8 Must-See State Parks near Denver, Colorado

Eager to get out of the city, surround yourself with nature, and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities? Colorado’s landscapes are nothing less than spectacular, and these beautiful state parks near Denver tick all the boxes when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors!

Located within driving distance of Denver, these Colorado state parks have something for everyone, from rich natural history to plenty of family-friendly activities. Marvel at fascinating geological formations in Roxborough State Park. Spend time on the water at one of the many tranquil lakes in the area, like Barr Lake or Sloan’s Lake, and take in awe-inspiring vistas as you hike or bike a network of trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Ready to escape the Mile High City and hit the road? Start planning your adventure with this comprehensive guide to Denver’s coolest state parks!

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Cherry Creek State Park

If you want to enjoy a day in the great outdoors not too far from Denver, Cherry Creek State Park is ideal! Conveniently located just about 15 miles southeast of Downtown Denver, this nature-filled playground is an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Originally a flood control reservoir in the 1950s, Cherry Creek State Park is now a picturesque 880-acre oasis for outdoor enthusiasts and one of the coolest places to see around Denver. Over the years, it’s grown into one of Colorado’s most beloved state parks.

Cherry Creek State Park

The star of the show is the massive Cherry Creek Reservoir. Picture-postcard pretty, the man-made body of water is also a hotspot for water activities. Sandy beaches along the reservoir let you soak up the Colorado sun and swim, kayak, canoe, and sail to your heart’s content.

With miles of trails, Cherry Creek State Park is a great place to explore on foot or by bike. The Cherry Creek Trail even connects to the larger Colorado Front Range Trail system, offering endless possibilities for adventures. Don’t forget your binoculars: The park is a fantastic spot for birdwatching!

Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal with a view at one of the designated picnic areas. If you’re visiting Denver in winter, try ice fishing when the reservoir freezes, or enjoy a quiet hike with the snow-covered landscape as your backdrop.

Chatfield State Park

Another fantastic spot for water-based fun within a short drive from Denver is Chatfield State Park. You’ll find the park about 25 miles southwest of Downtown Denver with the 1,500-acre Chatfield Rese Chatfield Reservoir at its center.

Nestled in the foothills near Littleton, Chatfield State Park is an outdoor haven that offers various activities. From hiking and mountain biking to sailing, skiing, and swimming, you’ve got plenty of room to play.

Chatfield State Park

If you’re into birding, you’re in for a treat. Chatfield State Park is home to waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal at one of the picnic areas with tables and grills. Keep an eye out for the park’s resident wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and even the occasional fox.

Take your cross-country skis or snowshoes in winter and explore the snow-covered trails. Chatfield State Park boasts a different kind of beauty in the colder months.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Calling all mountaineers, climbers, and rock jocks! If rock climbing is your vice, visiting Eldorado Canyon State Park is a must! Located 30 miles southwest of Downtown Denver, this Rocky Mountain gem offers breathtaking scenery and many outdoor activities.

Once home to the Eldorado Springs Resort, a popular destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Eldorado Canyon State Park became a state park in 1978, preserving its spectacular beauty for future generations.

Eldorado Canyon State Park is a slice of outdoor paradise, with the towering sandstone cliffs of the Eldorado Canyon framing a picturesque winding creek. You’ll find a variety of hiking trails suitable for all levels of hikers.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon is a world-renowned rock-climbing destination. Climbers flock here for its challenging routes and breathtaking scenery. If you’re a climber, check the park’s climbing regulations and closures. Some areas are off-limits during nesting seasons.

If you’re into fishing, you can cast your line into South Boulder Creek. Just remember to have a valid Colorado fishing license. There are lovely picnic spots nestled among the trees and near the creek. Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature.

Eldorado Canyon State Park is home to various wildlife, from mule deer to golden eagles. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures.

Roxborough State Park

Dramatic red rock formations, distinct plant species, and abundant wildlife are the main attractions at Roxborough State Park. Boasting beautiful views of the Denver skyline, the park is just 20 miles south of downtown, making it an easy and scenic drive from the city.

Roxborough State Park has a fascinating geological history. The unique red rock formations that define the landscape here are believed to be over 300 million years old. In 1975, it became a state park, preserving this natural wonder for all to enjoy.

Roxborough State Park

The towering red rock formations at Roxborough State Park are a sight to behold and create a spectacular backdrop for your outdoor adventures. Start your visit at the visitor center, where you can learn about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history through informative exhibits.

Several well-maintained hiking trails wind through the red rocks like the Fountain Valley Trail and offer fantastic views. Grab a trail map to help you navigate the park’s trails. They’ll also provide insight into the geological wonders you’ll encounter.

