The Colorado state parks system celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009 and is nationally recognized as a leader in conservation, wildlife management, and outdoor recreation. The park system includes 42 state parks and more than 300 wildlife areas across the state. Colorado state parks serve some 11 million visitors each year.
Colorado’s park rangers serve as state peace officers, performing a variety of law enforcement and guest services duties, as well as natural resource management. Some of the duties of Colorado’s park rangers include:
- Patrol land and water and conduct investigations
- Enforce Colorado Revised Statutes and park rules
- Check for appropriate hunting, fishing, and park permits
- Visitor program development and management
- Interpretive services
- Management of temporary and seasonal workers
Colorado also features four breathtaking national parks, home to a diverse collection of scenery and historical sites. National park rangers work to preserve the natural and historical resources of these sites, as well as greatly enhance visitor experiences.
Becoming a Park Ranger with Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Education Requirements — Individuals interested in park ranger positions in Colorado must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Relevant majors include:
- Biology/Wildlife biology
- Ecology/Environmental science
- Natural resource management
- Outdoor recreation/ Parks management
- Zoology/Wildlife management
Specialized experience in law enforcement, natural resource management, or parks administration may be substituted on a year-by-year basis for required education.
General requirements — Individuals interested in becoming park rangers in Colorado will have to meet several minimum requirements maintained by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in order to be considered:
- Must be able to possess and maintain a Colorado state driver’s license
- Must submit to a medical/psychological examination and drug screening
- Must be able to pass physical agility test
- Must pass a background investigation
Training and Certification — Individuals selected for State park ranger positions will have to undergo the Peace Officer Standards and Training basic program in order to be certified as peace officers. Additionally, individuals will be required to complete the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Training program.
Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Colorado
Individuals interested in working in one of Colorado’s four National parks might consider applying for National park ranger positions with the U.S. National Park Service.
While the specific requirements vary by position, there are some standard requirements candidates should be aware of:
- Must be a U.S. Citizen
- Must be able to pass a background check/security investigation
- Must be able to obtain a Colorado state issued driver’s license
- Must be able to pass a drug test
Education requirements — Some National park ranger positions may only require a high school diploma or a GED. However, most permanent positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Relevant areas of major study include:
- Natural resource management
- Natural sciences/earth sciences
- Park and recreation management
- Law enforcement/police science, social sciences
- Museum sciences
- Business administration
- Public administration
- Behavioral sciences/sociology
Coursework in other fields may be accepted if applicants still demonstrate knowledge and skills necessary for successful job performance in the position being applied for.
Some positions might also consider individuals with specialized experience, such as technical or scientific work, wildlife management, law enforcement work, recreation management, or other park-related work. Some examples of this experience might include:
- Park guide or visitor services
- Law enforcement
- Preservation or research work
- Forestry and/or fire management
- Program specialist work
- Conservation work
Training requirements — National park ranger positions will require candidate to complete fitness and training requirements. The specific requirements for training and certification will vary by position, but might include the following:
- Physical Efficiency Battery test
- Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP)
- Basic first aid, CPR, AED and First Responder Certification
- Search and Rescue Certification
- Position-specific occupational assessment questionnaire
Denver’s Urban Park Rangers
State and national park rangers are not the only rangers providing services in the state of Colorado. Denver’s urban park rangers work to deliver guest services, protect park resources, and maximize public safety throughout Denver’s many city parks.
Urban Park Rangers are trained in public contact techniques, as well as CPR, First Aid and other rescue techniques. Rangers patrol on foot, or by bicycle or in vehicles. Rangers also work with local law enforcement to coordinate large-scale events, or in the case of emergencies.
Urban park rangers have several duties unique to the City of Denver, including the administration of the citywide boating program.
Colorado Park Ranger Salaries
Colorado is a state known for the beauty of its land. There are currently 13 national parks in Colorado including Mesa Verde National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Park rangers are employed by the division known as Colorado Parks & Wildlife. They are actually officially recognized as Park Manager, and there are five levels among them in addition to management. According to the State of Colorado, Division of Human Resources, Department of Personnel & Administration, the park police salary in Colorodo generally starts out around $37,044.
Below are the salaries of park rangers in Colorado:
Park Manager I
- Minimum: $37,044
- Midpoint: $44,964
- Maximum: $52,896
Park Manager II
- Minimum: $39,816
- Midpoint: $48,336
- Maximum: $56,856
Park Manager III
- Minimum: $46,008
- Midpoint: $55,848
- Maximum: $65,700
Park Manager IV
- Minimum: $53,172
- Midpoint: $64,548
- Maximum: $75,924
Park Manager V
- Minimum: $65,916
- Midpoint: $81,708
- Maximum: $97,488
Park Manager VI – Management
- Minimum: $72,648
- Midpoint: $93,744
- Maximum: $114,852
Additional entry-level salary data is shown in the tables below. This includes various titles that park rangers in various roles are recognized:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Colorado
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Colorado
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Colorado
Eleven Mile State Park
Eleven Mile State Park, part of Colorado’s Division of Parks and Wildlife, was created in 1970 to encompass Eleven Mile Reservoir, a popular spot for fishing. The park itself features miles of sandy shoreline around the reservoir and an expansive backcountry area that includes secluded canyons and hillsides accessible by a variety of trails.
