1849 Places You Can Use a Metal Detector in Colorado
Updated August 2020: We’ve expanded this article to include much more information on specific places you can use a metal detector in Colorado, as well as rules and regulations within city parks, state parks, national forests, and BLM land.
If you're interested in metal detecting for fun, you may have wondered where you can legally use a metal detector to search for lost coins and jewelry. Laws differ from state to state, and, particularly in Colorado, from one city to another. With a patchwork of overly wordy and often-conflicting rules, it can be difficult to determine whether metal detecting is allowed where you are.
In this article, we'll cover 1849 places you can use a metal detector in Colorado. They range from the often-crowded, sometimes-creepy former cemetery, current Cheesman Park in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, to remote campgrounds on BLM land. We explain the rules and regulations, and how they apply to each region, so that you’ll know what you can and can’t do with your detector. And, we’ve included additional resources to help you find even more places to use a metal detector.
Assuming you live in Colorado, your property is fair game for metal detecting. If you live in an older house, think of how many people have dropped coins, metal toys, or lost rings and other jewelry in your yard throughout the decades. Knowing an area’s history is key to identifying potential metal detecting sites—check with your local historical society or library for access to plat maps and other documents to get an understanding of who once lived where you live now.
Also close to home, your local public parks are a great place to get your feet wet in metal detecting. You're likely to find coins, bits of aluminum foil, lost rings, jewelry, and discarded packaging, and you'll learn how to interpret the Target ID readings and audio tones of your detector.
However, it is important to note that while using a metal detector in public parks throughout Colorado is generally allowed, digging is near-universally prohibited. You can metal-detect on the surface, but cannot deface, damage, or destroy park property.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the regulations regarding metal detecting in parks for many of the cities and towns in Colorado, organized by region.
Denver Metro Area
The Denver Metro Area is home to more than 2.8 million people in 30+ communities, most of which allow metal detectors—all told, there are 934 public parks open to surface detecting. Notable exceptions to that include Evergreen, where metal detecting is not allowed in public parks; and Wheat Ridge, where using a metal detector requires a permit, and anything you find potentially becomes property of the city.
City of Denver
Within the Denver city limits, there are 213 parks that are all open to the use of metal detectors. Some of the most popular include Cheesman Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, City Park, Washington Park, and Central Park.
Denver’s Mountain Parks system—one of the most unique in the United States—consists of 13 developed city parks (and more than 30 conservation areas) located across four counties outside of the Denver city limits. Some of the most visited Mountain Parks include Lookout Mountain, Bergen Park, Genesee Park, and Red Rocks.
Denver Parks and Recreation also manages the city’s 26 parkways, many of which are tree-lined streets with wide medians that are treated by residents as parks in their own right. Popular parkways in Denver include Monaco Parkway (between 6th Ave and 36th Ave), E. 6th Ave Parkway (between Colorado Blvd and Quebec St), and E. 17th Ave Parkway (between Colorado Blvd and Monaco St).
City of Aurora
Aurora allows metal detecting in its 97 developed parks. Additionally, at the Aurora Reservoir, metal detectors can be used on the swim beach, boat launch beach, and other designated swimming areas. You are allowed to dig at the reservoir, but must backfill your holes.
Aside from Wheat Ridge and Evergreen, much of the Denver metro area is quite friendly to metal detecting. In the suburbs, there are 584 public parks waiting to be explored.
City of Wheat Ridge
Wheat Ridge requires that you obtain a permit in order to use a metal detector in city parks and open spaces. The permit is valid from April to September and must be renewed each calendar year.
Probing or digging is strictly prohibited in nearly all park areas, which means that you’re limited to surface searches. Additionally, the terms of the permit stipulate that any objects you may find while metal detecting on city property become property of the City of Wheat Ridge at the discretion of the Parks Department.
Once a permit has been issued, you’re allowed to use a metal detector at 18 of the city’s parks and open spaces, which include Creekside Park, Hopper Hollow, Prospect Park, and Stites Park, among others.
Metal detecting is prohibited in Evergreen’s 15 parks.
