The National Park Service, or NPS, is turning the big 100 this month – and we can’t wait to celebrate its century old birthday.
In honor of the centennial celebrations taking place this year, let’s take a look back to August 25, 1916 when the creation of the agency took place.
As recounted in The National Parks Conservation Association’s “The Visionaries,” it all began over a bonfire in 1915 when Stephen Tyng Mather, the assistant to the Secretary of Interior, convinced more than a dozen of the country’s most influential men during their 12 day nature walk to help support the effort of establishing a government agency to protect the parks for future generations.
In 1916 the efforts paid off when President Woodrow Wilson signed “The Organic Act,” mandating an established agency, now called the National Park Service, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
To celebrate the century old birthday of this great agency, the National Park Service invites you to “Find Your Park.” But why visit just one when you can visit all four of Colorado’s national parks? Inspired by the Washington Post’s How to Visit Nearly Every National Park in One Epic Road Trip, we have put together our own “epic” road trip through all the national parks in Colorado.
With the help of Google Maps (our loyal guide), we calculated that the shortest path through every national park in Colorado would be 609 miles long and take 11 hours and 23 minutes to drive through non-stop.
Starting from Rocky Mountain where you’ll be surrounded by spectacular mountain environments, and ending on the ancient home of the Ancestral Pueblo people on Mesa Verde, here’s how to explore all of the dynamic national parks Colorado offers – in one memorable road trip.
Stop #1: Rocky Mountain | Estes Park, CO
Experience an abundance of mountains and wildlife at Rocky Mountain. With an area encompassing around 415 square miles, this park is ideal for those who enjoy sight-seeing, hiking, camping and star gazing in one of the country’s most popular parks.
Stop #2: Great Sand Dunes | Mosca, CO
We can bet you’ve never seen sand dunes like these before. Great Sand Dunes offers an oasis of sandy creations along with a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes and tundra. Sled down a sand mountain, hike through the forests and much more.
Stop #3: Black Canyon of the Gunnison | Gunnison, CO
Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. In addition to intense rock climbing, visitors can also hike along the many trails and set camp in the lush campgrounds.
Stop #4: Mesa Verde National Park | Mesa Verde National Park, CO
Known as some of the most notable and best preserved sites in the United States, Mesa Verde National Park gives visitors a glimpse on the living spaces of the Pueblo people who once inhabited our state. With plenty of views and loads of history, we’re sure taking a trip to Mesa Verde National Park is totally worth it.
Are you inspired to get in on the anniversary fun? Pack your bags and check out what the state’s national parks are all about for an adventure you’ll never forget.
Bonus: Bring your energetic fourth grader along for the ride. Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders can visit all of the country’s national parks for free for an entire year!