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Stefan Myers | 06.14.2019

Colorado Springs, Colorado, is home to some of the state's most amazing outdoor sites and adventures. The second largest city in Colorado with over 300 days of sunshine, Colorado Springs began its existence quite curiously as a resort town founded by Civil War General William Jackson Palmer in 1871. A wartime General, civil engineer, and industrialist, Palmer fell in love with the surrounding scenery and helped promote its status as a premier sightseeing destination and Victorian-era spa town for people of ailing health, especially tuberculosis. Today, Palmer's indelible mark is left on the area with his gracious donations of lands encompassing many of the amazing parks that Colorado Springs has to offer.

Whether you’re only here for a weekend or an entire week, the multitude and richness of Colorado Springs' outdoor activities bring the adventure to your doorstep. From exploring mesmerizing sandstone monoliths that seem to reach and soar straight up to the clouds to climbing over 14,000 feet to take in unparalleled views of the Front Range, many of the adventures listed below are only minutes away from downtown.

In fact, there are so many adventures within reach in Colorado Springs that your biggest issue will simply be choosing where to go and what to see.

 


Singletrack and red rocks in the aptly named Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Stefan Myers.

Mountain Biking and Hiking

Without even leaving the city of Colorado Springs, the Grandview Trail at Palmer Park is a great place to see soaring views of Pikes Peak. Its many twisting singletrack trails are a must for riding and exploring on mountain bikes as well. If you’re looking for a more gentle rails-to-trails type of hike, check out the New Santa Fe Regional Trail just north of the city. This 17-mile, out-and-back hike is great for a casual hike that runs through the U.S. Air Force Academy grounds to Palmer Lake. Get ready for miles of wide open trail filled with abundant views of the Front Range mountains.

On the west side of the city is the world-famous Garden of the Gods, so called for its massive red sandstone monoliths and spires, some more than 300 feet tall. An afternoon in the labyrinth of rocks is awe-inspiring, as this place is unlike any city park you’ve ever experienced before. If you want the same kind of red rock experience with fewer crowds, you can head across the highway to Red Rock Canyon Open Space. This lesser-known park has many of the same sandstone features as Garden of the Gods, but with the bonus of being able to mountain bike around miles of trails. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, these trails connect with the black diamond Section 16 Trail that continues to Manitou Springs.

 


Hiking at Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark. Tyson Gillard.

Hikes

If biking isn’t on the menu for the day but you wanted a stellar workout, hike, consider the Manitou Incline. This 1-mile trail will have you gasping for breath with 2,000 feet of elevation gain via a set of stairs rising higher than anything you’ve ever seen before. If you’re feeling bold, consider a run up the stairs, a popular fitness challenge in the Colorado Springs area. Many people try to charge the incline for a quick, hard workout or a personal best.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is one of the best places in the area for camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Consider making this your base camp as you explore the area's other natural attractions. This park has some of the nicest, most modern facilities of any state park in Colorado and has attractions for the whole family, including a camping destination open year round. Cheyenne Mountain State Park boasts over 27 miles of trails and from the highest point offers expansive views of the city.

Not to be confused with the state park, North Cheyenne Cañon Park offers opportunities for visitors to hike or bike the many trails in the surrounding canyons, or cool off by taking a hike up Helen Hunt Falls at the western end of the park. This park also connects with Gold Camp Road, a historic drive down the old Colorado Midland Railroad and its supposedly haunted tunnels. Another marvelous waterfall to explore is Seven Falls located near the Broadmoor. It’s 224 steps climb nearly 180 feet to the top of the seven cascades which gives this stunning waterfall its name.

 


Dramatic inclines lead to spectacular views on the Pikes Peak Toll Road. Tyson Gillard.

Scenic Drives

No trip to Colorado Springs would be complete without a visit to "America's Mountain." If it’s a scenic drive you’re in the mood for, there’s none better than a drive up Pikes Peak Scenic Byway, one of the highest paved roads in North America. Traveling through four distinctly different ecosystems as you snake up to the 14,000-foot peak, unique plants and wildlife are abundant at every switchback.

After spending some time on the mountain, consider heading west into the foothills to explore the famous gold mining district of Victor. The Vindicator Valley Trail takes you on a short hike through some of Colorado’s richest mining history. Here is one of the largest concentrations of intact mines and historic structures in Colorado, just a sample of what life was like back in the late 1800s. The scenery on Highway 81 is worth the drive alone, and it’s also an amazing place to see the fall colors in the foothills during their brilliant display.

With so many attractions and adventures on offer, it’s hard to take them all in at one time when visiting Colorado Springs. Luckily, the adventures we gathered here are only a few miles from the city center and give you plenty of time to explore. If you’re only here for a short time, consider coming back to see more of natural treasures that Colorado Springs has to offer.

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Visit Colorado Springs

Unplug and reconnect in the endless beauty of Colorado Springs. Soak up spacious blue skies as you hike refreshing waterfalls, national forests and natural landmarks. From sweeping vistas to rare rock formations, the region is full of reinvigorating experiences.

Trade in screen time for mountain time to discover unforgettable adventures. Ditch your to-do list for your bucket list. Play alongside towering sandstone formations in Garden of the Gods Park. Navigate the twists and turns up Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain and the roaring white waters of the Arkansas River.

With more than 60 inspired things to see and do, the only lines you’ll find here are the ones you cast in a sparkling reservoir. Where the nightlife involves stargazing in the wilderness and turning up means making it to the top of the Manitou Springs Incline.

Escape to the cool Rocky Mountains of Colorado Springs, explorers are always welcome.

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