The reservoir has several species of trout, northern pike, and kokanee salmon. The tremendous diversity of wildlife in the park includes several varieties of birds, mule deer, pronghorn, and black bears. Park goers enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities both on the water and throughout the park.
Park Ranger Job Duties at Eleven Mile State Park
Park rangers at Eleven Mile State Park working in a law enforcement capacity will enforce the rules and regulations throughout the park in order to protect park resources and ensure visitor safety. This includes patrolling the park by vehicle or by boat and issuing citations when necessary.
Park rangers will also inspect boats and other watercraft for potential aquatic nuisance species in an attempt to protect the delicate ecosystem of the reservoir. If found, park rangers will confiscate animals and fine visitors for the disturbance. Park rangers might also be required to file reports and appear in court.
Park rangers in interpretive roles plan and lead programs related to educating the public about park history and natural resources. Park rangers take visitors on guided hikes. They also visit campsites and provide campfire programs. Park rangers also work with children through school programs and the park’s Junior Ranger programs.
Park rangers also train volunteer naturalists within the park to help with programming and other tasks. They may be involved with special events within the park, and might also help to write brochures and other materials used in the parks. Rangers are also responsible for organizing and protecting park collections, including slides, photographs, and specimens.
Park rangers facilitate the day-to-day operations of the park. This includes a variety of tasks, including maintaining facilities throughout the park and providing maintenance and repair. Park rangers also collect fees and handle the daily operations of the park. Park rangers often work in the visitor center and man the front desk to act as an initial point of contact.
Park rangers in all positions provide valuable customer service. Rangers answer questions and respond to any complaints visitors might have. Park rangers also respond to emergencies and provide first aid and search and rescue assistance.
What Eleven Mile State Park has to Offer Visitors
Eleven Mile State Park has a variety of recreational opportunities available for visitor that park rangers must be aware of.
Recreational Activities — A wide range of day activities are available to Eleven Mile State Park visitors both on and off the reservoir. Park rangers often oversee the safety and appropriate conduct of these activities. Activities include:
- Visitor Center
- 5 miles of hiking and biking trails
- Picnic sites
- Marina with boat rentals
- Boating—kayaks, canoes, sailboats, motor boats
- Rock climbing
Camping — Eleven Mile State park boasts 349 campsites in 9 separate campgrounds around the reservoir. Sites range from basic and secluded, to more comfortable. There are a variety of facilities available to campers, including showers and toilets, as well as several dump stations. Park rangers also enforce quiet hours from 10 pm to 6 am. Campers must pay fees and register upon entering the park.
Backcountry camping is also available at 25 sites. Visitors must pack or boat in to access these locations. Backcountry camping also requires permits.
Winter Activities — Eleven Mile State Park is open year round and offers a wide variety of activities unique to the winter months as well. These activities pose special challenges to park rangers patrolling in winter conditions. Activities include:
- Ice boating
- Ice skating
- Ice fishing
- Cross country skiing
Several campground also remain open year round and are available for winter camping. The same rules and regulations apply. Campers will have to register and pay fees before entering campsites.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s Golden Gate Canyon State Park boasts more than 12,000 acres of land, including lush forests of aspen and Douglas fir, green meadows, and mountain peaks. The park itself is only 30 miles from the metropolitan area of Denver, making it an easy getaway for locals, as well as a popular tourist destination.
Visitors will find a variety of recreational activities available throughout the park, including the breathtaking views of Panorama Point, which offers vistas that span 100 miles of the Continental Divide.
Park Ranger Responsibilities and Job Duties at Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Park rangers at Golden Gate Canyon State Park have a wide variety of responsibilities. On the law enforcement side, park rangers perform routine patrols and ensure that important rules and regulations are being followed throughout the park. Park rangers issue citations to park goers who violate rules and regulations and take other necessary actions to ensure safety and protect park resources. Here are some examples of the unique rules and regulations park rangers must enforce:
- No fires allowed at any backcountry campsites
- Some trails are for hiking only, while others are “multiuse” trails
- Motorized vehicles are prohibited on all trails throughout the park
- Hunting is only permitted in the Jefferson Country portion of the park
- No live bait allowed in any of the fishing pond; must have Colorado fishing license
Park rangers also provide valuable interpretive services for park goers. Park rangers plan and implement educational programs designed to teach park goers about the history of the park and also about the importance of preserving the park’s natural resources. These programs include campfire presentations and Kids’ Hour talks. Rangers also take guided hikes and work in the visitor center to answer questions and provide customer service.