- Arvada (90 parks)
- Brighton (20 parks)
- Broomfield (50 parks)
- Castle Pines (4 parks)
- Castle Rock (53 parks)
- Centennial (2 parks)
- Commerce City (17 parks)
- Edgewater (4 parks)
- Englewood (13 parks)
- Federal Heights (2 parks)
- Glendale (5 parks)
- Golden (15 parks)
- Greenwood Village (19 parks)
- Highlands Ranch (26 parks)
- Idaho Springs (6 parks)
- Lakewood (65 parks)
- Littleton (16 parks)
- Lone Tree (12 parks)
- Northglenn (22 parks)
- Parker (15 parks)
- Thornton (74 parks)
- Westminster (54 parks)
Boulder Metro Area
Boulder sits right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and was founded in 1871. With the notable exception of Louisville, CO, the 62 public parks within Boulder and 104 parks in surrounding communities are open to metal detecting.
City of Boulder
There are 62 parks within the limits of the City of Boulder that are open to metal detecting, including Chautauqua Park, Eben G. Fine Park, and Melody Park.
Metal detecting is not allowed at Louisville, CO public parks.
- Erie (13 parks)
- Lafayette (20 parks)
- Longmont (42 parks)
- Lyons (2 parks)
- Nederland (8 parks)
- Superior (19 parks)
Colorado Springs Metro Area
The City of Colorado Springs has 123 parks within its city limits. You can detect on the surface, as long as you do not dig or otherwise damage city property, and you cannot lawfully keep anything you find while metal detecting that “may have value to humans, contains cultural significance, or is of archaeological interest” (i.e. more than 50 years old).
Colorado Springs Suburbs
- Cañon City (10 parks)
- Fountain (11 parks)
- Manitou Springs (5 parks)
- Monument (3 parks)
- Palmer Lake (3 parks)
- Woodland Park (7 parks)
- Berthoud (6 parks)
- Dacono (3 parks)
- Estes Park (9 parks)
- Frederick (5 parks)
- Fort Collins (50 parks)
- Greeley (40 parks)
- Loveland (31 parks)
The communities in southern Colorado were important trading centers during the Colorado Gold Rush and for early homesteaders.
- Pueblo (44 parks)
- Walsenburg (5 parks)
- Trinidad (6 parks)
- Alamosa (5 parks)
- La Junta (2 parks)
- Rocky Ford (2 parks)
- Grand Junction (36 parks)
- Montrose (29 parks)
- Delta (14 parks)
- Glenwood Springs (14 parks)
- Aspen (10 parks)
- Vail (10 parks)
- Fruita (10 parks)
- Palisade (3 parks)
Metal detecting is not allowed in Durango public parks or school yards.
- Cortez (5 parks)
- Crested Butte (9 parks)
- Gunnison (9 parks)
- Ouray (9 parks)
- Silverton (2 parks)
- Telluride (2 parks)
All told, there are 1,632 public parks in the State of Colorado where you can lawfully use a metal detector, and three communities (Evergreen, Louisville, and Durango) that do not allow metal detecting in their parks. Other cities (Colorado Springs and Wheat Ridge) have regulations that, while not outrightly prohibiting metal detecting, make it exceptionally difficult to stay within the lines of the law.
Colorado is home to 11 national forests. Metal detecting is often allowed at campsites and picnic areas within national forests, and you can typically keep coins and jewelry that you may find, but regulations may differ at individual properties.
Arapaho National Forest
Located in north-central Colorado, the Arapaho National Forest consists of over 700,000 acres and was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Forest contains six wilderness areas.
Grand Mesa National Forest
Originally established in 1892 as Battlement Mesa Forest Reserve, Grand Mesa National Forest was the third “forest reserve” designated in the United States. It borders White River and Gunnison National Forests.
Gunnison National Forest
Established by President Roosevelt in 1905, Gunnison National Forest contains (wholly or partially) seven separate wilderness areas and is named after John Williams Gunnison, an explorer in the mid 1800s.
Pike National Forest
Located west of Colorado Springs in the Front Range, Pike National Forest is named after the early 1800s explorer Zebulon Pike. It encompasses 1.1 million acres of fire-prone forest, as well as Pike’s Peak.
Rio Grande National Forest
Partly containing four wilderness areas, the 1.86 million acres that make up the Rio Grande National Forest in south-central Colorado contains the world’s largest agricultural alpine valley, and one of the largest high deserts in the world.
Roosevelt National Forest
Roosevelt National Forest is located in north-central Colorado and encompasses mountains, valleys, and forested areas along the Front Range. It is adjacent to the Arapaho and Routt National Forests.
