Libraries offer free access passes to Colorado state parks and attractions

Check out free passes to Colorado state parks, museums and attractions
July 3, 2024
Lory State Park west of Fort Collins offers great hikes and water access. Library members can get free access to the park though the "Check out a park" program. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.
Lory State Park west of Fort Collins offers great hikes and water access. Library members can get free access to the park though the “Check out a park” program. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Your community public library has always been a place to access knowledge and explore the world through books and videos. Now, libraries offer opportunities for learning in different habitats and places.

More than 100 public Colorado libraries are part of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife “Check out a pass” program, and many more offer members’ free online passes to dozens of local museums, galleries and attractions around the state.

“Sometimes, paying for these passes is unattainable for families,” said Holly Bucks, circulation supervisor for Poudre Libraries’ Old Town Library in Fort Collins. The cost of admission for a family of four to the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science may not be affordable but by using a library pass program, families can get in for free for a day.

“Libraries are trying to make everything in our state more accessible, and these partnerships allow for that,” she said.

Check out a pass – a free pass to visit any Colorado state park

Colorado has 42 state parks that offer various year-round recreational opportunities such as hiking, fishing, birdwatching or snowshoeing. These state parks require an entrance pass.

Rifle Falls State Park. Photo by Denise Chambers/Miles.
Rifle Falls State Park. Photo by Denise Chambers/Miles.

Recently, Colorado began offering residents a state parks pass for an additional $29 fee on their vehicle registration as part of the Keep Colorado Wild Pass program. In 2023, nearly 30% of drivers opted in for that pass.

For those who don’t have a parks pass and want to see what they are missing, checking out a 7-day state parks pass from the library might be a great option.

To use the ‘Check out a pass’ program, follow these steps:

  • Visit your local library’s online catalog and search for “check out state parks.”
  • Note that libraries do not allow people to place a “hold’’ on a pass. The catalog will show if a pass is available or when it will be returned.
  • If available, visit your public library and ask to check out the pass. You must be a library member in good standing to do so.

Along with a pass to hang on your rearview mirror, you’ll also be able to borrow resources on wildlife, trees, wildflowers and birds that you may spot in Colorado State Parks. There is also information on park activities, Leave No Trace and a seasonal star chart.

Other park passes

Looking for a mindfulness activity in nature? Try bird-watching.
Some libraries, like the Poudre Library in Fort Collins, also offer passes to natural areas in the city and county. Like the state parks pass, these passes get you into areas that charge an admittance fee for free and provide resources to aid in your exploration. Search your library’s website or ask a librarian about their specific “free park pass” options.

Libraries offer other virtual passes to cultural institutions and activities

Another way to explore Colorado is to take advantage of your library’s other free access passes. Many libraries partner with area museums, galleries and attractions to offer free access to many different Colorado attractions to their library patrons.

These programs go by different names, such as Curiosity Pass, Cultural Pass, or Discovery Pass, but their goal is the same: to offer affordable access for everyone. Each library has its own program with slightly different rules, so visit its website for details.

These online passes allow you to reserve a one-day entry into places such as the Denver Museum of Science and History and the Denver Zoo or Botanical Gardens. You can also check out something different, like the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, or Ride the Denver Trolley.

You can search the library’s online program by date or by a specific location.

Local library: A gateway to exploring Colorado

Libraries have always been integral to communities, making learning accessible to all. Now, through programs like “Check out a pass,” libraries break down financial barriers and provide people with the opportunity to explore Colorado’s rich culture and natural beauty.

So the next time you visit your library, don’t just check out a book – check out your next adventure.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.