10 State Parks Near Denver to Check Out this Season

Colorado has a whopping 42 state parks, with 10 of those right near Denver. When it comes to finding awesome state parks near Denver, you’re literally spoiled for choice.

Colorado state parks offer a wide variety of recreation activities from boating to multi-pitch rock climbing. We are quite spoiled here in the Centennial State, especially with such a variety of parks located right next to the Mile High City.

I regularly spend time in Colorado State Parks – I’m in Eldo or Staunton almost every week! As a long-time Colorado local (15 years and counting) I’ve spent tons of time at each of these state parks. Of course, I have my favorites. Don’t worry, you’ll get all the juicy, local insights down below.

About this Guide to State Parks Near Denver

Inside this local guide to the most popular state parks near Denver, you’ll find:

  • A map of where to find each park
  • Info about the cost to visit the parks, including insider knowledge on the new Colorado State Parks Pass that can come with your vehicle registration
  • A look at each of the 10 closest state parks to Denver with insider knowledge about when to visit, what to see, and how to beat the crowds.
Meg scaling a rock face in Colorado with a helmet, white shirt, and blue pants on a bright sunny day. The camera is looking up at her at one of the best state parks near Denver.

Map of Denver Area State Parks

This interactive map gives you a quick look at all of the closest Denver area state parks. You can see that a few are a bit further from downtown, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a visit!

Map of the best state parks near Denver in Colorado. A blue dot represents each state park.

How Much Does it Cost to Visit a State Park in Colorado?

It’s $10 per vehicle or $5 per walk-up (bikes included) to visit a Colorado State Park. The annual state parks pass is $90 and only really worth it if you opted out of the Keep Colorado Wild offer with your vehicle registration. (More on that below).

Local Tip: Some parks charge an extra $3 fee for dogs.

Is it Free to Visit Colorado State Parks with a Colorado Registration?

The new program offered by the DMV lets you get an annual state parks pass for just $29 when you renew your registration. But you have to opt in. You’ll get a small stamp on your registration with the Colorado State Parks logo on it. Show your registration to the ranger to get into the park!

The Ultimate List of State Parks Near Denver. What to Check Out (and What Isn’t Worth Your Time)

Here’s a look at the top state parks near Denver you can check out. I’ve got a few suggestions about the highlights at each park, including hot local tips for making the most of your time!

Castlewood Canyon State Park

We make a pilgrimage every year to Castlewood Canyon (my partner grew up in nearby Castle Rock). For us, our spring trip marks the start of the warm weather! We pack snacks, go for a quick hike through the meandering canyon, and post up near Cherry Creek to give our feet a much-needed dip in the cool water and soak up the sun.

There are a few hiking trails, some climbing (don’t bother, it’s kinda nasty), and plenty of history in this rather unassuming location. I love that it never feels too busy here.

Drive time from Denver: 45 minutes
Best time to visit: Spring through Fall

View of a small waterfall surrounded by dirt and rocks and greenery in Castlewood Canyon State  Park.

Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek isn’t my favorite spot to visit, but its convenience of being one of the closest state parks near Denver can’t be beat.

This is a super busy state park that features 35 miles of multi-use trails and 2 boat launches. Weekends tend to be exceptionally crowded and you often cannot swim because fecal matter levels in the water become too high. My tip? Head elsewhere.

However, if you’re into boating, this is one of the few places near Denver where you can take your motorboat.

Drive time from Denver: 25 minutes
Best time to visit: Weekdays spring through fall.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

So I absolutely love to rock climb in Eldorado Canyon State Park. You can find me here at least once a week during the climbing season. But if you’re not into vertigo-inducing heights, there’s still lots to do in Eldo.

Their picnic areas and hiking take you through breathtaking sandstone canyons with towering cliff faces around every curve. Distant mountain views greet you at some of the higher hiking trails. Don’t forget to soak your feet in Boulder Creek after you’re finished hiking!

Local Tip: From Memorial Day through Labor Day you need a timed entry permit to enter the park with a vehicle. You can also take a shuttle that leaves from a lot that’s about a 5-minute drive into the park (no reservation required).

Drive time from Denver: 35 minutes
Best time to visit: May through October

Meg holding on to ropes and rock climbing along sheer cliffs in Eldorado Canyon State Park in Colorado.

