Scenic view at the Roxborough State Park, one of the best state parks near Denver, Colorado

10 Best State Parks Near Denver in 2023 (By a Local)

I’m a Denver local who loves hiking and exploring the many state parks near Denver! 

The parks in this guide feature historical ruins, dramatic rock formations, and activities for every interest and skill level. Trust me, you won’t want to miss the unique things to do like hot air ballooning, ice fishing, and hiking to the tallest waterfall near Denver! 

👉 Heads Up: Residents to Colorado may have noticed a $29 increase in your vehicle registration fee, unless you opted out. This grants you a Keep Colorado Wild Pass, providing access into all Colorado state parks for free! 

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!

10 Best State Parks Near Denver

Cherry Creek State Park

Boat, fish and swim in summer, then ice skate and cross-country ski in winter at this urban state park.

View at the Cherry Creek State Park during winter sunset
A winter sunset makes a serene setting

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Cherry Creek State Park 

Cherry Creek State Park is one of the top state parks in Colorado, offering tons of activities! City dwellers don’t have to travel far to get out on Cherry Creek Reservoir, go horseback riding, or snowshoeing. The park also has some of the best camping near Denver

A daily vehicle pass to the park is $11. You can also bring your pup to the dog park for an extra $3. Most days, parking isn’t a problem. However, summer weekends and holidays are crowded and may even hit capacity. You can take the light rail to the Dayton stop but you’ll want a bike to get you the rest of the way there. 

Chatfield State Park

Soar in a hot air balloon, go paddleboarding, and more in southwest Jefferson County. 

A dog wandering at the Chatfield State Park during a sunny morning
Chatfield State Park features a 69-acre off-leash dog park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Chatfield State Park

Chatfield State Park is under 40 minutes from Denver, set near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Littleton! You can swim in the reservoir, go paddleboarding, and take out motorized and non-motorized boats. 

Unique activities include hot air ballooning and model airplane flying. Hiking and biking are also available at the park, which is home to one of the largest campgrounds in Colorado. You can camp here year-round, but RVs in winter get electric-only campsites. 

A daily vehicle pass is $10 and a dog park pass is $3. You’ll want a vehicle if you’re visiting the park from Denver. There is no good way to Chatfield State Park via public transportation. There is plenty of parking most of the year, but summer weekends and holidays may fill up. 

Staunton State Park

Hike to the tallest waterfall near Denver or experience the park’s innovative track-chair program.

Overlooking view of Elk Falls from above
Elk Falls as seen from above…
The Elk Falls from the bottom
and at its base

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Staunton State Park 

The 75-foot Elk Falls is a key attraction at this park, as it’s the area’s tallest waterfall. Reaching the site involves a difficult 14-mile trek, but it’s one of the best hikes near Denver

There are plenty of other hikes in the surrounding mountains, too — including ones suitable for kids! Staunton State Park also has a track-chair program so people with mobility issues can also explore the trails. The Davis Ponds are a popular fishing spot for the whole family.

A daily vehicle pass is $10. The park is in the Rocky Mountains — in Conifer, about 45 minutes from downtown Denver. You will want a vehicle to travel to the park. There are two electric vehicle chargers near the visitor center. Note that cell service is sketchy in areas of the park.

👉 Pro Tip: Interested in other Colorado parks? Be sure to check out our Colorado national park list! We cover biggies like Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park, plus lesser-known national parks. 

Roxborough State Park

Hike through towering sandstone formations and get amazing views! 

Scenic view at the Roxborough State Park in Denver, Colorado
Dramatic scenery at Roxborough State Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Roxborough State Park

Spend a day hiking at Roxborough, where the hiking trails range from easy to difficult. The hike to Carpenter Peak rewards you with views of the snow-capped Rockies and downtown Denver. Willow Creek Trail is good for kids and you can try bird watching along the way. The Fountain Valley Trail wanders by the ruins of an old estate on the property.

Bikes are not allowed at the park, and the same applies to dogs and horses. This Colorado state park is a day-use only park so there’s no camping. You’ll want your own vehicle to travel to Roxborough, and a daily vehicle pass is $10.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Gorgeous hikes no matter the season — but the views are especially stunning in the fall.

Overlooking view at the Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Aspen groves abound at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Golden Gate Canyon State Park 

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the best things to do in Golden! There are hiking trails through forests, near ponds, and through high, grassy meadows. You can also mountain bike, fish, and view wildlife at this park. 

