Celebrate the outdoors for free during National Park Week | PostIndependent.com

National Park Week: Visit Colorado’s four national parks for free

National Park Week runs through Sunday, April 28, so pack the sunscreen, set the GPS and head toward one of Colorado’s four national parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake at the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. (shutterstock.com)

Rocky Mountain was the third most-visited park in the nation in 2018, according to the National Park Service, with nearly 4.6 million visitors. Get away from the tour buses and get a glimpse of the solitude and high-Alpine scenery that make Rocky truly iconic.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado at Sunset. (shutterstock.com)

Tucked away against the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range is a Colorado secret that feels otherworldly. Great Sand Dunes sees significantly fewer visitors than Rocky Mountain. This means you can practically guarantee peace and quiet as you explore the massive sand dunes and all their wind-swept glory.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. (shutterstock.com)

At just over 300,000 visitors in 2018, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is certainly one of the quieter parks that you will visit, which is great: You may have this gem all to yourself. Located near Montrose, Black Canyon is far from the crowds of Denver, so this gigantic ditch feels more intimate and private than its flashy Arizona relative. This Precambrian rock is nearly 2 million years old, according to colorado.com, and is named the Black Canyon because its walls are frequently darkened with shadows.

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Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. (shutterstock.com)

While the other three national parks all focus on natural features, Mesa Verde is the lone Colorado park (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) highlighting manmade structures. Sited in the Four Corners region in the southwestern quadrant of the state, Mesa Verde is home to 5,000 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings hidden in the steep walls of the tree-covered mesa. These dwellings were the homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there between 600 and 1300 CE before leaving the region entirely. Today, these sites are some of the best-preserved dwellings in the United States, according to the Park Service.

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