Free days at national parks, national monuments and national historic sites in Colorado

Get outdoors to see some of Colorado's most beautiful and significant places with no entry fee.
Jan. 2, 2024
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, where veterans can enjoy free entry on Nov. 11.during Colo.
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park, which offers visitors free days throughout the year to see the park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

The National Park Service offers free days throughout the year that make it even easier to visit Colorado’s 13 stunning national parks, monuments and historic areas.

Whether you want to hike, snowshoe or see snow-covered peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, slide down the dunes or enjoy starry nights at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve or see how the Ancestral Pueblo people carved homes in cliffs at Mesa Verde National Park, National Park Service free days provide a great opportunity to discover the beauty and rich history close to home.

Remember that you’ll need to plan ahead to visit the busiest national parks in the U.S. Learn more about making reservations to visit Colorado’s popular tourist attractions during the summer and fall.

Free days

Here’s a roundup from the National Park Service of National Parks, National Monuments and National Historic Sites in Colorado that you can enjoy on a free day or any time of year.

Amache National Historic Site

Granada, Colorado

The newest addition to National Park Service sites in Colorado, the Amache National Historic Site, is a somber place that commemorates a bleak period in U.S. history. Located in southeastern Colorado, Amache was one of 10 incarceration camps where U.S. leaders imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II.

There are no fees to visit Amache on any day of the year, and few buildings remain from the time when more than 10,000 people were forced to live at Amache from 1942 to 1945.

But horticulturists have recently discovered survivor roses from the time when Japanese Americans lived at Amache. Japanese people around the world are known for their remarkable gardens, and the roses that survived in hostile, sandy soil for decades at Amache are a testament to the strength and perseverance of those who were forced to live at Amache.

Read about these remarkable Amache roses that are blooming again. And watch Amache Rose, a video from Rocky Mountain PBS.

If you wish to visit Amache, the stie is open during daylight hours. Currently, Amache is home to a cemetery, a monument, building foundations, and landscaping. Visitors can download a self-guided tour. The National Park Service is working closely with the Amache Preservation Society to provide visitor services.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

La Junta, Colorado

Bent’s Old Fort features a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. Today, living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a great place to visit on free days at national parks in Colorado.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Montrose, Colorado

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky. Learn more about canyons throughout Colorado.

Colorado National Monument

Fruita, Colorado

Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. But this treasure is much more than a monument. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau and canyon panorama. You can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where you may spy bighorn sheep and soaring eagles.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

Gunnison, Colorado

Curecanti is a series of three reservoirs along the once-wild Gunnison River. The reservoirs that makeup Curecanti today are a destination for water-based recreation high in the Rocky Mountains. Best known for salmon and trout fishing, Curecanti also offers opportunities for hiking, boating, camping, and bird-watching.

Dinosaur National Monument

A dinosaur skull and vertebrae at Dinosaur National Monument is a great place to visit during free days in national parks in Colorado.
A dinosaur skull and vertebrae at Dinosaur National Monument. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Vernal, Utah & Dinosaur, Colorado

Dinosaurs once roamed here. Their fantastic remains are still visibly embedded in the rocks. Today, the mountains, desert, and untamed rivers flowing in deep canyons support an array of life. Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures. Later, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge here. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history or scenery, Dinosaur offers much to explore.

Read more about this location and other places to explore dinosaurs in Colorado.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Florissant, Colorado

Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide, and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different prehistoric Colorado.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes Park & Preserve is a great place to visit on a free day for national parks in Colorado.
Sandhill cranes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Patrick Myers.

Mosca, Colorado

Open 24/7 year-round! There are no reservations to visit or limit on the number of visitors in the park and preserve, but there is currently limited capacity in the visitor center. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and tundra.

Learn how to enjoy Great Sand Dunes during every season of the year.

Hovenweep National Monument

Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah

Once home to over 2,500 people, Hovenweep includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. Explore a variety of structures, including multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. The construction and attention to detail will leave you marveling at the skill and motivation of the builders.

Mesa Verde National Park

Cortez and Mancos, Colorado

This wild landscape of deep canyons and expansive vistas is home to over a thousand species, including several that live nowhere else on earth. For over 700 years, the Ancestral Pueblo people built thriving communities on the mesas and in the cliffs of Mesa Verde. Today, the park protects the rich cultural heritage of 26 tribes and offers visitors a spectacular window into the past.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Free days are a great time to visit National Parks. Here, we see snow on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Free days are a great time to visit national parks, monuments and historic sites in Colorado.
Longs Peak is the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Free days are a great time to visit national parks, monuments and historic sites in Colorado. Photo by M. Reed, courtesy of the National Park Service.

Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times.

Read about great hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Many of these routes are great for snowshoeing during the winter.

Please keep in mind that reservations are required to visit Rocky Mountain National Park during the busy summer and fall months.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Kiowa County, Colorado

The Sand Creek Massacre: profound, symbolic, spiritual, controversial, a site unlike any other in America. As 675 cavalrymen came around a prairie bend, the camps of Chiefs Black Kettle, White Antelope, and Left Hand lay in the valley before them. Chaotic, horrific, tumultuous, and bloody, the events of November 29, 1864 changed the course of history.

Yucca House National Monument

Cortez, Colorado

Through a continuing tradition of public and private cooperation, Yucca House National Monument preserves one of the largest archeological sites in SW Colorado. The unexcavated nature of the site preserves its integrity and beauty for future generations of scientists and visitors. Experience a sense of discovery by visiting a site that has remained largely untouched for the past 800 years.

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Coloradan. She attended Colorado College thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summers in college.

Katie is a dedicated storyteller who loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as an award-winning journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and at an online health policy news site before joining UCHealth in 2017.

Katie and her husband, Cyrus — a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer — have three adult children and love spending time in the Colorado mountains and traveling around the world.