Colorado is home to four National Parks: Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. These natural wonders make for great destinations any time of the year; pack the car, turn on the radio and go! Hit the road to discover new places or experience old favorites all over again (where you just might find that “everything old is new again!”).
To enjoy all four national parks, plan on clocking at least 19 hours of road time in the car, which we consider time well spent, viewing mountains and canyons, ancient ruins, and sand dunes.
The common thread weaving a trip to the national parks together? Diverse scenery with something to delight every member in your traveling party (of one or more!). Scenic drives – check. Hiking – check. Spotting wildlife – check. Geographic marvels and prehistoric wonders – check and check! Plus, a Maverik – Adventure’s First Stop convenience store – nearby to fuel your Colorado adventure!
We are starting and ending an itinerary in Denver for the purpose of this road trip. Get your motor running and head south to Great Sand Dunes National Park, stopping in Colorado Springs, home to Pikes Peak – “America’s Mountain,” where you can drive to the top (like so many before you!), weather permitting – and Gardens of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark, where exhibits and galleries highlight geology, flora and fauna, people, history, and more!
These two attractions are inexorably linked, with majestic Pikes Peak providing a background of snow-capped-mountain-against-brilliant-blue-sky for the raw, untamed beauty of Gardens of the Gods’ dramatic 300’ sandstone rock formations. Pikes Peak Highway is safe and scenic, offering 19 miles of mountain terrain with many opportunities to stretch your legs and take photos of breathtaking views at one of many pull-offs. You may also take some time to learn about Pikes Peak history and wildlife.
It is likely time to get some fuel for your vehicle – and energize your body. Maybe opt for Ruffles potato chips or REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups – they’re the most picked up road trip snacks in Colorado Springs! Visit one of several Maverik locations in Colorado Springs, where you will find awesome values on fuel, drinks, and snacks through Maverik’s Adventure Club loyalty program.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
The newest of Colorado’s four National Parks, Great Sand Dunes National Park, is set against the stunning backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Enter the largest dune-field in the U.S., where sand mountains nearly 1,000 feet high are framed by snowcapped peaks in the distance. You can ski, snowboard, or sled down the dunes that stand at an elevation 8,700 feet above sea level.
Outside the park, you will find the frozen fortress of Zapata Falls in the winter. Drive through southern Colorado and the San Juan range, passing through small towns to explore, including Durango and Mesa Verde.
Hungry? Be sure to stop at the Maverik in Alamosa to choose from a menu of premium BonFire food made fresh daily. Are you in the mood for a delicious burrito, salad, wrap, sandwich, or baked goods (especially when it is fall and there are triangle cinnamon crumb and maple bar donuts)? Or how about tasty pizza made in-store? Maybe you would like a flavorful and filling Beefy Cheesy Burrito or Kings Hawaiian slider two-pack, specially priced to fit a tight budget for only $4.99 starting mid-November? Maverik makes numerous hot and cold quality food options affordable and fast that will not slow down your adventure!
Mesa Verde National Park
An archeological treasure, Mesa Verde National Park is a designated official international Dark Sky Park, taking visitors back in time to 12th Century Colorado. The area, including a number of highly preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings dating back more than 800 years, has cultural significance. Six hundred of the more than 4,000 archeological sites that call Mesa Verde “home” are cliff dwellings.
There are some surprises at Maverik, too! Did you know that it is a place to unwrap holiday convenience? Busy shoppers can find some of the best presents, from gift cards to winter goodies. Plus, holiday shoppers can reward themselves for a job well done with a pick-me-up from Maverik’s new bean-to-cup coffee machines at participating locations. Rich, smooth, premium roast flavors are on-hand for every taste. Raise a cup to the season of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa! Remember: for the non-coffee-drinker there is Red Bull Winter Fig Edition Fig Apple, along with hot cocoa and tea. Visit Maverik in nearby Cortez.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Continue exploring the San Juan Mountains on your trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park heading north, deeper into western Colorado and more amazing vistas and viewpoints. On the way, stop in Telluride, a great mountain town used for mining in the Victorian era, with shopping, hiking, and the state’s tallest waterfall.
At the park, do not miss scenic South Rim Drive. Nordic skiers and snowshoers alike are privy to staggering views of the park’s snow-dusted “black” rock walls. There are seven miles to cross-country ski. A walk to explore the landscape will display a variety of native plant life, including sagebrush and Pinyon Pines. Among the many additional options available to visitors: auto touring, wildlife viewing, and stargazing. Be sure to visit the South Rim Visitor Center to find out about Ranger programs being offered during your visit.
It is not always easy finding a restroom that you want to use while on the road, but you will always be happy to stop at a Maverik, like the one in Montrose! Fun fact: Did you know that Maverik restrooms have consistently won awards for being the cleanest year after year by GasBuddy, USA Today, CStore Decisions, and more?
Rocky Mountain National Park
It is approximately a five-and-a-half-hour drive through the heart of the Rockies on our itinerary to Rocky Mountain National Park, the state’s most famous national park, where there is something for everyone! Be sure not to miss Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S., and Old Fall River Road (open mid-July early October), passing aspen trees and rivers. While in the park, you can drive across the Continental Divide, hike to an alpine lake, climb a mountain summit, and see wildlife like mountain lions, deer, elk, bobcats and marmots, and look into the seminars and classes held all year at the Rocky Mountain Conservatory.
In the winter, take part in a Ranger-led snowshoeing trip (January to March), or go sledding at Hidden Valley in Estes Park. You may also want to check out Hot Sulphur Springs, to rejuvenate in a rocky mountain paradise, returning further renewed in mind, body, and spirit.
During a final fill-up of your vehicle at Maverik, check out Private Label brands of affordably-priced, exceptional-quality products and branded chips, water, jerky, candy, energy shots, firewood, and oil. Even cooler – the “Adventure Fuel” product packaging reflects the adventure branding in Maverik stores!
More about Maverik
There are 31 Maverik locations in Colorado, ready to be, as their tagline shares, “Adventure's First Stop.” Maverik is the one-stop-shop that will satisfy your taste for adventure quickly and easily. (You can download their App to order online, earn rewards and save!) Additionally, a number of programs will keep you updated about all things Maverik with just a touch, from a Text Club sending weekly information and offers to members to an Adventure Club. Learn more at www.maverik.com. Get social with Maverik on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.