Colorado Springs was founded in July 1871, by General William Palmer. He intended the town to be the setting of a high-quality resort community, which turned out to be very successful. In its early days, the town earned the nickname “Little London” because of the many English tourists who visited. Nearby Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods and the conjunction of several rivers made the location a natural choice.
Today, Colorado Springs is the second largest city in the state of Colorado, with a population just over 400,000. The beauty of the Rocky Mountains, especially Pikes Peak, is just one of the many lures and attractions to the area. Here are our top 10 picks of things to see and do in Colorado Springs in no particular order.
1. Manitou Springs Shopping
Manitou Springs sits at the base of Pikes Peak, just across the river from Colorado Springs. It’s an eclectic mix of great art galleries, quirky little shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. The shopping is fabulous and the area has never lost its beatnik/hippy feel.
2. Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Unlike a typically train that use friction to provide locomotive power, a cog railway uses gears or cog wheels to forward motion. A normal train can only climb grades of 4 – 6%, a cog railway can climb grades up to 48%, although much more slowly than a normal train. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway ride is 8.9 miles and takes 3 hours and 10 minutes. The first five miles follow a tumbling stream and pass through deep pine forests. The last three miles, above the timberline allows for extraordinary views. To the east stretch the Great Plains out beyond the border of Colorado and Kansas. To the south, the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Range stretches south to New Mexico. On the western horizon, just slightly to the southwest, lies the Collegiate Range. This trip is so worth it!
3. Hike Pikes Peak
Of course, if you’d rather view the beauty of Pikes Peak on your own two feet, your options are unlimited. The Barr Trail in particular is spectacular. The trailhead is in west Manitou Springs, off Ruxton Avenue, up Hydro Street near the Cog Railroad Depot. This 12.5 miles to the top can be grueling, but the scenery and wonder make up for the effort. Halfway up is Barr Camp, a lovely spot to stop for lunch or overnight accommodations. If you don’t want to walk to 12.5 miles back down, we recommend taking the Cog Railway.
4. Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods, just outside Colorado Springs is a photographers dream. Huge fins of sandstone rock soar 300 feet into the air and hang precariously over the valley floor, all set against the backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak. The soaring vistas and inspirational scenery make Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a true scenic wonder.
5. Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds will literally makes your jaw drop in wonder and astonishment. Located in scenic hills above historic Manitou Springs, this cavern is filled with gorgeous formations — stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone, travertine, and much more. The Discovery Tour takes about 45 minutes, but you can also try the Flashlight Tour and the Lantern Tour for a totally unique adventure.
6. The Broadmoor Hotel and Resort
Built by James Pourtales, a Prussian count, in 1891 as a casino, the Broadmoor has become one of the most famous luxury hotels in the Western U.S. The pink stucco facade has become a trademark and the rich, luxurious decor is worth a walk through, even if you can’t afford to stay there. With eleven fabulous restaurants, golfing, tennis, a spa, fly fishing, horseback riding, rock climbing, ballooning and plenty of children’s activities, this resort has it all.
7. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
The zoo sits at 6,800 feet above sea level on the side of a mountain, and boasts more than 500 types of animals, including 30 endangered species like the Siberian Tiger. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo can also boast that it has the most prolific herd of giraffes in the world. Enjoy areas like Primate World, where the monkeys will drive you crazy; Wolfe Woods with its endangered wolf population; and the Asian Highlands with the Amur leopards, Siberian Tigers and other cats in their natural habitat. Children will also greatly enjoy the antique carousel. If you’re not up to the hiking all over, there’s a tram that you can ride all day for only $1.
8. Rock Ledge Ranch
The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site is an educational, non-profit living history farm and museum that depicts life in the Pikes Peak region in four time periods: American Indian area in 1775; 1860’s Galloway Homestead; 1880’s Chambers Home and Ranch; 1907 Edwardian Country Estate. The spirited history of the West comes to life at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. You are invited to explore the lifestyles and homes of the Pikes Peak Region’s early inhabitants.
9. Colorado Climbing School
If hiking the mountains isn’t good enough, try the Colorado Climbing School based in Colorado Springs. The school offers are variety of class in various climbing techniques, from anchor building to ice climbing and much more. If you already know how to climb, then the Colorado Climbing School offers guided climbs all over the Rockies.
10. North Cheyenne Canon Park
Nestled in a gorgeous canyon and off the beaten tourist path, this park offers fantastic hiking, amazing scenery and some of the most beautiful waterfalls anywhere in the world. It’s a great place to see wildlife, enjoy nature and do some great hiking. The address is 2120 S Cheyenne Canon Rd Colorado Springs, CO.