Routt National Forest
The Routt National Forest is located in northwestern Colorado and is named after John Routt, the first governor of the state. Established in 1905, the forest contains seven wilderness areas (two wholly and five partially) and is split in half by the Continental Divide.
San Isabel National Forest
Containing seven wilderness areas, the more than 1.1 million acres that make up San Isabel National Forest are home to 19 of the 53 fourteeners in Colorado, including Mount Elbert, the highest point in the state.
San Juan National Forest
Covering nearly two million acres, San Juan National Forest was established in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It contains two wilderness areas, borders Uncompahgre National Forest to the north, and Rio Grande National Forest to the east.
Uncompahgre National Forest
Situated on the Western Slope, Uncompahgre National Forest covers nearly a million acres and contains three wilderness areas. There are some mining roads that remain from the mid to late 1800s.
White River National Forest
As Colorado’s most-visited national forest, the White River National Forest (located near Silverthorne) contains 10 mountain peaks, eight wilderness areas, and more than 2500 miles of trails.
Comanche National Grassland
Located south of La Junta in southeastern Colorado, the Comanche National Grassland is home to golden prairies, canyonlands, and a rich natural and human history.
In the Jurassic period (150 million years ago), this part of Colorado was a lush tropical forest and the home of dinosaurs like Brontosaurus and Allosaurus. Today, you can see over 1300 visible dinosaur tracks in Picketwire Canyon.
From 12,000 to 400 years ago, people were creating rock art and carvings on canyon walls that relayed information to others. Today, many of these markings, pictographs, and petroglyphs can still be seen along the walls of Picture Canyon, located within the National Grassland.
Between 1821 and 1880 (when travel by rail arrived to Santa Fe), the Santa Fe Trail connected Santa Fe, NM with Franklin, MO. The trail crossed 900 miles of plains, deserts and mountains, through Comanche territory and land claimed both by Mexico and the United States. In 1846, the trail was used by the U.S. Army to invade New Mexico during the Mexican-American war. A branch of the trail passes through the Grassland.
The Comanche National Grassland is home to many abandoned homesteads from settlers in the 1870s to 1930s, when the Dust Bowl forced farmers to leave their land.
Pawnee National Grassland
The Pawnee National Grassland is east of Fort Collins in Northeastern Colorado. Keota, a mostly abandoned town settled in the early 20th century, is located within the Grassland. Other nearby ghost towns include Masters and Dearfield.
National Wilderness Areas
There are nine wilderness areas that are managed by the United States Forest Service in Colorado.
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness
Situated between Leadville and Buena Vista, the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness is contained within the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Due to its sheer size (more than 41000 acres), Buffalo Peaks has a high potential for experiencing true solitude.
Byers Peak Wilderness
Located south of Granby within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, the Byers Peak Wilderness was established in 1993 and is named after the founder of Colorado’s first newspaper, William Byers.
Cache La Poudre Wilderness
The Cache La Poudre Wilderness is located northwest of Fort Collins in the Roosevelt National Forest. In 2012, 95% of the wilderness burned in the High Park fire.
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
Spanning three national forests, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness contains eight fourteeners and more than a dozen trailheads that trace the history of mining and exploration in the area.
Comanche Peak Wilderness
The Comanche Peak Wilderness, named after its prominent peak, contains 66,000 acres of pine and spruce forests beneath alpine tundra. Bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, the Wilderness is home to many species of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, elk, moose, and coyotes.
Eagles Nest Wilderness
Eagles Nest Wilderness lies within the White River National Forest near Vail and Silverthorne. 180 miles of trails cut through its rough peaks and ridges, deep valleys, and dense forests.
Flat Tops Wilderness
As Colorado’s second-largest Wilderness area, Flat Tops is nearly a quarter-million acres of lakes, ponds, and flat-topped cliffs situated within the White River and Routt National Forests.
Fossil Ridge Wilderness
Just northeast of Gunnison, the Fossil Ridge Wilderness contains 26 miles of trail weaving through forests, valleys and lakes, granite peaks, and scarred land from past gold mining.
Greenhorn Mountains Wilderness
Located northwest of Walsenburg in southern Colorado, Greenhorn Mountains Wilderness vividly showcases the changing landscape from plains to mountains. It is mostly forested, with dense, rarely-visited woodlands and steep, rocky slopes.
