for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. 

Geocaching, fishing, and hunting are also just a brief glimpse of some of the activities you can do there throughout the summer. They have up to 197 campsites situated within their campground. During the winter, they have snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing. 

Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek State Park is another state park situated in the southern part of the Denver metropolitan area, yet still offers fabulous views of the Cherry Creek Reservoir and the Rocky Mountain range. With over 4,000 acres to explore and a ton of activities at your choosing, it’s the perfect destination to spend the day. 

Swimming, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and jet skiing are just to name a few of their water activities while picnicking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, volleyball, and camping are land activities your family may enjoy. Should you visit the state park during the winter, there’s ice skating, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, along with winter camping. 

Eldorado Canyon 

Just to the south of Boulder, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park is arguably one of the state’s best-kept secrets. 

The golden sandstone cliffs and granite ridges are indeed marvelous to behold, which is why so many rock climbers from all over the world come here for a chance to experience them first-hand. 

There’s plenty of wildlife that you need to watch for, including black bears, bobcats, and mountain lions. Visitors also enjoy horseback riding, hiking, biking, and fishing.   

Eleven Mile

Located almost smack dab in the middle of the state of Colorado is the popular Eleven Mile State Park. This is the perfect water haven for boater and angler enthusiasts alike. The reservoir is filled with trophy rainbow, pike, cutthroat, brown, and several others, which make it an outstanding fishing geographical location. 

Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, and motorboats also have their place there too. Eleven Mile Canyon also has a scenic trails system, and backcountry camping opportunities for your party as well.     

Paddleboarding or SUPing is a fun activity to enjoy in the state parks with lakes.

Golden Gate Canyon

Only a 30 mile drive outside of Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of those state park paradises you certainly won’t want to miss. The park has fantastic canyon views and mountain scenery off in the distance, along with meadows and prairie land where you may witness the wildlife, such as elk, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, and several others. 

You’ll also find hiking, fishing, rock climbing, hunting (in certain areas from Memorial Day through Labor Day), camping, and other recreational activities when you visit.   


For those of you looking for the perfect weekend getaway, look no further. Located next to Fort Collins and Horseshoe Reservoir, Lory State Park has over 26 miles of hiking trails that will take you past amazing sedimentary rock and sandstone formations. 

There’s also grasslands, forests, and prairies that are home to a number of different species of wildlife that you may encounter. For those of you looking for a bit more, the park also offers biking, rock climbing, boating, and backcountry camping. 


The dramatic scenes that you will encounter in Mueller State Park are nothing short of postcard-worthy, especially if you decide your visit during the autumn season. It’s no wonder that it’s in the top ten of the best state parks in the state. 

The landscape that meets the mountain scenery is guaranteed to be more than you could have imagined. You’ll find it almost directly west of Colorado Springs, where there are over 5,000 acres of massive rocks and peaks, grass-covered meadows, and aspen covered ridges. 

Elk, mule deer, and bear are just some of the wildlife that the park is home to, and they have recreational activities that families can enjoy, like hiking, picnicking fishing, and camping. You’ll also find that they have winter activities that are popular, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.   

Rifle, Colorado is home to two very different state parks.

Navajo Lake

The Navajo Lake State Park is a bit on the newer side than most parks on this list, but it boasts over 15,600 surface acres that even cut into New Mexico. This giant water reservoir oasis is ideal for swimming, fishing, and boating. 

You’ll find gasoline, boat, and ball rentals along the water edge, and for all you fisherman out there, the lake is filled with large and small-mouth bass, crappie, trout, northern pike, bluegill, and catfish. The park also has campgrounds, where several spots are open year-round, hiking trails, picnic tables, and wildlife viewing.    

Ridgeway State Park 

You can snag up a campsite with a fantastic view located inside the Ridgeway State Park. It’s another state park with incredible scenery, and it’s only an hour’s drive north of Telluride. The park has an endless list of activities there. 

A few include fishing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, water skiing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, and camping.  If golfing is your thing, there’s a golf course only 7 miles away. 

During the winter, the park activities include snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing, and ice climbing. Be aware that bears are common in the area, so be sure that your family uses bear camping protocols when you visit.  

Rifle Falls

A triple waterfall is the centerpiece of Rifle Falls State Park.
The base of the triple waterfalls at Rifle Falls State Park. An easy loop around makes this one of our favorite things to do with kids in Colorado.

The triple cascades that are surrounded by lush green vegetation scenery at Rifle Falls State Park are something that you and your family will never forget. This is why many weddings, family reunions, and birthdays are held there. 

The park has both thick forests and wetlands, along with mysterious limestone caves that kids love exploring. Hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, and camping are just some of the activities that you can participate in when you visit.    

This park gets quite busy on summer weekends, as many others do. But you actually can visit year round. And, winter has a very different feel.

Rifle Gap State Park 

Are you in search of a special place that you can disconnect and get back in tune with nature? Rifle Gap State Park is an oasis for nature-lovers and also for those that enjoy staying active. It’s only about 40 miles from Glenwood Springs’ renowned hot springs, in the state’s northwestern part. 

The 350-acre reservoir at Rifle Gap State Park has excellent fishing opportunities for anglers. It’s filled with Rainbow and German Brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, pike, yellow perch, and walleye. Swimming, boating, windsurfing, and waterskiing are popular water activities. And there are also great hiking trails, picnicking, and a campground with 89 sites.  Deer and Fair Elk hunting are located just adjacent to the state park.   


For those in the Denver area, Roxborough State Park has nearly 4,000 acres for you to explore. It is the perfect day trip. Unfortunately, the national natural landmark does not allow camping. But it does have a host of hiking trails that are perfect for all different skill levels. The red sandstone rock formations are stunning to see. As well as the diverse bird population and wildlife that you may see in the prairie lands.  

State Forest 

With over 71,000 acres of thick forests, lakes, and majestic mountain peaks, and tons and tons of recreational activities, at State Forest State Park, you’re in for a real treat. The park has over 600 moose on their property. You can observe them all throughout the year, making it Colorado’s moose-viewing capital. 

There is other wildlife as well, such as elk, and black bear. You can enjoy hiking, fishing, geocaching, horseback riding, hunting, four-wheeling, and camping. Throughout the winter they have snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.     

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake, one of many beautiful lakes in Colorado
Sylvan Lake State Park is certainly one of Colorado’s hidden gems.

Surrounded by the White River National Forest, the Sylvan Lake State Park is another park that I’d highly recommend. There’s plenty of mountain scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities that offer fun for the whole family. 

There’s a 42-acre lake that you can canoe, kayak, and paddleboard. Even small motorboats are welcome. The fishing is also top-notch, with brown and brook trout, cutthroat, and rainbow in the lake and streams. This is one of our favorite Colorado alpine lakes.

During the winter, there’s ice fishing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Should you plan on staying for a few days, the park also has campsites, cabins, or yurts available to reserve.   

Best State Parks in Colorado

No matter what part of the state of Colorado you are in, there’s sure to be a state park nearby that has plenty of amazing views and recreational activities that your family won’t want to miss out on.

If you’ve already visited any one of Colorado’s state parks, which one was it, and how was your experience? Which of these do you think are the best state parks in Colorado? Leave a comment below! 

Best State Parks in Colorado

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

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