Colorado is all I’ve ever known since birth and I’m so happy to call it my forever home. If you have never been here, book your ticket NOW! There is so much beauty throughout the state as long as you know what to look for and where.
I’m going to try and focus on Colorado Springs (I’ll be doing Glenwood Springs/Vail later this summer) and I will divide it up based on hiking, tourist attractions, and everyone’s favorite thing- food!
First off, when you are hiking ANYWHERE in Colorado, it is imperative that you check the weather! Afternoon thunderstorms can start rolling in as early as two o’clock, so please be safe. There have been numerous people struck by lightning because they caught themselves in an unescapable circumstance and couldn’t find shelter out on the trails.
Ah, this is a beloved spot for all of us who live in CO Springs because we see it every single day! Standing at about 14,114 feet, Pikes Peak is available to be hiked up (duh) or you can take a shuttle to the top. There used to be a cog railway that would take you to the top, but that has been closed down for the time being.
Although I’ve never personally climbed the peak myself, it does take about seven hours at a moderate pace to ascend to the summit. It is 13 miles each way, clocking in a roundtrip total of 26 miles. Oftentimes the reason it takes so long to get to the top is because there are hundreds of switchbacks that make the hike more tedious than if it was straight up.
At the top, you can buy yourself a donut and some hot chocolate to ease the pain of having just climbed 13 miles of pure torture (oops, fun!)! Overall, it’s a great experience and the views are purely breathtaking!
This is an extremely popular hike because it is only a mile up (straight up that is) the mountain. Outfitted with large stairs, this hike gives you a good cardio and leg workout. If you have heart problems or don’t do arduous exercise regularly, please assess your limits and listen to your body! Several people have had heart attacks while hiking this, so take your time and decide what’s best for you.
It usually takes people around 30 minutes to an hour to get to the top depending on pacing. I’ve known our cross country team to run up this which absolutely blows my mind!
As always, the views at the top are stunning and there are lots of fun restaurants to eat at afterwards in Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is located just west of Colorado Springs and can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes by car depending on what part of the city you’re staying in. Parking cost $5/car and they have a shuttle that runs to/from the trail head.
Just a word of caution: this peak is steep! My definition of steep is when you constantly have to climb up while the dirt is slipping under your feet and you feel as though you’re going to fall in a black hole if you don’t keep climbing. Dramatic? Yes. Realistic? Heck yes.
I climbed this peak last summer in early June and our group started around 3pm. Thus, unfortunately, we did not reach the summit before dark set in. However, we did make it 3/4 of the way up the mountain and the views were absolutely incredible!
Although this trail is made up of lots of dirt, there are several rocks to climb up/around so make sure you are mobile enough to do that. There are also a few areas where you to hang onto roots and hoist yourself up because it is just too steep to walk up.
Located near the Broadmoor neighborhood in Northwest Colorado Springs, the trailhead is easy to find (just make sure you use Google Maps or Waze) and if it’s too busy, you may have to park on the street.
Palmer Lake Reservoir
Palmer Lake is the cutest little town just northwest of CO Springs (20-30 min drive) and is nestled up against the mountains. The most popular (and one of the only) hikes in this area starts at the Palmer Lake Reservoir Trailhead (located just off of Old Carriage Road).
Although the beginning part of the hike is uphill, it is relatively short and brings you to the first reservoir. Many people stop here to picnic, wade in the water, and jump from boulder to boulder. However, if you keep hiking, there are other reservoirs that are more secluded more serene (in my opinion).
If you’re feeling adventurous, there is a trail off the path of the first reservoir that will eventually take you to Cap Rock, a scenic and somewhat unpopular spot because it’s off the beaten trial. I climbed this huge boulder with my summer PE class, so I wouldn’t be much help knowing exactly where to go and what shortcuts to take. However, if you look it up online or ask around on while hiking, I’m sure you could find directions on how to get there.
Things to do
Garden of the Gods
This is a very popular tourist spot, especially during the summertime. With a myriad of different shaped rocks and numerous hiking trails, this is a wonderful way to get outdoors and explore Colorado’s beauty.
There is a main road that runs through the park, allowing visitors to just drive through if you are pressed for time and/or don’t feel like getting out of the car to explore nature. Personally, I would recommend actually walking around the park because there are so many hidden gems and natural beauty that is just waiting to be experienced. In addition, there are stunning view of Pikes Peak and the surrounding Rocky Mountains from anywhere in Garden of the Gods, making a truly exquisite site.
Located just down the road from Garden of the Gods, Glen Eyrie is our local castle that was built in 1871 by General Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. A scenic site for all types of photography, several locals and tourists alike may be spotted at various places around the castle, either on hiking trails or inside the castle.
