Colorado Springs is the biggest city in Colorado and is found in the eastern part of the state along Fountain Creek, just sixty miles from the capital, Denver. The city is also located near Pike’s Peak and the Southern Rocky Mountains and is home to the United States Olympic Committee and Training Center, and the USA Olympic Hockey Team. Colorado Springs is the second most populated city in Colorado, with just over one million people living in the city and metro area and is known for being one of the fastest-growing cities for millennials. The city is also considered the second-best city in the United States to live in according to U.S. News, and more than five million people visit there annually. Many visitors travel to Colorado Springs during the annual festivals, including the Colorado Balloon Classic, GalaxyFest, and PrideFest, among several other food and beer events. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Outdoor adventurers love going to Colorado Springs because of the amazing recreational opportunities, including white water rafting on the Arkansas River. There are 152 miles of rafting waters and over eighty Class II-V rapids. The river flows through the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area at Colorado State Park where there are six campgrounds, facilities, fishing, panning for gold, four-wheeling, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.
Whether you want to go rafting for an afternoon or take a multi-day trip that includes rafting, hiking, biking, and rock climbing, the tour operators on the Arkansas River have something for everyone—including gentler family float trips as well. Visitors can spend time in Chaffee or Fremont County to enjoy amazing food, art, and wineries.
The land that Bishop Castle is on was purchased for Jim Bishop by his parents in 1959 when Jim was only fifteen years old. Over the following decade, Jim and his father camped on the 2.2-acre property surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest for the next two decades, and in 1969 Jim and his new wife and started building a cabin on the mountain. Over the years, inspiration stuck to turn the stone cabin into a castle that Jim would build himself.
Bishop Castle is an open construction site that is open every day and always free to visit. There aren’t guided tours of the castle, and visitors are encouraged to explore all open areas at their leisure with the best time to visit is on the weekend. All three stories of the castle can be seen, including a Grand Ballroom, several towers and bridges, and even a Fire-Breathing Dragon.
12705 State Highway 165 Rye, Colorado 81069, Phone: 719-564-4366
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Boulder is only thirty minutes from Denver, nestled into the Rocky Mountain Foothills and known as one of the “foodiest towns” in America. Boulder is known for its many craft breweries, gastropubs, and laid-back atmosphere.
One of the most popular activities in Boulder is a visit to Pearl Street, where locals gather for coffee, microbrews, amazing food, and historic storefronts and boutiques. Outdoor lovers can hike The Flatirons and stroll through the meadows in Chautauqua and the mountain foothills. Celestial Seasonings, one of the world’s leading tea manufacturers is also located in Boulder and offers tours. The Boulder Farmer’s Market is always worth the trip from Colorado Springs on the weekends since it is the number one Farmer’s Market in America, according to USA Today.
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Cripple Creek is a historic mining and gambling town that embodies the heart of the Old West and scenic Colorado. The buildings along Bennett Avenue have been restored to their original grandeur and are full of restaurants, cafes, shops, motels, and nine casinos, all against the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Some of the most exciting times to visit Cripple Creek are during special events such as Donkey Derby Days, Cruise Above the Clouds Car Show, and Gold Camp Christmas. The old-fashioned Christmas festival draws visitors from all over the state and country. Visitors can also tour the haunted Mt. Pisgah Speaks Cemetery Tour with a guide from the Gold Camp Victorian Society during fall or spend time at the Cripple Creek District Museum.
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5.Eldorado Canyon State Park
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Hike the sandstone cliffs along the beautiful South Boulder Creek in Eldorado Canyon State Park. This park was voted one of the Top Ten Best State Parks by Smarter Travel and offers more than 500 rock climbing trails as well as hiking and mountain biking trails. The parking lot is often at capacity on Summer weekends and holidays with many visitors using the trails, fishing, and skiing in the winter months. Camping is not permitted in the park; however, there are several campgrounds within an hour or less drive. Visitors will need to pay a day-use fee based on what activities they plan to do when they enter the park.
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6.Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
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One of the most diverse fossil beds in the world is found in central Colorado at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. The area is home to redwood stumps as large as fourteen feet wide that are petrified as well as thousands of fossilized insects and plants.
Visitors to the fossil beds should plan to spend two to four hours exploring starting with the visitor’s center where there are fossil displays, a short film, exhibits, and information on the fossil beds. Behind the visitor’s center are outdoor exhibits and access to one of three self-guided hikes. There are fifteen additional miles of hiking trails beyond the educational trails at the visitor's center. Ranger-guided activities and special events happen throughout the year.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Florissant, Colorado, Phone: 719-748-3253
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7.Garden of the Gods
One of the most popular attractions in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods Park. The National Natural Landmark features sandstone rock formations that tower more than 300 feet and an impressive Visitor & Nature Center with a museum.
