Did you know you can see Colorado’s state parks for free? And no, we don’t mean you can sneak past the toll gate by cover of darkness (you shouldn’t).
Colorado now offers a program called Check Out Colorado, through which local libraries “check out” state park passes for free. The passes also come with a backpack full of guides, maps, and exploring gear (you have to bring it back, of course).
If you’re into this idea, check out the program’s website for details. Or read on to see which state parks we’re going to see this weekend.
For bikers: Lory State Park
Once part of a cattle ranch, the land at Lory State Park is now the home of the Corral Center Mountain Bike Park, the first bike park ever opened in a Colorado state park.
But you don’t have to hit the jumps to enjoy biking here—the park contains more than 26 miles of trails here that can be explored by mountain bike or by foot. Located just minutes from Fort Collins, Lory also offers access to Horsetooth Reservoir’s more secluded bays and coves, perfect for canoes and kayaks.
If you go: Fees without the park pass are $7 a day. Permits for backcountry camping are $10. Leashed dogs are allowed.
Photo courtesy of Colorado State Parks.
For climbers: Eldorado Canyon State Park
Touted as one of the top climbing destinations in the country, Eldorado Canyon State Park has more than 500 technical rock-climbing routes. Those climbs vary widely in difficulty, but are generally reserved for experienced trad climbers.
Located just 5 miles southwest of Boulder, this popular destination is also a favorite for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking along the park’s varied trails. Other summer activities include fly-fishing and kayaking on South Boulder Creek.
If you go: The park often reaches capacity early in the day, especially during weekends and summer holidays. Fees without the park pass are $8 a day. Colorado fishing licenses are required (if you’re going to fish, that is).
Photo by F Delventhal.
For hikers: Mueller State Park
When it comes to wildlife, Mueller State Park takes the prize. Located just minutes out of Divide, this popular wildlife watching area is home to elk, black bear, mule deer, and numerous species of birds.
Hikers can explore the park’s 5,000 acres of grassy meadows and forested ridges along more than 44 miles of hiking trails. To protect the wildlife watching opportunities in the park, mountain biking and horseback riding are limited to a select 36 miles of trails.
If you go: Fees without the park pass are $7–9 a day. Tent campsites are $20 a night; electric hook-up campsites are $26. Equestrian campsites are also $26 per night plus $10 per night per animal. Dogs are prohibited on trails or in the backcountry.
Photo by Peter Standish. Words by Carina Bissett.