Colorado is rich with natural spaces worth exploring, and there isn’t quite a better way to do so than through one its many nature centers. Nature centers hope to introduce and educate the public to the importance of conserving and protecting wildlife and native flora. Many of Colorado’s nature centers are surrounded by acres of trails and open space, giving visitors an opportunity to experience the state’s stunning outdoors. Here are our 10 favorites.
The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, located in Colorado Springs, is one of the most popular nature centers in the state. The center itself has 30 interactive nature exhibits and a video explaining the creation of the Garden of the Gods’ famous rock formations. Also a National Natural Landmark, the rock formations are the main attraction. Stop in the nature center but also don’t forget to take a short hike in the park to visit one of Colorado’s most treasured natural landmarks.
Step back in time with the Plains Conservation Center with a site in Aurora and West Bijou. This center is a relic of the past complete with a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith workshop and genuine Cheyenne tipis. The learning center at the Plains Conservation Center is open to schools and groups by appointment.
Bluff Lake Nature Center is Denver’s only nonprofit nature center. This outdoor facility is actually a wildlife refuge featuring a variety of wildlife habitats. On the premises, there are summer camps and outdoor environmental education programs. This nature center is perfect for a family-friendly outing.
Bear Creek Nature Center is one of Colorado’s first nature centers. The surrounding nature of Bear Creek truly connects visitors to Colorado’s pristine wilderness. Learn about honeybees, black bears or the state’s aquatic life. There are guided and self-guided tours along the two miles of trails at this Colorado Springs nature center.
Located in Golden, the Lookout Mountain Nature Center is an ecological playground. The environmentally-friendly building, with a recycled paper ceiling and upcycled boxcar floor, is complemented by the 110-acre preserve surrounding the structure. Inside the center, enjoy wildlife dioramas and experience free educational programs every summer. The gentle hiking trails through meadows and Ponderosa pines are perfect for kids and adults alike.
The Majestic View Nature Center in Arvada is located on 80 acres of picturesque land. The 3,000-square-foot center has interactive exhibits focusing on wildlife and plant life. Children will enjoy arts and craft classes as well as educational story times during the summer months. Don’t forget to take a stroll outside, which boasts views of a lake, wetlands and Colorado prairie grass.
Along the South Platte River in Littleton is the Carson Nature Center and South Platte Park. With over 880 acres of open space and aquariums and terrariums full of live plants and animals, the Carson Nature Center is a great destination for an educational outing. The most popular exhibit is the center’s 12-foot long table allowing children to create their own town or forest, complete with dams, sand and other ecological props.
The Morrison Nature Center is located on the 200-acre Star K Ranch in Aurora. Before even setting foot in the center, enjoy the scenic nature of the ranch, which is home to mule deer, turtles and a variety of birds. The center offers a variety of exhibits focusing on Colorado wildlife and plant species.
The Nature & Wildlife Discovery Center of Pueblo is much more than a nature center. This facility works as a wildlife refuge for birds of prey with nearly 200 injured or abandoned birds admitted to the facility every year. Visit the center for education programs about these fascinating bird species.
Head to Chatfield State Park in Littleton to experience the Audubon Center. The center encourages a hands-on approach to nature. Since it is complete with binoculars, microscopes and other educational equipment, visitors can truly experience this center and the critical ecological habitat that surrounds it.