Colorado has 41 state parks scattered across the state. Many have picnic areas, campsites, and beaches, which are often a good place to start metal detecting in search of coins and jewelry. However, to use a metal detector in a state park, you first need to get permission from the Park Manager (by email or phone) for that particular location.
Of those 41 parks, the following 22 are most likely to allow metal detecting along beaches, in lakes, picnic areas, or in campgrounds. This status is subject to change at any time, however, and we cannot guarantee that this will be the case when you arrive, so please check with the Park Manager before you go.
- Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
- Barr Lake
- Boyd Lake
- Cherry Creek Reservoir
- Eleven Mile
- Elkhead Reservoir
- Highline Lake
- Jackson Lake
- James M. Robb Colorado River
- John Martin Reservoir
- Lake Pueblo
- Lone Mesa
- Pearl Lake
- Steamboat Lake
- Sweitzer Lake
- Sylvan Lake
- Trinidad Lake
- Yampa River
Metal detecting is allowed on the 173 public properties in Colorado owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can keep modern coins and other objects that are newer than 100 years old. However, historic sites such as abandoned towns, cabins, graves, ranches, railroads, and mining areas are not open to metal detector use.
We’ve compiled some of the more intriguing sites below.
Following an old stagecoach route to Cripple Creek, Shelf Road is known as one of the best climbing sites in the state. It was built in 1892 by Canon City as a toll road; today, it’s an accessible dirt road that winds along Fourmile Creek, through scenic valleys and canyons, climbing over 4000 feet of elevation.
Situated between Saguache and Gunnison, the scenic recreation area along Cochetopa Creek provides developed campsites, picnic areas, and a relaxing place to fish or wade into the water with an all-terrain metal detector.
Knowles Overlook Campground
Located within the McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area near Grand Junction, the Knowles Overlook Campground has seven undeveloped campsites overlooking the Colorado River. Note: A high-clearance AWD vehicle required to access the campground.
Also located within McInnis Canyon, Jouflas Campground features eight campsites with picnic tables and fire grates.
Ledges Cottonwood Campground
Tucked in amongst groves of cottonwood trees along the San Miguel River, the Ledges Cottonwood Campground has 14 campsites ranging from $5 - $20 per night, featuring picnic tables and grills.
Cottonwood Grove Campground
Situated along the Gunnison River near Delta, on the state’s Western Slope, Cottonwood Grove Campground consists of six campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, shade trees, and water access.
Places You Can’t Use a Metal Detector
While there are (thankfully) thousands of places in Colorado that you can use a metal detector, there are hundreds of places that you can’t use one.
County and Regional Open Space Parks
Colorado is divided into 64 counties, each with their own Open Space park regulations. Some of these, such as Douglas County, strictly prohibit the use of metal detectors. Others, like Boulder and Jefferson County, do not specifically prohibit metal detectors, but don’t allow you to use them to locate and keep natural or manufactured objects.
So, to varying degrees, metal detecting is off-limits in Open Space and Regional Parks.
National Parks and Monuments, Historic Sites, and Recreation Areas
Metal detecting and possession of a metal detector (even bringing one with you in your car) are illegal in National Parks and any other lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS). This includes National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites, Recreation Areas, Historic Trails, Wildlife Refuges, and National Wilderness Areas that are managed by NPS.
- Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge
- Oregon National Historic Trail
- Pony Express National Historic Trail
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Rocky Mountain Wilderness
- Indian Peaks Wilderness
- Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
- Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness
- Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge
- Colorado National Monument
- Curecanti National Recreation Area
- Dinosaur National Monument
Central and Southern Colorado
- Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
- Baca National Wildlife Refuge
- Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
- Browns Canyon National Monument
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Great Sand Dunes Wilderness Area
- Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
- Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
- Santa Fe National Historic Trail
- Canyons of the Ancients National Monument - Cortez
- Chimney Rock National Monument
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Mesa Verde National Park - Cortez
- Mesa Verde Wilderness Area
- Old Spanish National Historic Trail
- Yucca House National Monument - Cortez
If these aren’t enough, the following organizations and resources can whet your appetite for more places to take your metal detector.
Metal Detecting Organizations / Clubs
- Eureka Treasure Hunters Club - Denver
- Uncompahgre Treasure Club - Montrose
- Rocky Mountain Prospectors and Treasure Hunters Club - Greeley