Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve's Medano Creek, Dunes, and Cleaveland Peak. National Park Service

Guide to Colorado’s National Parks During the Pandemic

In Sports & Outdoors by Sarah KutaLeave a Comment

There’s never been a better time to hop in the car and take a road trip, especially one that revolves around outdoor adventures.

But where to begin? There are so many cool destinations in Colorado, it can be overwhelming to start planning.

One idea? Hitting up Colorado’s four majestic national parks. Here’s what you need to know about visiting and recreating at Colorado’s national parks during the pandemic.

Note: Because of the pandemic, rules and requirements are frequently changing. It’s a good idea to visit your destination’s website or call to speak to a ranger before you hop in the car.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Located just outside of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of Colorado’s true gems.

Before you head north, however, you’ll need to make a reservation to visit the park if you plan to arrive between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can only make a reservation online (here: https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/facility/300013) and you’ll have to arrive at the two-hour time window specified by your reservation. Also, you still need your park entrance pass ($25 per day, per vehicle) in addition to your timed entry reservation.

Keep in mind that the park is still going through a phased reopening because of the pandemic, so some areas may still be closed.

You can check out what’s open in real-time by visiting the park’s website: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/conditions.htm#covid19

Moose and calf at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Sprague Lake. NPS Photo/M.Reed

Great Sand Dunes National Park

If you’re planning to head south to see Colorado’s majestic sand dunes, you’re in luck. Most of the national park has reopened to visitors. No reservations are required at this national park, but you should be prepared for long lines at the entrance station (and you should know that there are no bathrooms while you wait, either!).

The visitor center’s interior exhibits and restrooms are still closed, however, you can access the dunefield, picnic sites, trails and many campsites.

Keep an eye on the park’s website for the most up-to-date information related to what’s open and what’s not: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
NPS Photo/M.Reed

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is like a breath of fresh air — rocky cliffs, craggy spires and a narrow canyon make this national park a sight to behold. The park is pretty much back to normal, with all viewpoints and campgrounds open to the public. Rangers are outside the visitor center to answer questions and issue permits.

You can get the latest park information here: https://www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park in Colorado. Photo by Jeff Hollett

Mesa Verde National Park

Take a trip back in time with a visit to Mesa Verde National Park, which protects the archaeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people. The park is undergoing a phased reopening, which means some areas are still closed. The cliff dwellings are closed and all tours are canceled, however, you can still take in the views from several viewpoints in the park and some areas are open on a self-guided basis.

You don’t need a reservation to visit Mesa Verde, however, you do still need to practice social distancing, wear your mask, wash your hands and stay away if you or someone in your group is sick.

The visitor center remains closed, as well as the Chapin Masin Archaeological Museum and the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe and Gift Shop. Spruce Canyon Trail and Wetherill Mesa are also closed.

The park has a comprehensive webpage dedicate to what’s open and what’s closed right now: https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/ops_updates_covid19.htm

Cliff Palace, cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park. Photo by Mike Goad

What’s your favorite national park in Colorado? Will you be traveling with your friends and family, or staying closer to home? We’d love to hear from you!

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