6 Natural Wonders of Colorado
From the Great Pyramid of Giza to Rome’s famous Colosseum, we all know of the iconic Wonders of the World. This list of stunning natural destinations and historic human-built monuments is recognized throughout the globe. We nature lovers in Colorado also recognize our own version! Between incredible canyons throughout Southern Colorado to the unique Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, our state is full of spectacular natural sceneries. We consider places like these the Natural Wonders of Colorado! This list could run on for several pages highlighting the beauty of our state, but we have narrowed it down to six natural destinations worth knowing about. Read along in this blog to discover the places we consider the six Natural Wonders of Colorado:
Natural Wonders of Colorado
1. Royal Gorge
The Royal Gorge in Southern Colorado has been an icon among travelers for over a century – even before America’s Highest Suspension Bridge was built. The gorge is carved out by the Arkansas River, features sheer granite walls, and is home to an assortment of wildlife. The intricacies of the Royal Gorge, paired with beautiful mountains along the horizon, makes this destination number one on our list of the Natural Wonders of Colorado!
Visitors and locals alike have valued the beauty of the Royal Gorge for many years while Native Americans have also called this beautiful region their home. A bridge across the gorge was first envisioned by Lon Piper, a businessman and bridge builder from San Antonio, Texas. Piper visited the Royal Gorge in 1928. He quickly became compelled to build a suspension bridge across it. The Royal Gorge Bridge was completed within seven months in 1929 and has never been part of a road or highway system. Rather, the bridge was built for the sole purpose of allowing those who come across it to enjoy the spectacular views of the Royal Gorge!
Today, guests can enjoy thrilling rides and conquer new heights at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. Today, visitors can still come across the bridge, suspended 956 feet over the Arkansas River below. Also included in your general admission ticket along with access to the bridge, you can take a gentle, scenic ride on our Aerial Gondola. You will witness incredible, unmatched views of the Royal Gorge Bridge and surrounding landscape. Then, if you dare, ride the World’s Scariest Skycoaster! You and up to two other riders fly over the Royal Gorge rim, temporarily dangling over the roaring Arkansas River below. On this ride, you swing back and forth, reaching speeds of 50 mph!
In addition, our most exciting adventure allows you to get up close and personal with the granite rock walls of the Royal Gorge. The Via Ferrata at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is one of the most unique climbing adventures in Southern Colorado. Safe for the whole family, you will strap into climbing harnesses and use steel cables and rungs to climb the rock walls within the Royal Gorge. The views seen from anywhere throughout the park or within the Royal Gorge are the ultimate sceneries of Southern Colorado. You must visit the #1 destination of the Natural Wonders of Colorado!
2. Garden of the Gods
In 2022, Garden of the Gods was ranked by Tripadvisor as the #2 Top Attraction in the country, so we think it is fitting to put this destination as the second Natural Wonder of Colorado! Garden of the Gods is a large city park in Colorado Springs, featuring towering sandstone rock formations that glow in hues of orange and red. The rocks feature unique shapes, such as one that is known as the park’s iconic Kissing Camels, and another that perfectly frames Pikes Peak in the background, the Siamese Twins.
This city park is free to the public and rewards all visitors, whether hiking or driving through, with incredible views of the massive rocks. Hiking trails intertwine throughout the park and the paved road follows the rolling hills of the terrain. You can spend hours in Garden of the Gods to find all the best views of the landscape and overlooks for photography. Find Garden of the Gods on the west side of Colorado Springs and discover for yourself this Natural Wonder of Colorado!
3. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
When thinking of Colorado, you may imagine dense wooded forests and snowcapped mountains. But in one region of Southern Colorado, just 2.5 hours south of the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, is a landscaped filled with Colorado’s version of sandy beaches. Unknown to most, the tallest sand dune in North America is located here. At about 750 feet from its base to the summit, Star Dune is the tallest dune at the time of this writing. The sands consistently change from wind gusts, which could change this statistic in the future.
Aside from the popular bucket list item of summating Star Dune in Colorado, other adventures await at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve! Before reaching the park, be sure to rent a sand board and sled to ride the sandy hills down after your hike. Hit the sand dunes during early summer to catch a beach day when Medano Creek is flowing! You can play in the sand, splash your feet, and tube down the gentle waters over the sand. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is truly an eccentric destination in Colorado, putting it at #3 on our Natural Wonders of Colorado list!
Explore this quick look at the six destinations we have named on the National Wonders of Colorado:
Garden of the Gods
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Colorado’s Cave Systems
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Find the most incredible sceneries throughout Colorado at these six places. The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park tops this list as it features both natural and man-made phenomenon, including America’s Highest Suspension Bridge across the iconic gorge! Discover more of the adventures at this top attraction in Southern Colorado, along with the other spectacular destinations throughout the state.
4. Paint Mines Interpretive Park
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park looks just as it sounds: as if someone took a paint brush to the rocks! This is another park in Colorado Springs, located on the eastern edge of the city. Among the valleys and prairielands in this part of the city lies a peculiar set of colorful rocks complete with abnormal formations. The park is named for the Native American’s use of the colorful clay rocks to create their paint. The bright bands of color throughout the rocks are caused by oxidized iron compounds. When visiting this Natural Wonder of Colorado, you will discover the fantastic geological formations, which include rock formations called spires and hoodoos. These formations were created through erosion, exposing gullies between the rocks and layers of selenite clay and jasper that bring about more color! The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is free to enter from dawn until dusk. Please be mindful that pets are not allowed within the park and climbing/scrambling the rocks is strictly prohibited.
5. Colorado’s Cave Systems
While Colorado is known among adventurers for being able to reach high altitude environments on its famous 14er peaks, there is much below ground to explore too! This fifth Natural Wonder of Colorado encompasses a couple destinations to visit where you can explore underground in intricate cave systems. The first place to see caves is in Colorado Springs at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Adventure Park. This destination offers several different tours to showcase the underground network of caves on the west side of Colorado Springs.
The second destination for guided cave exploration in Colorado is Glenwood Caverns! The Glenwood Caverns features stunning cave scenery, including the most highly decorated cave room in Colorado, King’s Row. The list of Natural Wonders of Colorado wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our caves!
6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Another famous canyon in Colorado along with the Royal Gorge is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This canyon is a world-renowned natural destination for its jet-black rocks within the shadows of its own walls. The Colorado River winds through the Black Canyon, carving through some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. Because of its sheer steepness and blackness, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison must have its place on the list of Natural Wonders of Colorado!