Colorado Springs is a beautiful paradise with panoramic views of mountains everywhere you look. If you enjoy the outdoors this is your oasis because the activities are abundant whether it’s hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or bicycling. However you choose to explore the mountains and red rock formations you can be assured it will be thrilling and gratifying.
I visited Colorado Springs in early June and the weather was mild during the day but the evenings were brisk. I had a wonderful time surrounded by nature’s magnificent mountains and spectacular red rocks. There is so much to see in the area so I am sharing my favorites spots that I visited that I think you will also enjoy too!
Garden of the Gods is a National Park and absolutely free to visit! You can explore this park by automobile, bike, horseback, hiking the trails or climbing the rocks. I chose to explore via car. First stop was the visitor center to pick up a map. To my surprise the visitor center has a wealth of information on the Garden of the Gods. There is also a museum with a variety of exhibits; a theater with movies on the history of the formation of the red rocks, and the dinosaurs that once roamed the area. Make sure you go upstairs to the outside balcony in which you will be greeted with a spectacular view of the Garden of the Gods.I must admit I was in completely mesmerized over the beauty of the Garden of the Gods especially with the snow capped Pikes Peak as the backdrop
With my map in my hand I made my way towards the entrance of the parks scenic path. The road is a one way loop that travels through 19 red pillar rocks. Each rock pillar is listed on the map with directions of where to park. Hiking through the trails and climbing the rocks was a thrilling experience, especially knowing that I was standing where dinosaurs once roamed. I could have easily spent an entire day in Garden of the Gods exploring. My favorite red rock pillar was the Balancing Rock. It’s also most people’s favorite too, so it’s usually quite busy if you want to take a picture.
Next on my agenda I headed to Manitou Springs; a picturesque town nestled at the base of Pikes Peak that is renowned for its natural mineral water springs. So naturally I had to try this magic water, luckily downtown has several fountains located over springs. So make sure you have a bottle handy to fill up with mineral water. I must admit mineral water alone has a unique taste but the benefits are incredible for your body. Downtown Main Street has plenty of character and is lined with a variety of locally owned shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants adding to the allure of the town.
My next journey took me to Rainbow Falls located at Fountain Creek also in Manitou Springs. Rainbow Falls isn’t your typical waterfall and is nicknamed Graffiti Falls since the bridge and the canyon walls are painted with graffiti. El Paso County recently named Rainbow Falls a historic site and has been diligently working to clean the area and bring it back to its natural luster. During my visit many volunteers were working hard cleaning up debris and putting a fresh coat of paint on the bridge. Despite the graffiti, I was still able to capture the canyons beauty as I strolled along the concrete walkway leading to the falls. Rainbow Falls is truly a hidden gem and definitely worth investigating the rainbow in the mist!
Cave of the Winds was next on my itinerary and is just a short distance from the Rainbow Falls. Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is a place for thrill seekers but also has spectacular views of William’s Canyon from its observation deck. Depending on your fear level, you can zipline over William’s Canyon, ride the Terror-dactyl drop, a 200 foot pendulum that swings over the canyon, or try the three story obstacle Maze that sits on the edge of the canyon. There is fun at every level for the whole family.
I decided to take the night lantern cave tour. Let me emphasize my only source of light was a candle in an old fashioned lantern bucket. Since I am prone to being afraid of the dark I thought I might get scared on this tour. To my surprise I didn’t have time to be scared since I was too busy concentrating on not tripping or hitting my head on a low cave while carrying my lantern. During the one hour tour, the guide provided history and folk lore of the caves. The night tour was fun but challenging, there were a few points when I had to bend very low to get through some parts of the cave. A person over 6 foot tall might find parts of the tour to be difficult task for them. For the cave tours I advise wearing good walking shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. After my short cave expedition I have a lot of respect for cave miners.
Red Rock Canyon next to Manitou Springs and south of U.S. Route 24 was another park I explored that is also free to visit. Red Rock Canyon is a series of ridged large red rock formations similar to the sandstone rocks of its neighbor Garden of the Gods. This beautiful canyon has several bicycle trails, rock climbing areas, and a variety of hiking trails. From the parking area it leads into four main trails which branch off into several smaller trails. I found a trail that led me to magnificent bedrocks that had a breathtaking view of the Garden of the Gods. I could easily have spent several days exploring the trails in Red Rock Canyon.