Chatfield State Park

Situated right on the side of the C470 freeway, this park is largely popular for the Chatfield Reservoir. Compared to Cherry Creek, I much prefer Chatfield, but it’s certainly not a calm oasis. Water sports dominate the scene, and the beach is often packed beyond capacity on weekends.

However, there are a few other cool things to do in the area, including plenty of paved bike paths, a model airplane runway, and a horse stables.

The best part about Chatfield is it’s well-connected to the Littleton Bike paths, making it a great option for those who want to explore without their car.

Drive time from Denver: 30 mins
Best time to visit: Any time of year. Water sports are best from late spring through fall.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

It’s no secret that Golden Gate Canyon State Park is home to some of the best fall hikes in Colorado. This mega-popular (and surprisingly expansive) state park is a must-see for fall. Scenic drives and cool hikes make this a great location to escape the summer heat as well.

Drive time from Denver: 45 mins
Best time to visit: Year-round but fall is awesome!

Fall colors in colorado golden gate state park
Nina and I played hooky in the name of all things Aspens.

Boyd Lake State Park

Boyd Lake features one of the largest lakes in the Front Range Area and is located north of the city. Boating, fishing, and swimming are the park’s main attractions (along with over 120 campsites), but it does get pretty busy during the warmer months.

Personally, if you’re going to make the effort to come here, you might as well head into the mountains and check out more impressive places such as Grand Lake, Lake Granby, or Rocky Mountain National Park.

But if you live nearby, it’s a great escape from the suburban surroundings.

Drive time from Denver: 1 hr
Best time to visit: Spring through fall

Barr Lake State Park

Located north of Denver, this reservoir offers opportunities for fishing, boating (10hp or less), and a nature preserve. Located amongst fields and farms, this is certainly a quieter locale than some of the closer reservoirs near Denver. The distant views of Longs Peak make this a worthwhile trip if you’re located north or east of the city.

Drive time from Denver: 30 mins
Best time to visit: Spring or fall – summers can be hot!

Staunton State Park

As one of the newest state parks near Denver, Staunton is constantly developing new and unique things to do. Aside from hiking in Staunton State Park and mountain biking, there is incredible climbing that’s suitable for everyone from families to experts (don’t miss Chase the Sky, the Tan Corridor, or King’s Landing).

But what makes this park extra cool is the accessible track chairs – enabling wheelchair users to experience the great outdoors.

Highlights include waterfalls, creeks, towering rock formations, wildflowers, and the occasional view of Mt Blue Sky in the distance.

Drive time from Denver: 55 minutes
Best time to visit: Year-round

You can see a mountain in the distance surrounded by vibrant green trees on a clear day.

St. Vrain State Park

This park is small – only about 700 acres – but it’s home to some of the bigger bird populations in the Denver area. I feel like I see a bald eagle every time I’m here (but I may just be lucky). Fishing is a popular activity and there is some camping available.

Drive time from Denver: 40 minutes
Best time to visit: Spring and fall

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in all of Colorado. The beautiful scenery – a combination of brilliant red rock formations and lush greenery – make this one of the top state parks near Denver.

But people know about it. On weekends, you’ll want to arrive before 8 am if you want a chance at parking. The park does close if it’s full, meaning if you show up late, you’ll likely have to wait in a long line.

There is a wide network of trails from a half mile long to just over eight miles. This gives you plenty of options for hiking and taking in the scenery.

Local Tip: Dogs are not allowed in the park, so leave Fido at home.

Drive time from Denver: 45 mins
Best time to visit: Late Spring and Fall. May and September are the best.

Vibrant red rocks jutting out of the landscape and surrounded by green grass and trees on a bright day with a blue sky with clouds in the sky.

What is the Most Beautiful State Park in Colorado?

Aside from being a super subjective question (that everyone seems to ask), the most beautiful state park in Colorado is Roxborough. The stunning red rocks contrast against verdant, green hills. That’s why you’ll see a line of cars here – Roxborough is frequently at capacity. Eldorado Canyon State Park and Staunton State Park are close contenders.

What National Parks are Closest to Denver?

There are 4 national parks in Colorado, with the closest to Denver being Rocky Mountain National Park. The other three are quite a drive (but feasible as a weekend trip from Denver).

Additional, Local Colorado Resources

Looking to enjoy the best of Colorado, here’s a few resources for you:

  • Day Hikes Near Denver that Will Amaze You
Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.