Garden of the Gods features interactive exhibits about geology and science for the entire family. Visitors can also check out the Geo-Trekker theater experience or dine in the modern cafe that is completely enclosed in floor to ceiling windows and overlooks Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods. The park is known for its rock-climbing trails, mountain biking and hiking, and annual events such as the Earth Day celebration, Bighorn Sheep Day, and two footraces that are held in the park. Handicap trails are available.
1805 N 30th street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Phone: 719-634-6666
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People who wish they could’ve experience vintage Colorado can still do so in Georgetown, a historic town founded in 1859. Referred to as “Silver Queen of the Rockies,” due to the lack of gold, but plethora of silver found in the mountains, Georgetown started out as a mining town and still has the museums, and steam engines and old town feel that transports visitors back in time with historic storefronts, antique stores, and locally owned boutique retailers along 6th street.
Most visitors to Georgetown enjoy taking a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Some of the best times to visit are during the holiday season when the railroad turns into Santa’s North Pole Adventure. Lighted Forest rides are also available! Visitors staying at one of the iconic inns in Georgetown can venture just thirteen miles up the road to the Loveland Ski Area, a 1,800-acre resort.
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Idaho Springs is where the Gold Rush began in the Clear Creek Canyon, and the town still stands testament to its rich history that began in 1859 with a Heritage Visitor Center and Museum, as well as Underhill Museum. The historic downtown is a touristy area with lots of shops on the east end.
Hundreds of walking and hiking trails are accessible around Idaho Springs, and some of the best mountain biking in the United States is offered there. White water rafting, gold mine tours, and rock climbing are also available through various tour companies in Idaho Springs. Local legends have it that the radium hot springs have magical healing powers.
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, Michigan beaches
10.Indian Peaks Wilderness Area
Outdoor adventurers who love rugged wilderness will enjoy visiting the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, just a short distance from Denver and Colorado Springs. The alpine tundra features a small glacier, and the peaks are one of the most popular destinations in the Rocky Mountain National Park for serious hikers and mountain climbers. The peaks belong to the Front Range, which is heavily forested until visitors get to 11,500 feet where the tundra starts, and very steep.
Camping and hiking are permitted, but there are many wilderness regulations that visitors must follow that can be posted at the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest Service Office. Overnight campers and hikers are required to obtain permits during summer months.
Avid fisherman can spend the day at Lake Pueblo, where the more than 4,600 acres of water is considered a fishing hot spot, and more than 10,000 acres of land can be hiked and camped on. The lake features many amenities, including ADA restrooms, an amphitheater, concessions, electric hookups, laundry facilities, a marina, showers, picnic areas, playgrounds, and a public swim beach and visitor center. Visitors to the lake can enjoy boating, hiking, biking, rafting, canoeing, or kayaking, hunting, and wildlife viewing. Parts of the lake are even sectioned off for jet skis and water sports.
640 Pueblo Reservoir Road, Pueblo, Colorado, 81005, Phone: 719-561-9320
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12.Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway
People looking for a day-long road trip highlight the old west and days of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush can drive the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway that stretches forty miles of an old motorcars routes of the 1920s through the mountain foothills. The Loop combines the Lariat Trail Scenic Mountain Drive and the Bear Creek Canyon Mountain Drive and provides easy car access to the park's system.
There are several festivals that happen annually along this scenic byway including the Wildflower Festival in June, Quilt Festival in the Fall, Halloween festivals and haunted trails, Holiday Walks in December, Ciderfest in Morrison every fall, and Buffalo Bill’s Western Round-Up living history demonstrations at the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum.
13.Lost Creek Wilderness
Named after a disappearing creek, The Lost Creek Wilderness comprises 119,790 acres of Colorado Wilderness with more than 136 miles of trails, most of which are in the Wilderness designated areas. Hikers and backpackers in Lost Creek Wilderness can come across black bears, bobcats, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and elk throughout the mountain park. Visitors are encouraged to not stray from the marked trails and stay at least 100-200 feet away from water sources such as lakes, streams, and rivers. Visitors to the park are required to have permits; however, self-issue permits can be obtained at the wilderness boundary free of charge.
