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rock outcropping in state park near denver coloradoDenver, the capital of Colorado, is in South Platte River Valley in the northern part of the state and on the western edge of the rolling High Plains east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is also known as “The Mile High City” because its elevation is exactly 1 mile or 5,280 feet above sea level (measured from the 13th step of the Capitol building). Denver is an exciting city to visit with much to see and do.

Denver is just 12 miles east of the foothills that rise 11,000 feet to form the base of the mighty Rockies, which continue up to another 3000 feet to their famous snow-capped peaks. The stunning view of this magnificent mountain range is breathtaking and beckons you to explore Colorado’s natural wonders. You don’t have to travel far from Denver to see and experience the area’s unique geological features—an excursion to any state park is an excellent way to take in the gorgeous terrain in the area. Come along with us and explore the state parks close to Denver that will make you fall in love with Colorado.

Map of State Parks Near Denver CO

Here is a map of the Colorado state parks covered in this post:

List of State Parks Near Denver

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) plays a prominent and vital role in preserving and protecting the state’s wildlife and natural treasures. Paying a visit to these scenic sites supports resource development and protection.

Let’s explore a few state parks near Denver and see what makes them both interesting and exciting places to visit.

1. Eldorado Canyon State Park

Location: 9 Kneale Rd, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025

Eldorado Canyon, a 45-minute drive northwest of Denver, is a day-use-only park renowned for the unparalleled beauty of its golden (and sheer) canyon walls and as a formidable climbing center offering over 500 technical routes that attract climbers from all over.

The park, called “Eldo” by the locals, also has hiking and biking trails, picnicking and wintertime activities—snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Picturesque South Boulder Creek runs through the canyon and offers swimming and fishing opportunities; fly fishing here is considered to be the most productive and consistent in the area.

Helpful tip: Eldorado’s proximity to Denver, its natural beauty, and the fantastic climbing make the park a top-rated destination. The official park site recommends avoiding weekends and holidays, especially in warmer weather. Weekdays are the best time to avoid large crowds and ensure getting in the park.

2. Castlewood Canyon State Park

Location: 2989 CO-83, Franktown, CO 80116

Castlewood Canyon State Park is a 46-minute drive south of the Mile High City and is home to the ruins of Castlewood Canyon Dam, which burst after heavy rains in 1933, sending a 15-foot wave all the into Denver, flooding the city. An early warning helped get most residents out of danger before the wall of water hit.

The park offers a range of activities, from hiking, biking, and rock climbing to picnicking. There are four different ecosystems within the park boundaries to explore, and there are exceptional panoramic views of the Front Range with the Rockies in the background. Castlewood is for day-use only; the park closes at sunset, with in-bound trails closing an hour before sunset.

Castlewood is home to many unique geological features: one being a visible layer of black ash throughout the park that was a result of nearby volcanic activity eons ago when the land was part of a tropical rainforest, and there are large deposits of rhyolite, an extrusive igneous rock, formed from volcanic magma that is composed primarily of silica.

Interesting facts: The Visitor’s Center has many hands-on activities for kids, an educational movie, and is home to two local bullsnakes, Sid and Nancy.

3. Roxborough State Park

Location: 4751 Roxborough Dr, Littleton, CO 80125

Head southwest from Denver for about 45 minutes to experience some of Colorado’s most remarkable landscapes. Taking the main stage at Roxborough State Park is the Fountain Formation—red sandstones that rise up from the earth at a 60-degree angle and vary in height from 5,900 to 7,280 ft. The tilted red rocks are a “not to be missed” geologic wonder unique to the east side of the Front Range.

The secluded park, nestled between the plains and the mountains, is home to four ecosystems with distinct plant life and wildlife, including the rare Preble’s Meadow jumping mouse, songbirds and raptors, black bears, and mountain lions. Roxborough State Park hosts a wide variety of naturalist-guided activities for all ages. Read about what they offer here at Roxborough Rambles—from guided hikes and photographic instruction to geology and history tours; there’s something for everyone.

Helpful tips: Roxborough is a day-use-only park to preserve the park for future generations to enjoy; no pets, horses, bikes, fire-making, drones, or rock climbing are allowed. If you forget to leave Fido at home, fortunately, there’s adogsworld near the park entrance.

4. Chatfield State Park

Location: 11500 N. Roxborough Park Rd. Littleton, CO, 80125

Chatfield State Park is a 30-minute drive southwest of Denver and has camping, great views of the mountains, and Chatfield Reservoir, a water-sports haven with fishing and swimming and opportunities for all kinds of boating. There’s also hiking, biking, horseback riding with an accompanying on-site horse stable, and birding opportunities.

Every camping site is within walking distance of the lake and has picnic tables and grills.
The area around the park and the town of Chatfield, flat and open, is popular with balloonists, and hot-air balloon rides are an excellent way to get a spectacular view of the mountains and Denver. Chatfield Park is the only state park that allows balloons to launch, and the Colorado Balloon Club has been meeting here ever since the park opened in 1975.

Helpful tip: You can avoid long waits to get in the park by buying park passes and fishing licenses online.

5. Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Location: 92 Crawford Gulch Lane, Golden, CO 80403

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, 30 miles west of Denver, is in the Front Range corridor and has opportunities for hiking, camping, picnicking, and trails for biking and horseback riding (27 miles). Close to Denver (and Boulder), Golden Gate offers a quick get-a-way for residents who want a break from city life.

The Panorama Point Scenic Overlook is, without a doubt, one of the most popular attractions in the park; you can drive here or hike along Mule Deer Trail. The sweeping views are stunning, and you can see Mount Evans and Longs Peak.

There are plenty of options for lodging—camping, cabins, yurts, and a guest house. There’s also backcountry camping and the secluded Works Ranch Cabin and Group Camping Area that can house up to 30. The cabins and yurts are available to reserve year-round.

Helpful tip: There is no cell phone or internet service within the park. Ready to step back in time? Payphones are available at the Visitors Center and the Reverend’s Ridge Campground office.

More Wildlife In Denver

Denver has a large (and well-designed) walkable downtown district with arts, entertainment, sports events, and plenty of eateries, brewpubs, bars, and coffee houses. If you’re planning a family get-a-way, the Denver Zoo, the many amusement parks, and the Downtown Aquarium are excellent options for the kiddos.