Colorado: State or National Parks: What’s the Difference?

A common question often asked is whether it is legal in Colorado to carry a firearm in state or national parks.
With regards to Colorado State parks, permit and non-permit holders can carry in state parks, as well as municipal parks. Section 18-12-214 of the Colorado Revised Statutes authorizes the permittee to “carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, and since this law does not limit a permit holder’s rights based on local ordinances, municipalities do not have the right to limit those rights by banning guns in city or county parks.

Until a few years ago, firearms were not permitted on federal parklands. However, the law governing possession of firearms inside a national park changed on February 22, 2010.

The law changed so that visitors may possess firearms within a national park unit provided they comply with federal, state, and local laws.

So guns are allowed in all but about 20 of the park service’s 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park. However, more than 30 national parks span more than one state, so visitors need to know where they are in those parks and which state law applies Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers’ offices, because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.

While visiting National Forests in Colorado, you may carry a weapon. However, in addition to state laws, you must comply with Federal Regulations pertaining to the use of a firearm on National Forest System lands.

A firearm may not be discharged in the following National Forest areas:
1. Within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area; or
2. Across or on a Forest Development road or an adjacent body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge; or
3. Into or within any cave. [36 CFR 261.10 (d)]

Some forest or districts have additional restrictions on discharging a firearm. You are advised to check with the authorities in the areas you will be visiting.

In accordance with 16 USC 1a-7b, in any national park, a person may possess a firearm if such possession is in compliance with the laws of the State in which the national park area is located. Therefore, in any national park in the State of Colorado, Colorado’s laws would apply.

Another Federal statute, in particular 18 USC 930, prohibits firearms or other dangerous weapons within a “Federal facility,” defined as a “a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.” In national parks, such facilities may include visitor centers, administrative offices, and/or maintenance buildings. Any such facilities will be clearly marked with signs at all public entrances.

For more information about national parks, and park-specific regulations, visit the National Park Service website and search by park name, location (state), activity, or topic.