A daily vehicle pass is $10. You can camp here year-round, and even book a cabin or yurt. This makes the park one of the most unique places to stay in Golden

Castlewood Canyon State Park

A beautiful park for hiking, horseback riding, and learning about Colorado history. 

View of the author's daughter in Castlewood Canyon with lots of trees around her
My daughter on a family hike in Castlewood Canyon State Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Castlewood Canyon State Park

Explore one of the best things to do in Parker at this Colorado state park! You can go horseback riding and there are hiking trails ranging from a half-mile to 4 miles, so it’s a great place to hike with kids. You can still see remnants of the Castlewood Dam on certain trails. It broke in 1933 due to one of the worst floods in Denver’s history. 

A daily vehicle pass is $10. This is a day-use park so there is no camping. Bicycles are also not allowed in the park. 

Eldorado Canyon State Park

A popular park with rock climbing and walks along scenic South Boulder Creek.

Abigail Bliss with her dogs at the Eldorado Canyon State Park
Travel Lemming editor Abigail and her pups at Eldorado Canyon State Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Eldorado Canyon State Park 

Eldorado Canyon State Park is one of the best things to do in Boulder! Go fishing along scenic South Boulder Creek, try rock climbing, or tackle a mountain biking trail. There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore in the park. In winter, enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

There is a $10 daily vehicle use fee. There is also a reservation system for weekends and holidays from May 20 through September 10, 2023. Eldorado State Park is one of the day-use Colorado state parks, so there is no camping. 

Barr Lake State Park

Enjoy water activities and watch for bald eagles from the observation deck. 

Eagle flying over the Barr Lake State Park
Eagles build nests on one side of the lake, at a distance from people

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Barr Lake State Park

Barr Lake State Park is home to one of the best lakes near Denver! It has an archery range, an accessible fishing pier, and a trail around the lake. You can also go boating and paddleboarding. But the big draw here is the eagles. 

Bald eagles winter here at the lake, and people watch for the birds and their chicks. There is a boardwalk and several viewing stations where you can try to get a glimpse of the birds. However, you’re even better off bringing your own binoculars. 

There is a $10 daily use vehicle fee. Barr Lake is a day-use park so there is no camping here. 

St. Vrain State Park 

This Longmont park is well-known for its 11 fishing ponds, drawing anglers year-round.

View of ice fishers at the St. Vrain State Park
Ice fishers at St. Vrain State Park (photo: Faina Gurevich / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 St. Vrain State Park

St. Vrain State Park used to be called the Barbour Ponds and is a great spot for fishing near Denver. You’ll find trophy bass, rainbow trout, and a whole host of other fish in the stocked ponds. 

The park also has hiking trails, beautiful spots for taking pictures, and campgrounds. The flat bike trails make this a good spot to bring kids. Overall, it’s one of the best day trips from Denver

You’ll need a $10 daily vehicle pass to visit the park. You can bring your dog, but he’s not allowed in any of the waterways. 

Boyd Lake State Park

A Loveland park with lots of water activities, camping, and shady trails. 

A man paddleboarding on the Boyd Lake State Park
A paddle boarder on Boyd Lake

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Boyd Lake State Park

Boyd Lake State Park has motorized boating and waterskiing. You can also go paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing — rentals are available on-site. You can swim and fish on the lake as well. The park also has a nature trail and shady biking trails. 

There is a $10 daily vehicle pass required to visit the park. Dogs are allowed on a leash, but not at the swim beach. There is also camping at the park with electric sites for RVs.

FAQs About Denver State Parks

What is the prettiest state park near Denver?

Roxborough State Park is the prettiest state park near Denver, in my opinion. Red sandstone rocks jut up in striking geologic formations at the park. The strenuous hike up Carpenter Peak is one of the best hikes near Denver! Roxborough also has some easier hikes that you can do with younger kids, along with historic sites and other vistas. 

What is the most popular state park in Colorado?

The most popular state park in Colorado is Lake Pueblo State Park in Pueblo County. The park is about an hour from Colorado Springs. You can spend a day on the water, go hiking and biking, and even camp at the park. 


Visiting the state parks near Denver is one of my favorite things to do in Denver! It’s a wonderful way to learn about the history and geology of this amazing state. Happy exploring!

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