By Christina VanGinkel
Central to a wide range of attractions, a visit to Colorado Springs, Colorado will keep you occupied for the length of your visit no matter how long you plan to stay. While not all the attractions are inside the city limits, they are all within easy driving distance and varied enough that everyone in your travel party will be able to find something to keep them occupied.
While I have several favorite attractions that I have been to over the years, there is a couple that I consider must visit stops for first time visitors. My overall favorites, those that I find myself going back to repeatedly include the following natural wonders:
Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods, a 1,300 plus acre site of natural red sandstone formations that once you visit, you will immediately understand how they came by the name Garden of the Gods, as surely only some higher force could have created something so beautiful out of something as mundane as sandstone. A maze of trails has been created that winds it way through the registered National Natural Landmark, allowing visitors to walk, hike, bike, or even horseback ride through the park. There is no entry fee to this natural wonder, though there is a Visitor Center that offers items for sale. The visitor center is also free, and even if you do not plan to buy any trip souvenirs, it is still worth a visit, as it should be classified a museum almost as much as a visitor center. While I am not a big fan of visitor centers in general, this one is well worth a visit, as it is chock full of local history information for anyone wanting to relish in the full glory of this amazing place. Rock climbing is permitted in some areas of the park, though not all and they do request for safety purposed that all climbers register. To climb, you must be in groups of two or more and have proper climbing equipment. Random climbing is not only frowned upon, it is prohibited.
When visiting the park, be alert to posted signs telling you to stay on the trails, as there are reasons behind these postings, such as fragile growth that if trampled, could cause the overall park to change in such a manner that people may someday be banned. Follow the rules to keep the park open to many future generations, as this is a natural wonder that everyone should be able to enjoy!
Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway
Pukes Peak was the first tourist attraction that I ever visited in the state of Colorado. I arrived via the famous cog railway that is still transporting people to the top of this 14,110-foot tall infamous mountain. The railway runs from late spring through fall, though the actual dates are very dependant on the weather. While you can get to the top of this mountain by vehicle, bike, even hiking, (There is a charge for using the highway up too, so keep this in mind if you are a budget traveler, and are comparing costs!) I would suggest you travel it at least once by rail. On my trip up, I was able to view the mountainside in all its wonderful glory, taking in how the growth changes as you reach the summit. There is a visitor’s center at the top, and it is well worth a visit, if for nothing more than refreshment after the trip. While most tickets sold are for round trip, some travelers take the railway to the top then hike down on one of the marked trails. One-way tickets can occasionally be purchased, but I have been told that this is rare.
However you decide to reach the summit, be sure to come with both camera in hand, and maybe a journal, as the view is so inspiring that it will motivate you to make permanent note of its affect in some manner. At the least, you will be witness to a view that was once only attained by hard work and stamina of climbing such a momentous height. Be sure to visit the top of Pikes Peak on your next visit to Colorado, and you will soon be planning a return visit before your first is even over.