Pikes Peak Summit was my favorite site that I explored. I highly recommend making the trek to this spectacular mountain top. You can get to the Summit either by car, or Pikes Peak Cog Railway. I opted for a jeep tour with Adventures High Country Excursions and it was worth the reasonable rate they charged. Originally I had planned on taking the Cog to Pikes Peak but it only travels up one side of the mountain providing one view. Also you need to make reservations days in advance to secure a seat, for last minute seats are hard to obtain. My jeep excursion was a 4 hour round trip journey along Pikes Peak Highway. It was nice to have someone else do the driving along the 19 mile very winding twisting highway to the top of the Peak. I was able to comfortably enjoy my ride and look out the window and absorb the magnificent scenery. My driver made pit stops along the way as requested so I could capture the perfect photo. We even stopped to look at Big Foots footprint we didn’t see Big Foot but I think he could easily live in this environment. We also made a pit stops at Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center it’s a great opportunity for incredible views of Pikes Peak. We also stopped at the 16 mile turnout where I could see the winding road below me and we also stopped so I could take a peek at the terrifying Bottomless Pit. Yikes!!
When we reached the top of the Summit I was absolutely amazed by the beauty. I was very fortunate that it was a clear day at the Summit and relatively warm that equates to 40 degrees. The Summit is 14,115 feet above sea level with a panoramic view of 300 miles in all directions. There is a sign that shows you made it to the top of the Summit so I had to take my picture in front of it as evidence I made the daring journey. They suggest not staying very long at the Summit and after 30 minutes the high altitude was making me light headed. Standing among the clouds and gazing below Pikes Peak mountain range was truly an amazing experience I will always cherish.
Next I headed to the captivating The Broadmoor Seven Falls situated in a 1,250 foot box canyon nestled among gorgeous red rocks. The Seven Falls is located on private property at The Broadmoor Resort, but is accessible to the public with an entrance fee. The landscaping is beautiful leading to the waterfalls a lush green pathway alongside streams in between grand red rocks.
To capture the seven falls in its glory requires climbing stairs, 224 steps to be exact. I consider myself to be in good shape but it was a challenging task ascending up the stairs. The trek was definitely worth the climb, I had the opportunity to view all seven levels of the cascading waterfalls while enjoying the view red rocks as my backdrop. Once I made it to the top of the falls my adventure continued on a hiking trail that ran beside streams that are the source of the Seven Falls.
My journey ended with a leisurely drive to Canon City which is 45 miles west of Colorado Springs. The drive to Canon City was stunning with the snow capped Rocky Mountains in the background.Canon City is home to the famous Royal Gorge Bridge and Park my destination. The Royal Gorge Bridge was built in 1929 and is suspended 956 feet above the Arkansas River and is one of the world’s highest suspension bridges.As I approached the visitor center I stopped at the lookout area where it puts it into perspective of the height of the bridge and depth of the gorge.
The view didn’t scare me so off I went to pay my admission fee which includes the Aerial Gondola ride. I strongly encourage taking the Aerial across the gorge. The gondola took me on a flight 2,400 feet across the Royal Gorge and 1,000 feet high above the Arkansas River which ensured me optimal views of the gorge, bridge and Rocky Mountains. After I arrived on the opposite side of the gorge I headed toward the suspension bridge. I was excited when I stepped foot on the bridge and wasn’t at all worried about how high the bridge was. My excitement quickly turned into fear as I approached the middle of the bridge where the wind became stronger. I found it hard to look down at the gorge or stand close to the rail. The bridge railings are lined with flags representing each state, so I was ecstatic my home state flag was near the end of the bridge so I could take a picture next to it. The park provides fun for the entire family. The extreme thrill seeker can zipline across the gorge or ride the sky coaster; a free fall drop over the gorge. For the kids there is a play land and also an amphitheater with daily performances. If you prefer to experience the gorge at ground level than white water rafting might be a good option, or taking a ride on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.
Colorado Springs is a sanctuary for the nature enthusiast with gorgeous views of mountains as far as the eye can see. One of the best benefits is many of the red rock formations are absolutely free to explore. So put on your hiking shoes, grab a camera and take pleasure in Mother Nature’s magnificent art display in Colorado Springs. I had a great time hiking and exploring the mountains and red rocks, it is a vacation I will always cherish. I can’t wait to go back and discover more trails!! I know you will have a fantastic time exploring nature’s paradise. Safe travels!!