Colorado Springs sits at an elevation of 6,035′, or 2,000 meters, over one mile above sea level, and is Colorado’s second most populous city (after Denver.) It has consistently ranked towards the top of the list of most popular places to visit or live in the U.S., and has the second highest number of Instagram hashtags (just behind my home, Honolulu). 🙂
Colorado Springs is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and reminded us of our recent trip to Bend, Oregon. With breweries abound and farm-to-table style eateries, there are plenty of places to refuel after hiking, biking, or soaking in natural springs.
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Here Are 7 Remarkable Sights to See in Colorado Springs:
- Paint Mine Interpretive Park (the highlight of our trip and a hidden gem!)
- Garden of the Gods Park
- Pikes Peak Highway
- Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
- Manitou Springs
- Manitou Incline Trail
- The Broadmoor Seven Falls – Colorado’s Most Majestic Waterfall
Paint Mine Interpretive State Park
Located in El Paso County, CO (not to be confused with Texas), just a one-hour drive from downtown Colorado Springs, are strange and unexpectedly beautiful rock formations in pink, purple and orange. These are not hand-painted, they are natural in color, and the name Paint Mine comes from American Indians who would use the colorful clay to make paint. The colors are caused by oxidized iron compounds, forming the layers of colorful bands across the hoodoos, reminding us of a mini Bryce Canyon National Park.
The park is 750 acres with four miles of trails that weave through and above the rock formations. Geological formations include spires and hoodoos, which were formed through erosion, creating exposed layers of selenite clay and jasper. Entry is free.
Garden of the Gods Park
With 15 miles of trails, this beautiful park showcases reddish-orange rock formations that jut up into the clear deep blue sky. Garden of the Gods park is 1,367 acres and has been designated as a national natural landmark. Entry is free. I highly recommend going early in the morning (7:00 – 8:00 AM) and on a weekday, especially during busy summer season. It will be much more pleasant because it’s not yet hot and there are very few people, making it feel as though you have the park to yourselves. It also makes for way better photos without people in them.
The famous red rocks were formed millions of years ago caused by upheavals in the Earth’s surface. The rocks contain sandstone and limestone.
From Garden of the Gods, you can drive the famous Pikes Peak Highway. The summit sits at an elevation of 14,115′ (4,705 meters), and on the clearest days, apparently you can see five states (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Kansas) and you can even see the curvature of the earth fading into the distance! – I got this information from their website. The light grey mountain in the background of the below photo is Pikes Peak. I am sensitive to high altitude so unfortunately we didn’t drive up. The drive is approximately 2 – 3 hours round trip, and you’ll want to fill up on petrol before you head up.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
At an elevation of 7,000′ (2,330 meters), Cave of the Winds is the second highest cave in the United States (after Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.) This is a great place to visit with kids, as there is an obstacle course that hangs above the cliffs, as well as a giant slide and a ride similar to a zipline that will take you high over the valley with your feet dangling.
You can also sign up for the cave tour, which we didn’t think was worth the $23 per person, but if you’re really into caves, it’s a cool one-hour tour. We visited in July on a 90-degree F. day, so getting into the 56-degree cave was a nice reprieve from the heat.
Visit Manitou Springs
There’s something special in the water here. In this cute little town, you can bring your own bottle and fill up on naturally carbonated spring mineral water at the many different stations around the town, which are naturally running at all times. The main minerals you’ll find in the water are magnesium, lithium and potassium. The Native American Indians believed this water to be cleansing and healing. I personally didn’t care for the taste, as it tasted like an iron pipe, but very fun to fill up the water in natural springs like we did in Rome!
Hike the Manitou Incline Trail
This trail is not for the faint of heart, those with asthma, heart problems, or folks who are generally not in the best of shape. Manitou Springs already sits at an elevation of 6,400′ (2,130 meters), and this trail has an elevation gain of 2,000′ (667 meters) in just one mile, putting you at the summit at nearly 9,000′ (3,000 meters). People come here to train for all sorts of sports and races. If you’re familiar with hiking on Oahu, Hawaii, this was like the equivalent of Koko Head, only way steeper and longer! There are 2,744 steps, and the trail is made entirely of railroad ties. Though it’s only one mile long, you’ll ascend at a 41% incline (68% incline at its steepest.) That super steep skinny bare line in the mountain is the trail!
The Broadmoor Seven Falls
The Broadmoor Hotel is Colorado Springs’ most beautiful and historic hotel. Here you can find “the most majestic waterfall in Colorado”, Seven Falls. For tickets, click here. If you didn’t get enough stairs on the Manitou Incline Trail and you’re feeling up for more of a climb, you can take the 224 steps up by the side of the falls, leading to trails and the banks of the stream that feed the falls. Seven Falls is 181′ tall (60 meters).
If you are visiting Denver or Boulder, I highly recommend taking the drive back over Guanella Pass, which sits at an elevation of 11,670′ (3,890 meters). This is a beautiful mountainous drive, winding its way through the Rocky Mountains. That’s a fourteener in the top right of the photo (a mountain at or above 14,000′ elevation.)
You’ll also drive by Indian Hot Springs, an excellent place to relax after all that hiking at high altitude! There’s a pool for those who want more of an open space, with natural spring water at around 98 degrees F, or you can select the cave option, which is for those with a higher tolerance for heat, as the water temperature is around 140 F and very humid. We opted for the peaceful pool surrounded by tropical greenery.
I hope this gives you some great ideas of things to do in Colorado Springs for your next visit!
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