2840 Kachina Drive, Pueblo, CO, 81008, Phone: 719-553-1404
Day trippers looking for a mountain getaway don’t have to look more than six miles from Colorado Springs. Manitou Springs is a historic town that is known for its thriving arts scene, street performances, and renowned restaurants. Spend the afternoon fishing the stocked lake at Schryver Park and swim inside at the indoor pool. Manitou is found at the base of Pikes Peak and is full of family attractions and outdoor activities such as zip lines, skiing, rafting, and more.
Visitors to Manitou can also indulge at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, which was rated the best Winery in Colorado or spend the day at a mineral springs spa. The healing waters of Manitou were discovered by Dr. Edwin James, the same person who was the first to climb Pikes Peak, and by the 1890s the area was established as a health resort. Today there are many quirky festivals that are hosted in Manitou Springs, including the annual fruitcake toss in January and the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off and Carnivale in March.
People looking to explore a historic mining town without all the tourist traffic can go to Nederland, one of several historic, old west mining towns in Boulder County. The small town tucked into the Rocky Mountains provides access to some of the best outdoor recreation areas in central Colorado, including the Eldora Mountain Resort and Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Nederland is just forty-five minutes outside of Denver and just over two hours from Colorado Springs.
There are almost limitless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, backpacking, skiing, and more throughout the Nederland area since it is surrounded by forests and protected wilderness. There are also many locally-owned restaurants and boutiques, as well as attractions related to steam engines.
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16.Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Considered one of the most unique and beautiful places in Colorado, The Paint Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County is made of color clays once used to make paint by the indigenous people of Colorado. The 750-acre park features amazing geological formations that are frequently photographed by professional and amateur photographers for their bright purple, orange, and indigo colors. Visitors to the Paint Maines Interpretive Park can access restrooms and four miles of interpretive trails with signage. Climbing is not permitted at the park. Pets, horses, and bicycles are also prohibited. Visitors should ensure they stay on marked trails and not remove any plants, wildlife, rocks, or minerals from the park boundaries.
29950 Paint Mines Road, Calhan, Colorado, 80808, Phone: 719-520-752
17.Phantom Canyon Road
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The backcountry of Colorado is home to Phantom Canyon Road, a detour from the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway, that features canyon walls spotted with green flecks and narrow roads that twist through the three historic mining districts in the area—Cripple Creek, Canon City, and Florence. In these districts, visitors will find the infamous ghost towns of Wilbur, Glenbrook, and Adelaide, among others, and overnight camping is allowed. The road also travels two long tunnels through the mountains and over the Adelaide Bridge across Eightmile Creek. The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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18.Pikes Peak Highway
Visitors don’t need to climb Pikes Peak to reach the summit. Pikes Peak Highway is nineteen miles of the paved toll road that leads to the summit of America’s Mountain. The entrance to the highway is found in Cascade, just a few miles from Colorado Springs off Highway US-24. The entire journey to the summit and back takes most visitors two to three hours; however, many people spend much longer on the mountain as they stop to take pictures and hike short trails. No gas stations or facilities are located along the Pikes Peak Highway, and at least one-half tank of gas should be reserved for the trip. There are also three lakes available for fishing and non-motorized boating. Boats are also available to rent from the Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center in the summer. This Visitor Center is also where food and bait can be purchased, and bathrooms are located. A gift shop is found on the summit that also serves world-famous donuts.
19.Rampart Range Road
Rampart Range Road begins at Garden of the Gods and continues to Colorado Highway 67 and offers amazing views of Pikes Peak Region. Rampart Range Road is known to have rough terrain and has been described as dangerous, narrow, and features twists and turns that will have everyone’s heart pounding. There are few exits off the road, but the road does provide access to some of the best wilderness camping spots in Colorado at Indian Creek Campground, among others. There are also 100 miles of trails accessible from the road popular with dirt bikes and ATV riders. Rampart Road is closed during winter months but takes just over two hours to drive during the summer.
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The River North District, called RiNo for short, is an arts district neighborhood within Denver with urban charm and industrial revival. RiNo was named one of the ten best neighborhoods to visit in the country by Lonely Planet and features jazz bars, wineries, brewpubs, restaurants, art galleries, studios, and many local businesses. The neighborhood is also known for the many indoor food halls, and farmer's markets held around town. RiNo is also designed to be pedestrian and bike-friendly and offers pedicab services. Walking tours of the neighborhood graffiti are available, and every First Friday the neighborhood art galleries stay open late, and some offer special events at their galleries during this time. The Night Bazaar is another popular event that happens after dark on Friday nights each week and features some of the best food trucks and local artisans.
