The National Parks of Colorado & Utah

The towering mountains of the Colorado Rockies and the amazing rock formations throughout Utah make up the national parks of these two states. Discover the raw beauty of the mountain states at one of these six stunning parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

While the Rocky Mountains stretch from northern British Columbia to New Mexico, Rocky Mountain National Park showcases 416 square miles of this towering terrain just northwest of Boulder, Colo. Within this park in the Colorado Rockies you can find 60 mountains that reach more than 12,000 feet, 359 trails measuring 355 miles and 150 lakes, along with bighorn sheep, moose and elk. A drive through the winding mountain roads showcase aspen groves, lowland meadows, scenic vistas and overlooks, giving you plenty of opportunities for panoramic views.

Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 Highway 36 Estes Park, CO 80517-8397. 970-586-1206. http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

Zion National Park, Utah

Nestled near Springdale, Utah, Zion National Park draws visitors who want to see the stunning Zion Canyon, a 15-mile gorge cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The reddish and tan Navajo Sandstone reaches up to a half-mile in depth. Also within the 229-square-mile park you can find natural arches, monoliths, mesas, buttes and slot canyons galore.

Zion National Park Springdale, UT 84767-1099. 435-772-3256. http://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Very close to Zion National Park is Bryce Canyon with its spectacular amphitheater of color. Its namesake isn’t really a canyon but a natural amphitheater cut by wind, water and ice erosion. The stunning red, orange and white colors of the hoodoos and spire-shaped formations leave visitors breathless. To get the full effect, drive to Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints, or spend more time traveling to Rainbow Point with its 13 viewpoints. Canyon trails take you along the rim or to the canyon floor.

Bryce Canyon National Park, PO Box 640201. Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201. 435-834-5322. http://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Arches National Park, Utah

Just outside Moab, Utah, you can find more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches at Arches National Park, the most well known being Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock and Landscape Arch. A number of hikes take you on scenic walks past these stunning formations. The Windows loop trail offers close up views of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Another short trail takes you to Double Arch. Take a short hike to a loop trail around Balanced Rock. Delicate Arch Trail from Wolfe Ranch gives you a view next to none of the world-famous rock formation. Hike between the tall sandstone fins that make up the Devils Garden to see Landscape Arch or take a ranger-guided hike through the Fiery Furnace. Most of these places are accessible by car if you’re short on time or looking for scenic viewpoints worthy of a postcard.

Arches National Park, PO Box 907 Moab, UT 84532-0907. 435-719-2299. http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colo.

The National Natural Landmark known as the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, Colo., offers brilliant sedimentary beds in reds, blues, purples and whites against the backdrop of snowcapped Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet. Here you can find a stunning shear fault where the Fountain Formation contacts the Tower of Babel. Ridges of sandstone known as hogbacks showcase sandstone layered vertically. The tallest, North Gateway Rock, reaches 320 feet, while the Kissing Camels enamors you with its lifelike look. Balanced Rock hangs precariously near the roadway here.

Garden of the Gods, 1805 N. 30th St. Colorado Springs, CO 80904. 719-634-6666. http://www.gardenofgods.com/

White River National Forest

In the midst of the Rocky Mountains sits the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest with its world-renowned ski resorts. Named for the White River that passes through it, White River National Forest is considered the birthplace of the Wilderness making it a go to spot for outdoor enthusiasts. The area contains eight Wilderness designations, four reservoirs, 10 peaks reaching 14,000 feet, 2,500 miles of trails, 1,900 miles of Forest Service roads and 12 ski resorts, including Snowmass just nine miles from Aspen. Here you can find the most vertical feet of skiing of any ski area in the United States with a top elevation of 12,510 feet. Snowmass offers 88 runs, with the longest at 5.3 miles. The resort best known for its wide-open groomed cruising is rated one of the best family ski areas in North America.

White River National Forest, 900 Grand Ave. Glenwood Springs CO 81601. 970-945-2521. www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver

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