Colorado is home to 4 national parks, including one of the most popular in the country – Rocky Mountain National Park.  The grandness of these national parks makes it easy to overlook the parks that don’t have national funding, but are instead funded and managed by the state of Colorado.  While the best Colorado state parks tend to be smaller than national parks, they still hold the same amount of beauty and adventure.  Here is our list of top 5 best state parks in Colorado!


State Forest State Park

We start our list with Colorado’s largest state park, State Forest State Park. Located in the Medicine Bow Range of the Rocky Mountains, this park spans over 70,000 acres if Colorado wilderness.  Mountains, lakes, and wildlife cover the entire area which can be explored on its 95 miles of hiking trails or 60 campsites. State Forest State Park is known for its high density of moose and are often seen by those who visit the park.

State Forest State Park – image courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

AVA Adventure Suggestion: Try your hand at Fly Fishing in Kremmling, Colorado

Head to Kremmling, Colorado, less than an hour and a half away from State Forest State Park, for a fly fishing excursion on the Upper Colorado River.  We’ll guide you along the water and catch some impressive trout for a few hours in the morning before you head to State Forest State Park for an afternoon adventure.

Rifle Falls State Park

Next is Colorado’s smallest state park, Rifle Falls.  About 45 minutes northwest of Glenwood Springs sits this 48-acre plot of land, but this small area is a hidden gem.  Rifle Falls State Park is home to three 70-foot waterfalls flowing over limestone caves!  With 3 trails spanning only 4 miles and only a 70-foot change in elevation, this park is perfect for families or groups of all generations looking to enjoy some Colorado wilderness.

Rifle Falls State Park – image courtesy of Out There Colorado.

AVA Adventure Suggestion: Raft the Blue River in Breckenridge, Colorado

Take the family on some Class III rapids of the Blue River in Summit County after venturing through Rifle Falls State Park.  Head to Breckenridge, located just over two hours east of Rifle, to enjoy this 1/3 Day Blue River Express trip with AVA!

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Next on the list is the favorite park of every rafter and kayaker in Colorado.  The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area has a 150 mile stretch of the Arkansas River that extends from Leadville to Pueblo, Colorado.  Plenty adventurers flock to this area to raft some of the most popular whitewater in the country.  Experience rapids ranging from class I to class V and some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery.  The park is also known for great fishing and hiking, and has 6 different campsites right along the river.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area – image courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

AVA Adventure Suggestion: Soar above the Arkansas Valley via Zipline in Buena Vista, Colorado

Located just half an hour north of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is AVA’s Buena Vista outpost, where you can soar among the treetops on our Mountaintop Zipline course and enjoy jaw dropping views of the Collegiate Peaks.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

For those on the hunt for some of the best rock climbing look no further than one of the best Colorado State Parks near Denver, Eldorado Canyon State Park.  With over 1,000 technical rock climbing routes, Eldorado Canyon is one of the world’s most accessible and comprehensive rock climbing areas. There are also 11 miles of hiking trails trekked via mountain bike or by foot, which reward you in breathtaking views of the Continental Divide.

Eldorado Canyon State Park – image courtesy of Katie Schneider.

AVA Adventure Suggestion: Traverse the Cliffside on our Via Ferrata tour.

The introduction to mountaineering trip will have you traversing the cliffside via iron rungs, rappelling down a 70-foot rock face, crossing multiple suspended bridges, and finishing your tour by ziplining back down to our outpost.  AVA’s Cliffside Zipline tour is located in Idaho Springs, less than an hour from Eldorado Canyon State Park.

Ridgway State Park

This final stop on our list of favorites is Ridgway State Park.  Located just 15 miles from the town of Ouray, this park is great for year-round activities and has some of the most gorgeous landscapes in Colorado.  Ridgway is set on a reservoir surrounded by amazing mountains, with a plethora of activities ranging from  camping and hiking, to fishing, wildlife viewing, ice climbing, and skiing.  Ridgway state park has 258 campsites for RV’s, motorhomes, trailers, and campers, along with 25 walk-in tent campsites and has 3 yurts that can be rented!

Ridgway State Park – image courtesy of Ridgway State Park.

AVA Adventure Suggestion: Come on an adventure in Buena Vista and stay the night at one of AVA’s cabins!

Ridgway State Park is located in the southwestern corner of the state, leaving you three hours west of AVA in Buena Vista.  However, with cabins and a campsite offered at our outpost, you can combo your outdoor activity with a night’s stay… or more!  Explore Ridgway throughout the day, then stay the night in a rustic miner cabin before going on an adventure with AVA the next day.


With spring coming up and summer right around the corner be sure to start planning your adventure out to some of Colorado’s own state parks!