Veterans Day deal means free entrance to national parks Sunday

The morning is red and orange over elk in Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park on Jan. 23, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Looking for a park day?

All national parks, including the four in Colorado, will be free for everyone Sunday in honor of Veterans Day, which this year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

If you’re a veteran or active duty service member, you, along with everyone in your car, can also get into Colorado’s 41 state parks for free Sunday. (Note: You must show proof of service.) Additional park fees, such as camping and fishing, still apply.

If you plan on checking out the parks, make sure to bundle up. Snow showers are likely in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Estes Park Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Montrose, near the Black Canyons of the Gunnison, and Alamosa, near the Great Sand Dunes, are looking at highs around 40 degrees. Alamosa also has a chance of snow. Mesa Verde National Park is looking at a high near 47 degrees, according to the weather service.

Estes Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk after the sunrise color has faded near Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park January 23, 2015. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)

Rocky Mountain National Park is 415 square miles of mountains tucked between Estes Park and Grand Lake. It has more than 300 miles of hiking trails.

Directions: From the east, drive down Interstate 25, take U.S. Highway 34 or 36. From the west, take Interstate 70 to U.S. Highway 40 to Granby to U.S. Highway 34 to Grand Lake.

Hours: Open 24/7. (If you arrive early before staff is at the gate, they may ask you to pay on your way out.) The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Fees: $25 for a day pass, $35 for a seven-day vehicle pass, $30 for a seven-day motorcycle pass, $20 for a seven-day pedestrian or bicyclist pass.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The Gunnison river flows through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on May 14, 2009, where walls rise up as high as 2,700 feet at its deepest part of the canyon. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Located near Montrose, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a steep canyon cut by the Gunnison River. It is a popular spot among climbers, as well as hikers and campers. It is home to the Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado at 2,250 feet from river to rim.

Directions: From Highway 50, head north on Highway 347 for 7 miles to reach the South Rim Visitor Center.

Hours: The South Rim Drive is open year-round up until Gunnison Point at the visitor center. Past there, vehicles are only allowed from early April to mid-November. It is open to cross country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months. The North Rim Road typically closes in late November and reopens mid-April. East Portal Road closes mid-November and reopens mid-April.

Fees: $20 for vehicles, $15 for motorcycles and $10 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Pass is good for up to seven days. The park is free for people 16 years or younger.

Near Alamosa

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in southern Colorado. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is home to the tallest dunes in North America. It’s centered around grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes and tundra. Visitors can hike, sand sled or hang out in the Medano Creek.

Directions: Take Highway 150 from the south or Country Road 6 from the west. The closest year-round, 24-hour gas stations are in Mosca (23 miles west of the park’s visitor center) and Fort Garland (31 miles southeast). The Oasis Store at the park’s entrance has gas during business hours from April through October.

Hours: Open 24/7. The visitor center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily Labor Day until Memorial Day Weekend.

Fees: $20 for vehicles, $15 for motorcycles, $10 for pedestrians. Passes are good for up to seven days.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park
Visitors tour the dwellings at Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)

Established in 1906, Mesa Verde National Park is home to archeological remnants of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there from 600 to 1300 CE. The park says it has nearly 5,000 archaeological sites, which include 600 cliff dwellings. The park also has more than 40 miles of roads.

Directions: Enter the park via Highway 160 between Mancos and Cortez. The first cliff dwelling is 21 miles (or 45 minutes) down a steep, narrow and winding road.

Hours: The main park road is open 25/7, although activities and services are limited to daytime hours. From October to the end of the year, the visitor center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Fees: From Nov. 1 until Dec. 31, $15 for vehicles, $10 for motorcycles, $7 for pedestrians and motorcyclists. Pass is good for up to seven days.

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