The Top 5 Often-Overlooked Colorado State Parks

Do you like your vacation on the quiet side? While Colorado is a very popular vacation destination, there are a number of often overlooked state parks where you can enjoy your vacation and get close to nature, while still enjoying some well-deserved solitude.

Nestled in the dry expanse of the Eastern plains of Colorado is an oasis – North Sterling State Park. Containing one of the largest bodies of water in the region, the park is an aquatic playground, covering more than 3,000 acres. In addition, there are 141 camp sites to choose from if you feel like sleeping under a night sky, filed with stars like you’ve never seen them before. You can ski, fish and boat along the park’s many coves, and if you want to hike, you’ll hit your stride on one of the park’s six miles of hiking trails – all of which are well maintained and boast beautiful views of the Eastern plains and reservoir.

Next up is Castlewood Canyon State Park, located in the Denver area, which is home to wildlife and wildflowers alike. This 2,300 acre park boasts round rock faces that clearly demonstrate how water shapes the land. The remains of Castlewood Dam can also be found on a two-mile hike on the Inner Canyon Trail. This dam was built to hold back the waters of Cherry Creek, but it failed in 1933. If you like rock climbing, this is the park for you – regardless of your skill level. You’ll have such fun here that you’ll never want to leave, but alas, the park is for day use only and you can’t camp here. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to stay in nearby Castle Rock.

And for drama, you can’t beat the triple waterfall that you’ll find in Rifle Falls State Park. It’s only a short hike to the top of the waterfalls and on your way; you can enjoy the naturally formed caves and their intricate limestone formations. The scenery here is so unique that photographers come from around the world just to take photographs. There are campsites in this park – 7 for walk-ins and 12 for drive-ins – so that you can be lulled to sleep by the amazing rhythmic sound of the triple water fall. You can also find a place to stay in the nearby town or Rifle if camping isn’t your thing.

When you think of Scuba diving, Colorado probably doesn’t readily spring to mind. That’s a shame, because you might miss out on the wonderful diving to be had in the 1,000 acres of water in Ridgway State Park. Need something water-related? The marina is sure to have it. In addition, people with disabilities will find Ridgway State Park very welcoming and accommodating. For a unique experience, you might want to rent a yurt through the local park system. Much like a teepee, the yurt has a wooden floor, a door, and bunk beds – think of it as “roughing it” – lite.

Finally, when you have a name like Panorama Point, you have a lot to live up to. Fortunately, the views of Golden Gate Canyon State Park from Panorama Point make the grade. Whether you want to bike, hike, fish, ride horses, or camp, you’ll enjoy the dense forest of this 12,000 acre state park. For the best experience, visit in September, when the aspen trees turn golden and the views are simply stunning.