While it’s not easy practicing social distancing all the time, being able to get out and enjoy the scenic beauty of a park can do wonders for your health. Becoming immersed in nature offers lots of benefits to the body and mind, whether you enjoy quiet contemplation, active pursuits or a little of both. These especially beautiful parks in Colorado can still be visited while social distancing, although it’s important to be aware that things are changing on a practically daily basis, so you’ll want to confirm they’re open before you go.
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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of Colorado’s hidden treasures. The deep gorge was carved by the Gunnison River and boasts walls that dramatically plunge for nearly 2,000 feet. Trails and roads that wind along the south and north rims offering breathtaking views of the remarkable drops as well as the striated Painted Wall cliff. Watch for the abundant wildlife with everything from golden eagles to elk and mule deer frequently spotted.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
While the visitor center is closed, the trails at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument are open and can be accessed from the Hornbeck/Barksdale parking lot. Relatively few visitors are seen here, making it easy to keep your distance while enjoying a tranquil hike that reveals lots about prehistoric life in the state, including the chance to view massive, up to 14-foot-wide petrified redwoods stumps. The giant trees grew here more than 34 million years ago along an ancient river valley near present-day Florissant and the 1.1-mile Petrified Forest Loop will bring you to see many that still remain. There are also trails that lead to a pioneer’s homestead and wind past outcrops of weathered Pikes Peak granite, meadows and alpine forest.
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is one of the country’s most beautiful parks and it lies just outside of Colorado Springs, showcasing 300 sandstone formations that sit against a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped peaks and nearly always bright blue skies. You can hike the 15 miles of trails that wind through nearly 1,400 acres or just relax and watch the rock climbers. Keep in mind that the visitor center is temporarily closed, and the mayor recently declared it’s an absolute necessity that all who come maintain six feet of separation.
State Forest State Park
If you’re looking for an opportunity to spot moose while enjoying 90 miles of hiking trails, State Forest State Park in Walden is the place to go. It’s the moose viewing capital of Colorado, home to over 600 moose. And, as it’s located near Rocky Mountain National Park and two popular National Forests, you can usually find plenty of solitude with few crowds seen here. Enjoy countless photo-ops that include spectacular views of the Medicine Bow Mountains and the Never Summer Range.
Horsetooth Mountain and Reservoir, Fort Collins
Horsetooth Reservoir is only minutes from downtown Fort Collins and offers a variety of activities, including fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and hiking. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space lies adjacent to the reservoir and boasts nearly 30 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding that connect to the Blue Sky Trail and Lory State Park trails. That includes a route that leads to Horsetooth Falls, which flows in the spring, as well as some fantastic Front Range views.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Golden
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is just 30 miles from Denver, making it easy to access from the city. It offers 12,000 acres of aspen and pine forest, meadows, seasonal creeks and trails for enjoying it all. For an easy family-friendly trek, take the Raccoon Loop Trail which offers a variety of scenery, plenty of shade if the sun gets too intense, and panoramic views of snow-capped peaks. In the spring, the creeks will be flowing and wildflowers blooming.
Eleven Mile State Park, South Park
Located 40 miles west of Colorado Springs, Eleven Mile State Park is great for fishing, scenic hikes and more. Anglers can take advantage of abundant populations of rainbow, kokanee and pike in the reservoir which also offers ideal wind conditions for sailing and wind-surfing. Enjoy outstanding bird watching and routes throughout the trail system with nearly five miles of hiking trails in the Coyote Ridge/Backcountry area, including the self-guided Nature Trail and Orienteering Trail.
Washington Park, Denver
Wash Park is one of the most popular parks in Denver, filled with green spaces, gardens, and lakes. Many come to enjoy walking, biking, yoga and tennis, while the flower gardens are among the city’s most beautiful; one was modeled on gardens at George Washington’s home in Virginia, Mount Vernon. In spring when the resident goslings and ducklings appear, it’s hard not to smile as they waddle across park roads stopping all traffic. While the playgrounds are closed and team sports banned temporarily, it’s still a wonderful place to get out and enjoy a sunny day.
Chautauqua Park, Boulder
Chautauqua is a gorgeous park in Boulder, ideal for enjoying Flatirons views and 48 miles of scenic trails with some of the best hiking just minutes from downtown featuring a rolling prairie, lush meadows, tranquil forests, and rugged canyons. Take an easy stroll through the meadow, or use the park as a launching point to venture further out. From the trailhead, access routes to the Flatirons or head all the way to Eldorado Springs. Hikers of all levels will find something to enjoy along with the magnificent views here.
Eldorado Canyon State Park, Boulder
As Boulder is all about the outdoors, you’ll have a myriad of options here. Eldorado Canyon State Park is yet another ideal destination for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and rock climbing, with varying degrees of difficulty. Fishing enthusiasts can test their luck in a stream with rainbow trout and rock climbers can climb the 850-foot sandstone canyon wall. There are four trails ranging from a half-mile to 3.5 miles one-way, including the .5-mile Streamside Trail, popular among families with children, following the sides of the creek and canyon walls. The .7-mile Fowler Trail offers great canyon views, while the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail travels up to the ruins of the Crags Hotel which burned in 1912.
Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora
Located just south and east of Denver in Aurora, Cherry Creek State Park offers a vast expanse of natural prairie land along with 47 miles of paved and multi-use trails. Visitors can also enjoy birding, fishing and boating, and in the winter, cross-country skiing, but lets we’ll hope that by the time the season comes around social distancing will be a thing of the past. The 880-acre reservoir is especially popular in the summer, drawing sun worshippers, swimmers and boaters. On the west side of the park is the Model Airplane Field with two paved runways. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you’ll have of enjoying plenty of room without the crowds.
Genesee Park, Denver
Genesee Park covers more than 2,400 acres as the largest of Denver’s mountain parks. It’s best known for its historic bison herd which includes about 20 of the animals, and it’s also home to an elk herd along with the opportunity to enjoy a scenic hike. The historic 11.5-mile Beaver Brook Trail can be accessed between May and November and offers sweeping vistas of the Front Range as well as a decent challenge, rated as difficult, in part because of its 1,900-foot elevation gain. Genesee Mountain Trail is an easy 3.7-mile loop that mostly runs through tall pine trees and with any luck, you’ll enjoy up-close views of the bison.
City Park, Denver
City Park sits within five miles of 85 percent of Denver residents, making it a great place for locals to enjoy close to home. While the attractions inside the park, like the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science are closed, you can still enjoy the beauty of the park. The City Park Loop is a flat and easy path made up of dirt trails and sidewalks that runs for just over three miles. It not only offers the chance to be immersed in nature but fantastic views of downtown, especially at sunset with the mountains in the background.
Mueller State Park, Divide
Mueller State Park is a beautiful place to hike on the western slopes of Pikes Peak just a short drive from Colorado Springs. The Homestead/Black Bear/Revenuers Ridge Loop stretches for four miles providing some of the park’s best scenery, starting with a view of the Collegiate Peaks to the west. The double loop offers a good workout with more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, along with picturesque vistas, boulders to scramble over, evergreens and aspens.
Sloan’s Lake is the largest lake in Denver, especially popular for water sports in the summer, including boating, jet skiing and fishing. Visitors can walk, jog or bike the paved trail that circles the lake, or those who don’t want to get out of the car can cruise around it to enjoy exceptional views of the Denver skyline and the Front Range. There’s lots of grassy areas for quiet contemplation too.