There are lovely picnic areas with tables scattered throughout the park. Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal surrounded by the red rock beauty. Keep an eye out for mule deer, black bears, and over 150 species of birds that call the park home.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders with dense forests, rocky peaks, and aspen-rimmed meadows crisscrossed with miles of trails. This 12,000-acre haven is nestled in the mountains about 30 miles west of Denver, making it an easy and scenic drive from the city.

The park offers over 35 miles of hiking trails, catering to all skill levels. Hike to Panorama Point for sweeping views of the Continental Divide. It’s especially spectacular during fall when the aspens turn gold. Grab a trail map from the visitor center before you hit the trails. They’ll help you navigate and plan your adventure.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park has incredible scenic drives if you’re not much of a hiker but still want to soak in the breathtaking views. Take a leisurely drive along Gap Road, where you’ll be treated to incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Golden Gate Canyon is home to mule deer, elk, foxes, and many birds. Birdwatchers will find plenty to see, especially around the park’s ponds and lakes. The park has some lovely fishing spots. Be sure to have a valid Colorado fishing license if you plan to cast a line.

While Golden Gate Canyon State Park is known for its summer beauty, don’t overlook its winter charm. The trails transform into snowy wonderlands, perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s a whole new world to explore in the colder months, and the peacefulness of the snow-covered landscape is simply magical.

Barr Lake State Park

If you’re eager to spot rare birds, cast a line for a few fish, or enjoy a leisurely hike, Barr Lake State Park won’t disappoint. Conveniently located about 20 miles northeast of Denver, this serene oasis is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The centerpiece of Barr Lake State Park is Barr Lake itself, covering about 1,900 acres. Originally a part of the South Platte River, Barr Lake was created in 1889 when the Denver Reservoir Company built a dam.

If you’re a boating enthusiast, Barr Lake offers a tranquil setting for paddling. Whether you have a kayak, canoe, or even a small sailboat, the lake’s calm waters are perfect for a peaceful day on the water. There’s a boat ramp available, so launching your vessel is a breeze.

Barr Lake State Park

Hikers will delight in the park’s several miles of trails for hiking and biking. The Lakeshore Trail is famous for offering serene views of the lake and surrounding wetlands. If you prefer to be on two wheels, there are some great biking trails, including ones that connect to the more extensive Colorado Front Range Trail system.

Barr Lake State Park is known for its thriving population of bald eagles. These majestic birds of prey can often be spotted nesting in the park’s cottonwood trees. If you’re lucky, you might even witness one hunting for fish in the lake.

Don’t miss the chance to witness a Barr Lake sunset. As the sun dips below the horizon, the lake takes on a golden hue, and the silhouettes of trees and birds create a mesmerizing tableau. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a day of outdoor adventure!

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Located 30 miles southeast, Castlewood Canyon State Park is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. From hiking through rugged canyons and learning about the area’s history to simply enjoying a serene day in nature, you’ll find it here.

Castlewood Canyon State Park is a place of hidden treasures and natural wonders where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of Colorado’s landscapes. Start your adventure at the visitor center. Grab a map of the park and check out fascinating exhibits that delve into the park’s geological wonders and the dam’s history.

Castlewood Canyon State Park

If you’re up for a moderate hike, the Canyon View Nature Trail is a must. This 0.7-mile loop offers breathtaking views of the dramatic rock formations and canyons. It’s particularly enchanting during sunrise and sunset.

Castlewood Canyon State Park also offers fantastic mountain biking trails for a different way to explore the park and some excellent climbing opportunities, with routes for beginners and experienced climbers.

If you’re planning a picnic, the Homestead Trailhead area is perfect. It’s equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and a picturesque backdrop of the canyon walls. As the day winds down, go to one of the viewpoints for a mesmerizing sunset. The soft hues painting the canyons and cliffs are truly breathtaking.

Staunton State Park

Looking for a picturesque day trip from Denver? Head 40 miles southwest to Staunton State Park. Named after Colorado conservationist Frances H. Staunton, the park is a dynamic and ever-changing natural playground that invites you to explore.

Over 38 miles of hiking trails wind through various ecosystems, from grasslands to montane forests, offering trails for all skill levels. If you’re seeking solitude on the trails, consider exploring some of the lesser-known paths within Staunton State Park. These less-traveled routes often lead to hidden treasures and offer a quieter hiking experience.

Staunton State Park

The iconic Elk Falls Overlook boasts spectacular rock formations and offers sweeping views of Elk Falls and the surrounding canyon. While the Elk Falls Trail can be strenuous, the payoff is the breathtaking view of Elk Falls. It’s one of the park’s highlights, especially during the spring when snowmelt swells the falls.

If you’re a climbing enthusiast, check out Staunton Rocks, a climbing area within the park that offers a variety of climbing routes. There are designated picnic areas throughout the park. Pack a lunch and savor it amid the natural beauty.

Staunton State Park’s remote location makes it an excellent spot for stargazing. If you’re a fan of astronomy, bring a telescope or lay out a blanket and enjoy the brilliant night sky!


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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