How to Become a Park Ranger in Colorado

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How to Become a Park Ranger in Colorado

The Colorado state parks system is the leader in wildlife management, recreation, and conservation nationally.

The state has 42 parks and over 300 wildlife areas, and the state parks receive 11 million visitors annually.

Park rangers in Colorado are state peace officers who enforce the law, manage natural resources, and perform guest duties. Park rangers’ roles in Colorado include:

  • Enforcing park rules and the Colorado Revised Statutes
  • Developing and managing visitors programs
  • Conducting patrols on land and water
  • Conducting investigations related to park issues
  • Managing temporary, seasonal, and  volunteer workers
  • Firefighting in case of wildfires
  • Animal Rescue

Colorado has four national homes in diverse sceneries and historical sites.

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Park rangers in Colorado are also mandated to preserve the historical and natural resources within these sites and to make visitors enjoy and have a whole experience of the parks.

Requirements To Become A Park Ranger In Colorado

Are you considering becoming a park ranger in Colorado?

To qualify for a post as a park ranger in the state, you must meet some basic requirements: academic qualifications, training and certification, physical fitness test, and other general minimum requirements.

Academic Qualification

A person seeking to fill the position of a park ranger in Colorado must at least have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university majoring in:

  • Natural resource management
  • Biology/Wildlife Biology
  • Zoology/Wildlife management
  • Ecology/Environmental science
  • Forestry
  • Park management / Outdoor Recreation

You can also substitute the lack of a relevant degree with specialized experience on a year-by-year basis for individuals working in park administration, law enforcement, or natural resource management.

Physical Fitness Test

During application, interested persons must meet the following physical fitness tests.

  • 21 push-ups in one minute
  • Run/walk 1.5 miles within 17 minutes
  • Run 300 meters in 72 seconds
  • Do 28 sit-ups in a minute

General Minimum Requirements

To qualify for a position as a park ranger in Colorado, you must meet the following minimum general requirements per Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

  • To have a valid state of  Colorado driving license.
  • Undergo a medical and psychological test
  • Submit to a drug screening test
  • Submit fingerprints for screening
  • Pass a criminal background check

Training and Certification

Upon qualifying for the above requirements, selected individuals must undergo the Peace Officer  Standards and Training basic program to become peace officers.

A Park ranger must also complete the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Training course.

Becoming A Park Ranger In The National Parks Of Colorado

Are you interested in working in one of the four National Parks in Colorado?

You need to apply for the National Park Ranger position with the U.S. National Park Service.

Requirements for individual positions vary, but you must meet the following standard qualifications.

  • Have a U.S. citizenship
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass security investigation
  • Have a valid Colorado state driver’s license
  • Submit to and pass a drug test

Education Qualification

You can qualify with a high school diploma or GED depending on the National Park ranger position.

However, many of the permanent posts require a minimum bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution majoring in:

  • History
  • Natural resource management
  • Archaeology/Anthropology
  • Natural science/earth science
  • Park management
  • Recreation management
  • Public administration
  • Museum science
  • Business administration
  • Law enforcement/police science
  • Social sciences
  • Behavioral science/sociology

Persons trained in other fields who can demonstrate the necessary skills and knowledge for working in a park still have a chance to land a position as a National park ranger.

There are some positions for individuals with special qualifications in technical or scientific fields and other park-related duties.

If you have the relevant training and experience in the following areas, you can get a position to work in the National parks as a ranger.

  • IT specialist
  • Tour guiding
  • Hospitality
  • Forest and fire management
  • Research
  • Preservation

National park rangers must also complete a ranger’s training program and be physically fit to pass the physical battery test.

Training and certification depend on the certificate’s position and will include:

  • Physical fitness test
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLEP)
  • Specific position assessment

Denver’s Urban Park Rangers

Colorado has urban park rangers who provide their services in Denver city.

Their work entails service delivery to guests, protecting park resources, and public safety in the many parks within Denver city.

Urban park rangers have unique duties in the town of Denver; they also administer the city’s boating program.

State Parks in Colorado

  1. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
  2. Barr Lake State Park
  3. Boyd Lake State Park
  4. Castlewood Canyon State Park
  5. Chatfield State Park
  6. Cherry Creek State Park
  7. Cheyenne Mountain State Park
  8. Crawford State Park
  9. Eldorado Canyon State Park
  10. Eleven Mile State Park
  11. Elkhead Reservoir State Park
  12. Fishers Peak State Park
  13. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
  14. Harvey Gap State Park
  15. Highline Lake State Park
  16. Jackson Lake State Park
  17. James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park
  18. John Martin Reservoir State Park
  19. Lake Pueblo State Park
  20. Lathrop State Park
  21. Lone Mesa State Park
  22. Lory State Park
  23. Mancos State Park
  24. Mueller State Park
  25. Navajo State Park
  26. North Sterling State Park
  27. Paonia State Park
  28. Pearl Lake State Park
  29. Ridgway State Park
  30. Rifle Falls State Park
  31. Rifle Gap State Park
  32. Roxborough State Park
  33. Spinney Mountain State Park
  34. St. Vrain State Park
  35. Stagecoach State Park
  36. State Forest State Park
  37. Staunton State Park
  38. Steamboat Lake State Park
  39. Sweetwater Lake State Park
  40. Sweitzer Lake State Park
  41. Sylvan Lake State Park
  42. Trinidad Lake State Park
  43. Vega State Park
  44. Yampa River State Park

Salary of Park Rangers In Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is the state’s leading employer of park rangers.

Officially, park rangers are known as park managers.

There are five levels of park rangers and a higher level of management.

The starting salary at the lowest level is $37,044.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Denver $41,530
Colorado Springs $40,873
Aurora $41,502
Loveland $39,923
Fort Collins $39,978
Arvada $41,530
Pueblo $38,085
Westminster $41,530
Boulder $42,068
Thornton $41,530

Regional Salary in Colorado

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Boulder, CO80$68,840$33.1$96,030$40,070
Colorado Springs, CO50$70,210$33.76$102,410$45,530
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO330$74,240$35.69$116,800$44,890
Fort Collins, CO630$78,340$37.67$117,890$50,200
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Conservation Scientists, OCC Code 19-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Level Minimum salary


Midpoint salary


Maximum salary


I 37,044 44,964 52,896
II 39,816 48,336 56,856
III 46,008 55,848 65,700
IV 53,172 64,548 75,924
V 65,916 81,708 97,488
VI 72,648 93,744 114,852

Frequently Asked Questions

Do park rangers carry guns?

Park rangers, being peace officers, have the authority to carry a gun and arrest offenders within the park.

What is the average median salary of a park ranger in Colorado?

Park rangers in Colorado earn a good income.

An average park ranger in Colorado takes home a median salary of $58,610.

What is the Keep Colorado Wild Pass?

Starting in 2023, residents of Colorado state can get a  $29 Keep Colorado Wild Pass during their annual vehicle registration.

Residents can use the pass to gain entry to all Colorado state parks.

Proceeds collected during the keep Colorado wild pass issue will help protect land, water, and wildlife.

The funds will also help to maintain trails and support community projects, making the outdoors safe and available.

Is there a difference between park rangers and forest rangers?

Yes, in their duties and employers.

Park rangers work under the Department of Interior, and forest rangers under the Department of Agriculture.

Is it safe to work as a park ranger in Colorado?

There are reported cases of either campers or animals attacking park rangers.

The environment where park rangers work is safe, but rouge people may take advantage of the forested areas and become violent when confronted by the park rangers.

Animals may also pose a threat, so proper training is necessary to avoid wildlife conflict.

USA Park Ranger by State

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