Thursday, February 13, 2020

My Favorite Pikes Peak Attractions

Pikes Peak

My favorite childhood family vacations were to Colorado Springs, home of America's Mountain: Pikes Peak. Standing at 14,110 feet, the mountain has inspired countless visitors. For example, during the Colorado gold rush, it became known as a popular rally cry among minors who proclaimed Pikes Peak or Bust. In the late 1800s, Kathleen Bates was so inspired by the beauty of the mountain that she penned the lyrics for "America the Beautiful" while riding to the summit in the cog railway. The Pikes Peak region is home to many awesome outdoor attractions. Here are my favorites.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is the best free attraction in the Pikes Peak region. Garden of the Gods offers miles of hiking trails that take hikers past the park's tall sandstone rock formations. The park is a fun place to spend a few hours (or even the entire day) exploring. The park's visitors center offers a lot of information about the unique geology of this area. You can also pick up a free map and trail guide at the visitor's center.

Garden of the Gods was donated to Colorado Springs in 1909 with the stipulation that it remain free for visitors to enjoy. Colorado Springs has honored its commitment by keeping the park free and an amazing place for visitors to enjoy.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

(Closed since 2019)

Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Me and my dad circa 1999

Between 1891 and 2018, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway carried passengers from Manitou Springs up the mountain to its 14,110' summit. Unfortunately, the cog railway closed after the 2018 season. However, I have heard a rumor that it's scheduled to open for the 2021 season. I hope so!

I love hiking. However, hiking Pikes Peak is a bit out of my league. I really enjoyed riding to the top of the summit in the cog railway. I think the trip up took about an hour. You pass by a waterfall that is taller than Niagara Falls. Once you get above the tree line, the terrain dramatically changes. Everything is covered in snow and looks wind-swept. I remember the wind taking the wind out of my sails upon exiting the train on the summit. First, the thin air at 14,110' is hard to breath. Secondly, the strong, cold wind packs a punch. I just remember running inside the Summit House to get out of the cold lol. The train's tour guide recommended that we adjust ourselves to the high elevation by eating donuts and drinking water. I happily took her advice! The Summit House does have several large glass windows that offer a good view from the top of Pikes Peak. I did go outside for a few more minutes to snap some pics.

Seven Falls

Seven Falls

Cheyenne Canyon - at the base of Cheyenne Mountain - features a really cool waterfall. Actually, it's a series of seven waterfalls known as Seven Falls. You know how much I love hiking! If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice a staircase climbs the canyon wall next to the waterfalls. That means you can get an up close view of each of the "seven" falls. At the top of the canyon, you can hike to Helen Hunt Falls. I forget the number of stairs you have to climb to make it to the top but it's quite the workout lol.

At the bottom of the falls is a pavilion that features Native American dancers. You can also go inside the canyon's walls and take an elevator to an observation deck located adjacent to the waterfalls. I am sure there is a souvenir shop too.

During the summer of 2012, Seven Falls sustained extensive damage from a severe flash flood. At least one of the falls was destroyed. However, this attraction has been repaired to its original glory.

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
Cheyenne Mountain Summit
The summit of Cheyenne Mountain features a really cool memorial to Will Rogers. The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is a free and open to the public. You just take the road up to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain. This unique attraction offers breathtaking views of Colorado Springs below. You can get a good look at where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains transition into the high plains. Funny, I don't actually remember going inside the shrine. I just remember admiring the views from on top of the mountain.

Manitou Springs Historic District

Manitou Springs, Colorado
Historic clock tower
Downtown Manitou Springs is one of my favorite places on planet Earth. Luckily, the area around downtown Manitou Springs has been preserved in one of the largest historic districts in the nation. The area feels like you are back in the late 1800s. I love the brick buildings that are now shops, eateries, and mom & pop businesses. The town has a lot of historic homes like the Cliff House and Miramont Castle.

Manitou Springs became famous from its springs that many believed contained healing powers. In the late 19th Century, many health-seekers "chasing the cure" came to the region hoping the springs would provide medicinal benefits. Unfortunately, the springs have no medicinal value but they add to the area's unique history.

Downtown Manitou Springs is quite walkable and much more fun to explore on foot. This is a fun area to grab a bite to eat and browse the unique shops. If you enjoy vintage motels, there are several in town. (My family always stayed in Manitou Springs on our Colorado vacations).

Manitou Springs Historic District

For a really spectacular view of the Pikes Peak region, take U.S. 24 west of Manitou Springs up the area known as Ute Pass. The highway takes you more than 10,000-feet above sea level. Sometimes this drive even takes you above the clouds!

Cripple Creek Historic District

Cripple Creek Mining District

The Pikes Peak region became famous because of mining. Just on the other side of Pikes Peak is a beautiful small town called Cripple Creek. Before WWI Cripple Creek was the site of a large gold mining district. If you would like to visit a real mine, check out the Molly Kathleen Mine. The tour will go more than 1,000' underneath the surface. You can also ride the vintage Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gage Railroad. This train ride takes you through the entire mining district.

Cripple Creek sits more than 9,000-feet above sea level. The small mountain town that has been revived by casino gambling. There are several historic hotels downtown, as well as unique shops and restaurants. This side of Pikes Peak is much less crowded, so you can get some spectacular views of the mountain.

Cripple Creek, Colorado

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