National Park Attractions: Exploring Colorado’s Past

by | Oct 25, 2016 | Travel

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Visitors to Colorado may head to urban centers, but the most frequent stops are the national parks. With four scattered across the state, the scenic settings make up the major component of all national park attractions to tourists and locals alike. Depending upon which park you choose to visit, you can wander through sand, alpine forests and past ancient Native American dwelling sites. In fact, the parks display a variety of information pertinent to explaining and exploring the state’s past.

Mesa Verde: Ancestral Homes

The attraction at Mesa Verde National Park is several unique and fascinating Ancestral adobe Puebloan dwellings. Visitors can only view this part of North American history by raising their eyes high up to the cliffs. Take a tour and you will have a chance to access several of these intriguing residences including the very popular Cliff Palace.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

While many come to visit the Black Canyon, the Park offers more than this natural wonder. It offers informative information about the early railroad – the Denver and Rio Grande – that once crossed the mouth of the canyon. The railroad museum and ranger talks throughout the summer are proven to be one of the more compelling national park attractions.

Rocky Mountain National Park

While most come to Rocky Mountain National Park to view the stunning landscape, they also learn about the history of the area. The park is home to close to 600 structures. Some of the earliest were razed as part of the philosophy of returning everything to a time before human invasion; others remain as is and have been marked.

In the 1800s, the land was not park land; it was the home of farmers and ranchers who constructed the first home resorts in the area. While “Squeaky Bob’s” Hotel de Scrabbleville no longer stands, you can still visit the site. Part of the Never Summer Ranch also remains from this period too; but is now called the “Mama” Cabin. Other sites providing information about the early ranch and dude ranch legacies are:

  • McGraw Ranch: The site was opened, after renovations, as a research facility in 2003
  • Green Mountain Ranch
  • Onahu Ranch: The ranch or lodge is an example of typical rustic design for that period, including logs, wood and stone as materials

Several outback buildings constructed in the rustic style represent development in the mid-1920s – including Kaley Cottage in the early 1930s. The National Forest Service constructed the oldest one, Twin Sisters, in 1914.

National Park Attractions

National Park Attractions are more than natural beauty; they evoke the history of a state and a nation. In Colorado, the different national parks do this in different ways. The Mesa Verde calls upon the state’s Native Heritage while the Rocky Mountain National Park is noted for its ranching past and its documented forays into dude ranching and tourism.