Day One - Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie Castle
You can make a full day of it at one of the most popular destinations in Colorado Springs - the geological marvel, Garden of the Gods, an area of unusual red rock formations created hundreds of millions of years ago. This is one of the first things you see when arriving in Colorado Springs, and is our number one favorite place to visit in the 'Springs'.
The video we've chosen for this article best captures this park's grandeur, considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Unlike the gigantic parks in neighboring Utah and Arizona, this park has everything in one fairly small area. One can see why it was named Garden of the Gods as the towering rocks seem to reach for the heavens and can evoke an almost spiritual moment for the visitor. The videographer, Lewis Carlyle, aptly describes how this landscape is a photographer's dream with its varied terrain and a tableau that transforms itself with the changing sunlight, clouds and seasons, creating endless photographic opportunities.
Garden of the Gods/Photo Credit: StulaineStudios
The park is free and open to the public daily year-round. It's easy to explore by foot along eight miles of trails that meander throughout the park or by car with pull-off areas to stop and enjoy the views and snap a photo. The Kissing Camels and Balanced Rock are two of the most recognizable rock formations in the park. You can also enjoy guided nature walks, horseback riding, biking, rock scrambling, or technical rock climbing with appropriate permits and gear.
Take time to check out the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center across the road from the entrance to the park where you can enjoy an excellent view of the park and Pikes Peak and capture some fantastic photos. Inside the visitor's center there are educational exhibits and a short movie about the park. But don't forget to visit the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, Colorado's oldest and largest gift shop with every type of souvenir imaginable including exquisite fine art and beautiful handmade jewelry. It also has a lunch cafe where you can dine inside or alfresco on a tree-shaded patio.
Located just a short distance north of Garden of the Gods is Glen Eyrie Castle, built in 1871 by the founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, as a dream home for him and his wife. Today it is a lovely bed and breakfast hotel with 97 lodging rooms offering a peaceful retreat for travelers looking for accommodations in a beautiful setting with amazing views. There are tours of the stately English Tudor-style castle as well as an English-style high tea offered in the Music Room of the Castle.
Glen Eyrie Castle/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Day Two - Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs
Pikes Peak is one of the most famous mountains in America. At an elevation of over 14,000 feet, it is not the highest mountain in Colorado, actually number 31 among the fourteeners, but certainly one of its most distinctive peaks and accessible to everyone. It is well worth the trip to the top for the spectacular views which inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write the poem "Pikes Peak" in 1893, which later became the lyrics to the patriotic song "America The Beautiful".
Pikes Peak Views/Photo Credit: StulaineStudios
You can drive to the summit on the paved road, which takes more than two hours with over a hundred switchbacks along the way, or hike to the top on the 13-mile Barr Trail. Better yet, sit back and relax on the famous Pikes Peak Cog Railway that chugs its way to the top in just over an hour. Once you're up there, you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction on a clear day. A gift shop and snack bar are at the top to refresh you and where you can buy a memento. Be sure to bring along warm clothing, as it's about 30 degrees colder up there. It's an elevation increase of 7,400 feet from Colorado Springs' 6,035 feet above sea level, so be mindful of the high altitude and thin air which can cause some dizziness if you're not used to it.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway/Photo Credit: StulaineStudios
Once you return to the base of the mountain, take some time to explore Manitou Springs, an old historic town full of unique gift shops, art galleries, trading posts with handcrafted Native American treasures, and historic restaurants. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings is also a must-see located here. These American Indian cliff dwellings were built more than 700 years ago and they're a fascinating archealogical site to roam around and explore.
Manitou Springs/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Manitou Cliff Dwellings/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Day Three - The Broadmoor and Seven Falls
A visit to Colorado Springs wouldn't be complete without visiting the famous Broadmoor Resort. This elegant resort boasts a five-star, triple A, five-diamond luxury status which rules it out for many of us as a lodging option but it is still worth a visit just to wander through its main building, roam around the grounds, browse the many upscale shops or enjoy a delicious meal at one of its 19 restaurants. This iconic hotel has been a popular resort since 1918, offering visitors American West-style accommodations and experiences. There are many options to explore the surrounding area to commune with the extraordinary nature and scenery.
The Broadmoor/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Nearby the Broadmoor is Seven Falls, which is literally seven cascading falls in South Cheyenne Canon. You can hike on a paved road up to the falls, which is pretty spectacular with the towering canon walls surrounding you, or you can take a shuttle tram to the base of the falls. Once you're there, you can traverse the 224 stairs to the top where there are great photo opportunities. Since it's high altitude, take it slowly and bring water. There are hiking trails at the top of the falls as well. Not up for that many stairs but want to get a good photo? There is also an elevator that takes you to a lookout point that faces the falls about midway up and provides excellent views of the falls. The photo below was taken at that location. If you're the adventursome type, there are ziplining excursions offered that zip you through the canon.
Seven Falls/Photo Credit: StulaineStudios
If you have more time in the area, and you're really feeling energetic, try the 55 attractions in 5 days itinerary suggested by Colorado Springs Tourism. This is a pretty impressive list that covers a lot of territory, but there are so many things to do in and around Colorado Springs that this is one way to do it. Although, you may feel like the tourists below after this 5-day intensive tour itinerary.
Results of the 55 in 5 Itinerary/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Here are a couple more of our favorites:
United States Air Force Academy - The stunning chapel here is a must-see and was recently named one of CNN's most epic churches in America. The structure with its 17 spires is spectacular.
Air Force Academy Chapel/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Old Colorado City - One of our favorites for a quaint old western town, this small city has been designated a national historic district, with artisan boutiques, galleries, gourmet restaurants and cafes, and one of the original Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores.
Old Colorado City/Photo Credit: VisitCOS.com
Colorado Springs has everything to satisfy the thirst of the nature, adventure, history, art, or culture enthusiast. As soon as you arrive in this city and take a deep breath of its thin air and gaze at its jaw-dropping Front Range view, you'll be eager to get your trip started and see all that there is to see in Colorado Springs.
If you're looking for some more inspiration to plan your trip, visit our Colorado Springs photo slideshow here.
Don't forget to check out the VisitCOS.com website for everything you need to know about visiting Colorado Springs.
Note from videographer Lewis Carlyle: Best known for its towering red rock formations, Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado's most iconic locations. At over 200 million years old, the Garden has lived through countless millennia of geological phases, including the era of the dinosaurs. The American Photographic series visits this special place in search of the legendary epic sunsets traditionally associated with its majestic peaks.