Here is the first part (of two) of my favorite things to do in the beautiful state of Colorado. This article features Mesa Verde National Park, Pikes Peak, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Four Corners NM, and Aztec Ruins NM. The photos are from our roadtrip in 2004.
Mesa Verde National Park is a national park, located in southwest Colorado. Meaning “green table” in Spanish, Mesa Verde covers an area of 81.4 mi2 (211 km2). The park entrance is located about nine miles (15 km) east of the town of Cortez. The visitor center is 15 miles (24 km) from the entrance, and Chapin Mesa (the most popular area) is another six miles (10 km) past the visitor center.
Mesa Verde is best known for a large number of well preserved cliff dwellings, houses built in shallow caves along the canyon walls. The park’s Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum provides information about the Ancient Puebloan civilization and displays findings and artwork.
Pikes Peak, a National Historic Landmark, is a mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, 10 miles (16 km) west of Colorado Springs. At 14,110 feet (4300 m), it is one of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners. Pikes Peak has been designated.
There are several ways to ascend Pikes Peak. There is a cog railroad which goes from Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak from April until December. You can also drive to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19 mile (31 km) road that starts a few miles up Ute Pass in Cascade and is unpaved after the halfway point. You can also walk, hike or bike the popular Barr Trail, which starts just past the cog railway depot in Manitou Springs.
The 85,000 acres (343 km2) Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve became a United States National Park by an act of Congress in 2004. It is located in the southern part of Colorado near Pueblo. These tallest sand dunes in North America rise close to about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The dunes form as wind blows sand and small rocks across the valley and up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is great to take a short hike into this magnificent landscape.
The Four Corners Monument marks the point in the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Tribal Lands where the states Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. It is located on the Colorado Plateau west of U.S. Highway 160, 40 miles southwest of Cortez.
Not only is the point a perpendicular four-corner intersection, it is the only point in the United States shared by four states. When visiting the monument you can stand on all four states and once, which is a great photo opportunity. There are many small Navajo and Ute Mounta Tribe-owned stands around the parking lot with souvenirs and authentic Native American snacks.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument is a U.S. National Monument, centered on ancestral Pueblo structures in north-western New Mexico, United States, located close to the town of Aztec.
The site was declared a National Monument on January 24, 1923, and was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, as part of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, on December 8, 1987.
See more photos of this roadtrip in our Colorado 2004 travel photo album