Although you may go inside the main house at any point during the year, in December they offer yule tea at various times before Christmas, making it a prime time to visit. Also, during the winter months, snow may blanket the grounds, creating a winter wonderland of sorts.
You may also stay at the castle overnight, but they have limited space so I would suggest booking in advance. Breakfast is offered for hotel guests, as well as access to certain hiking trails behind the castle.
Located north of Colorado Springs, this park has various hiking trails through the forest. These are great to take both your children and furry friends on no matter their age! There are also lakes interspersed within the park, allowing for your pooch to cool down and for the rest of the family to take pictures by.
An hour to two hours is plenty of time to explore and immerse yourself in the nature this spot offers.
Most highly skilled athletes train here at some point in their career, oftentimes for the benefits the high-altitude gives them. By visiting here, you can tour the facilities and see the pool (which I swam in as a kid btw!), the gymnastic trampolines, and a small exhibit showcasing who trained there in the past.
This is a great activity for people of all ages and represents one of the many benefits of living in Colorado. I would highly recommend visiting here, especially if it’s your first time in CO Springs!
This is a popular spot for both local Coloradans and those who want to experience a unique culture and delicious food. Located just fifteen minutes northwest from the heart of Colorado Springs, Manitou is known for much more than the Incline, its famous hiking trail.
Whenever I go to this small town, I always stop by the Penny Arcade, an old-fashioned place where you can play arcade games from all decades for just a cent each. This is a crowded area any time of year, so plan ahead and know your time schedule!
Regarding restaurants, I would recommend Border Burger Bar (located on Manitou Ave) for amazing hamburgers and fries. If you are not up for that, there is a wide variety of food places to choose from including fondue, italian, and ice cream!
If I could give you one tip about Manitou, it would be to think ahead when parking! Because it is such a small town and there are lots of hills, there are limited parking spots available (especially since it’s so busy almost 24/7). Also, if you know how to parallel park, you are in good shape (really good shape)!
The Air Force Academy
This is a classic spot to look around, take pictures of the surrounding beauty, and hike. Even though it is a fully functioning military academy, visitors are still welcome to walk around campus and learn more about the youngest of all the military schools.
The Broadmoor Hotel is located in downtown Colorado Springs and is up against the mountains. Known for its luxury accommodations and delicious food, it is visited by locals and tourists alike who oftentimes eat brunch and then take a stroll around the lake. There are also many shops to peek through while here, ensuring that everyone satisfies their interests.
Ola’s Juice Bar
Even though I am not vegan, this is a great place to eat for people who are! My favorite menu items are the acai bowls and the vegetarian wraps they offer for lunch! Their food is delicious and leaves you feeling full but not heavy.
Usually this spot is busy during the peak hours for breakfast and lunch, so be sure to allow yourself time to order & eat if you are in a rush. Also, parking is limited since it is located in downtown CO Springs. But, there is a parking garage nearby for those who plan on spending more time exploring the downtown area.
P.S. There is also a super yummy crepe place right down the street; you can’t miss it!
This is another breakfast/lunch place that offers vegetarian & vegan options. Located on Voyager Pkwy, this is located farther north, but is a great option for breakfast if you are traveling to Castle Rock or Denver for the day.
This restaurant is half cafe, half bike shop and offers smoothies & acai bowls for breakfast as well as paninis and other items for lunch. The bowls here are amazing and exceeded all my expectations. I have yet to try the lunch options, but I’m sure they are great as well.
This a great spot to eat breakfast and/or lunch. Located in the small community of Palmer Lake, this restaurant is populated by people like me (the Monument locals) and others who just need a good cup of coffee. Fair warning: this place is tiny! There is not a lot of room to sit (or stand for that matter) so just make sure your party is no bigger than four or five people.
Paravicini’s Italian Bistro
My first experience with this restaurant was in March of this year for my mother’s birthday and it was delish! The fettuccine alfredo with shrimp was delightful and the chocolate cake we ordered for dessert was divine!
This is located more central to downtown Colorado Springs along Colorado Avenue. Since this restaurant is fairly well known, I would suggest calling in advance to book reservations if you have a larger party.
*BONUS: Pub Dog
If you are traveling with your pooch or just happen to love dogs, you are in luck! Pug Dog is located in downtown Colorado Springs off of Highway 24 and accommodates all of your furry friends!
With a medium sized, gated area for your dogs, they can mingle and play with other dogs while you eat your food and sip on your drinks. Speaking of food, there is a menu for both humans and dogs, featuring burgers & other pub food as well as hamburger patties and other bowls for the furry ones. I highly recommend coming here as it is fun for you and your dog!