The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is home to the highest zip line and suspension bridge in the country and features some of the most adrenaline-pumping rides and breathtaking views from high above the Gorge. Some of the attractions at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park include aerial gondolas, the Royal Rush Skycoaster, Waterclock, Plaza Theater, Tommy Knocker Children’s Playground, the Cloudscraper Zipline, and the visitor center, along with the bridge itself. The Park is located just an hour from Colorado Springs and is open 365 days per year weather permitting although open hours change seasonally.
4218 Co. Road 3A, Canon City, Colorado, 81212
Seven Falls is considered the most majestic waterfall in Colorado. The series of falls are the only ones in Colorado to make it onto National Geographic’s International Waterfalls List. The Seven Falls are a series of falls between the awe-inspiring Pillars of Hercules in the South Cheyenne Canyon and feature a 181-foot drop that crystal-clear Pike’s Peak runoff cascades down into the canyon. Visitors will have to climb more than 220 steps before reaching the top where the hiking trails begin.
The drive to Seven Falls is considered one of the most scenic miles in Colorado and is an excellent precursor to the dramatic landscapes offered at the falls. Access to the falls is gated and ticketed. There’s also a zipline inside the park, rope bridges, and rappelling opportunities as well as a great sit-down restaurant and gift shops.
1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80906
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The Broadmoor is an expansive resort in Colorado Springs that offers lots of outdoor recreational opportunities such as Fly-Fishing Camp, Cloud Camp, and The Ranch at Emerald Valley that offer wilderness experiences. The Broadmoor also features a resort which opened more than one hundred years ago, for people who want modern and sophisticated amenities for their outdoor adventures. Western adventures such as horseback riding, canoeing, archery, and falconry are available for resort guests; however, many guests love to spend the day at the spa and relaxing at one of the resort pools. The Broadmoor is home to legendary golf courses, offers fitness and sports classes, art tours, geocaching, and more so that there is always something entertaining to do. Make sure to check out one of the eight restaurants!
1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80906, Phone: 855-634-7711
24.The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Take a one-hour walking tour through the wolf sanctuary at The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, CWWC, where visitors learn about wolves, coyotes, and foxes in an up-close environment. The wolves at the center have all been rescued from the fur industry, abuse, or canned hunting situations. CWWC is certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in the Special Survival Program for Mexican Grey Wolves as well as Swift Foxes. The center also goes to great lengths to practice conservation on their property by using eco-friendly trash bags, recycling, and cleaning up the Twin Rocks Road.
CR 42 Twin Rocks Road, Florissant, Colorado, Phone: 719-687-9742
Woodland Park is just twenty minutes from Colorado Springs up Ute Pass and is a popular place for outdoor recreation and mountain getaways. The summertime is the best time of the year to visit the town that is bustling with festivals, a large farmer’s market on Fridays, and many outdoor concerts.
Some of the great outdoor recreation that can be enjoyed at Woodland Park includes hiking to Horsethief Falls, visiting Mueller State Park, hiking the Centennial Trail, or picnicking in Eleven Mile State Park. The premier attraction at Woodland Park is the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, where there is a hands-on interactive museum that is great for the entire family. Visitors can also stop at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center for a one-hour tour of the sanctuary.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Colorado Springs
- Arkansas River, Photo: Irina K./stock.adobe.com
- Bishop Castle, Photo: batman6794/stock.adobe.com
- Boulder, Photo: jzehnder/stock.adobe.com
- Cripple Creek, Photo: swkrullimaging/stock.adobe.com
- Eldorado Canyon State Park, Photo: Satoshi Kina/stock.adobe.com
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Garden of the Gods, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Georgetown, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- Idaho Springs, Photo: Kit Leong/stock.adobe.com
- Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Photo: Jim/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Pueblo, Photo: mickyso/stock.adobe.com
- Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, Photo: raksyBH/stock.adobe.com
- Lost Creek Wilderness, Photo: Joe/stock.adobe.com
- Manitou Springs, Photo: arinahabich/stock.adobe.com
- Nederland, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Photo: ipivorje/stock.adobe.com
- Phantom Canyon Road, Photo: Sharon Day/stock.adobe.com
- Pikes Peak Highway, Photo: kanonsky/stock.adobe.com
- Rampart Range Road, Photo: Joe/stock.adobe.com
- RiNo District, Photo: albert_flint/stock.adobe.com
- Royal Gorge, Photo: traveller70/stock.adobe.com
- Seven Falls, Photo: janine/stock.adobe.com
- The Broadmoor, Photo: Links Productions/stock.adobe.com
- The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, Photo: karlumbriaco/stock.adobe.com
- Woodland Park, Photo: swkrullimaging/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Brad Pict/stock.adobe.com
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