Park rangers also provide emergency assistance and first aid to park goers. There is no cell phone service anywhere in Golden Gate Canyon State Park so crises can arise quickly. Park rangers are trained to be first responders to a variety of situations and can take charge and help people. They also are well trained to work in a variety of adverse weather conditions. The park is open year round. This might mean working in conditions of extreme snow or cold.
Amenities and Guest Activities at Golden Gate Canyon State Park
The large expanse of Golden Gate Canyon State Park also means a number of recreational opportunities are available for guests. Park rangers must be aware of what park goers are doing at all times in order to ensure visitor safety and to protect the natural resources of the park.
Recreational Activities — Golden Gate Canyon State Park has a wide variety of activities that park goers may choose to participate in, including:
- 35 mile trail system for hiking
- 19 miles of multiuse trails for horseback riding and biking
- Visitor Center
- Hunting in some portions of the park
- 125 scenic picnic sites, including Red Barn group picnic area
- Rock climbing
- Pond fishing
- Park education programs
- Panorama Point Scenic Overlook
- Special event sites
- Harmsen Ranch Guest House Stables
- Snow shoeing and cross country skiing
Camping and Overnight Accommodations — Golden Gate Canyon State Park has several different opportunities available for guests interested in staying overnight. There are two campsites within the park. Reverend’s Ridge campground offers 97 sites, including RVs and trailers. Aspen Meadows has 35 sites for tents only. Campsites can be reserved ahead of time. Campsites close for the winter.
There are also four backcountry camping structures and 20 backcountry tent sites available throughout the park. Backcountry permits must be obtained at the Visitor Center. This allows park rangers to keep track of campers for safety reasons.
The park also has several cabins and yurts available for rental. There is also a group camping/cabin area available for rental that can house up to 30 people.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a 415 square mile park run by the U.S. National Park Service. The park encompasses portions of the Rocky Mountains, including the Continental Divide. Areas of the park feature everything from mountain tundra and dense forest, to glistening lakes and meadows. The park also boasts a wide variety of wildlife.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination for visitors, with approximately 3 million people visiting the park in 2011. The park features five visitor centers and a variety of activities and backcountry areas for adventure enthusiasts of all varieties.
Park Ranger Responsibilities at Rocky Mountain National Park
Park rangers in protective roles at Rocky Mountain National Park patrol the park in vehicles and on foot to ensure to protection of the park’s natural resources and also to ensure visitor safety throughout the park. As many roads exist throughout the park, rangers provide traffic control and issue tickets and provide emergency support and roadside assistance. They also ensure that visitors follow the park’s many rules and regulations, including federal regulations regarding removing and defacing objects within the park.
Park rangers in interpretive roles lead a variety of educational programs throughout the park. Rangers take guests on guided hikes in the summer and guided snowshoeing or cross country skiing excursions in the winter. Rangers also lead evening programs in the campgrounds, including night sky and astronomy programs. Rangers also work with children through youth and school programs, as well as the Junior Ranger program.
Park rangers also provide many invaluable services to guests, including educating them about necessary safety precautions within the park and sometimes delivering first aid and other emergency assistance. Rangers educate guests on mountain weather and other specific high country hazards that can pose threats to health and safety. Rangers also alert guests to conditions and closures within the park that could affect them. Rangers also educate visitors on how to approach and be around the wildlife in the park to ensure visitor safety, as well as the protection of the wildlife within the park. Park rangers may also assist in search and rescue efforts.
Recreational Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park prides itself on offering a wide range of activities at various levels of difficulty for park goers. Park Rangers not only facilitate a number of activities, but are also in charge of overseeing visitor safety throughout the park as guests engage in a the wide array of activities offered year round.
Recreational Activities—There are a wide variety of activities for visitors for at Rocky Mountain National Park to participate in, including:
- Scenic drives, including the famous Trail Ridge Road
- 349 miles of trails for hiking, backpacking and bicycling
- 5 visitor centers
- Picnic areas
- Wildlife viewing
- Horseback riding
Camping— There are several campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park available for visitors by advanced reservation. These campgrounds allow for tents, as well as trailers and RVS. The park is also open for backcountry camping. Backcountry campers are required to obtain a permit in advance in order alert park rangers to their presence in the park.
Winter Activities— Rocky Mountain National Park is open year round and there are a variety of popular winter activities available to visitors that create unique challenges for park rangers, including:
- Cross Country skiing
- Winter camping
- Winter wildlife viewing