Planning a Colorado National Parks Road Trip

Experience the beauty of Colorado firsthand with a Colorado national parks road trip. Read on as this handy guide helps you every step of the way!
colorado national parks road trip
Photo credit: Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Ready to shake things up? A Colorado national parks road trip is just the excursion you need to experience! 

Did you know that you can hike glorious summits, traverse ancient ruins, and scale the nation’s highest sand dunes, all without leaving the state? Yup, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Colorado. 

If you are planning a road trip through Colorado, there are certain spots that you just can’t miss. With this itinerary, the perfect RV and your hunger for adventure, you’ll have the time of your life in Colorado’s national parks. 


Colorado National Parks Road Trip Itinerary  

With green forests, blue wildflowers and red rocky canyons, It’s no wonder why the state has earned the nickname “Colorful Colorado.” You can gaze upon the beauty of not one, not two, but four national parks that are nestled in this nature lover’s playground! 

Since there is so much to see and do, we put together this Colorado national parks road trip map for you and your bunch. We’ll be starting in Denver at the Cruise America Denver location and then traveling through the parks. But, if you’re starting from a different point like Boulder or  Colorado Springs, feel free to tweak this guide to fit your path. 

Now, let’s get exploring! 


Rocky Mountains National Park 

artyom-sklyarov-cE-QSR9dx6Y-unsplash.jpgPhoto credit:  Artyom Sklyarov on Unsplash

What to do: Less than two hours from Denver, Rocky Mountains National Park provides ample hiking opportunities and breathtaking views. With almost 400 miles of trails, there’s no shortage of hiking opportunities in this national park. Sprague Lake Loop and Chasm Lake Trail offer amazing views of some of the bodies of water in the park. 

Thanks to the 50-plus lakes and streams in the park, fishing options are abundant. Cycling along trails and spotting wildlife like elk and bighorn sheep in the park are also popular activities. So hop on a shuttle in the park and get to know Rocky Mountains National Park. 

Campsite options: When you’re tuckered out from exploring, there are plenty of places to pull in with your RV and set up camp. Moraine Park Campground is a visitor favorite, thanks to the panoramic scenery and year-round availability. For a chance to spot wildlife, Aspenglen Campground is another picturesque choice. Click here for more camping options at Rocky Mountains National Park! 


Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

jules-thomas-FLHTkuv1yJw-unsplash-(1).jpgPhoto credit: jules thomas on Unsplash

What to do: Alright, folks, it’s time to break out the RV road trip games. The next destination is about six hours away from Rocky Mountains National Park. The trip will be well worth it when you arrive at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. 

The deep gorge that is Black Canyon of the Gunnison is an impressive work of nature millions of years in the making. With viewing points all along the rims, you can get out, stretch your legs and stand in awe of the landscape. Rock climbers can enjoy the superb opportunities at the park, and hikers can trek along the canyon. 

And don’t let the sunset stop you from enjoying the park. As a certified International Dark Sky Park, Black Canyon boasts magnificent starry landscapes for visitors to take in. 

Campsite options: There are camping options both in and around the park so that you can select the best grounds for you. To soak in the beauty of the park while you recharge, South Rim Campground is a great place to be. For more amenities, including full hookups, check out Cedar Creek RV Park. Browse a handful of great Black Canyon of the Gunnison camping options here! 


Mesa Verde National Park 

alec-krum-Y8Xvlz2lP5k-unsplash.jpgPhoto credit: Alec Krum on Unsplash

What to do: Hold onto your hiking boots! Our Colorado national parks road trip is far from over. It’s time to head south to the next stop—Mesa Verde National Park. Using a helpful RV driving app, you’ll arrive at your destination in a little over three hours. 

Mesa Verde National Park is known for the thousands of archeological sites that are preserved within it. Ancient dwellings such as Cliff palace feature hundreds of rooms that visitors can explore. Be sure to pack binoculars; some of the sites can only be viewed from a distance. Plus, Mesa Verde is home to an impressive array of birds that you can be on the lookout for. 

Mesa Verde offers a chance to travel back in time and enjoy cliffside scenery. Here, you can go on a ranger-led tour of the ruins, learn about the history at the nearby Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and take a driving tour past a dozen historic sites. 

Campsite options: Whether you spent the day hiking, exploring or learning from park rangers, you’ll want a great place to rest before the last stop on the road trip. There’s only one campground inside the park—Morefield Campground. The cafe, gift shop and other amenities make it a visitor favorite. There are more Mesa Verde RV campgrounds in the surrounding area.  


Great Sand Dunes National Park 

payson-wick-e5r7wPtSGG0-unsplash.jpgPhoto credit:  Payson Wick on Unsplash

What to do: The next stop is about four hours away from Mesa Verde. The last stretch of this Colorado National parks tour will take you to a diverse and fun-filled park that won’t disappoint. Great Sand Dunes National Park is known for the rolling dunes that visitors can surf down using specially crafted sand sleds. The rush of speeding down a sandhill provides fun for all ages. 

The photography opportunities at Great Sand Dunes will make you glad you packed the camera. You can capture the amazing sunset or snap pics of your companions hanging out around the dunes. Plus, the spring and start of summer offer a chance to enjoy the peaceful waves in Medano Creek.  

If you have time, Zapata Falls is a refreshing stop to make just a few miles away from Great Sand Dunes. 

Campsite options: Wondering where to stay when visiting Great Sand Dunes? Oasis Campground is a seasonal site that offers amenities like electric hookups and a grocery store. Oh, and did we mention that Oasis offers sandboard rentals? Let the fun begin. Learn more about Great Sand Dunes National Park campgrounds


Best Time for a Colorado National Park Road Trip

thomas-morse-cuKKa0vWZSY-unsplash.jpgPhoto credit: Thomas Morse on Unsplash

The four national parks in Colorado are spread out across the state. This means that the weather varies depending on the elevation. The good news is that there are fun activities in store no matter what season you decide to visit. 

Spring and summer are widely recognized as great times to visit the national parks in Colorado. This is because the weather is warmer, and you’ll have access to all the hiking trails, not just the ones at lower elevations. 

In summer, all the archeological sites are open for viewing at Mesa Verde. This is also the season when trails along high mountain peaks are open at Rocky Mountains National Park. 

To avoid crowds and experience a brilliant burst of color, visiting in early fall is another option. While you’ll have to bundle up, there’s nothing quite like the rich golden hues that spread across nature this time of year.  

As long as you have the right transportation, your Colorado national parks road trip will be a blast during any season. 
 

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