Built around the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs has a long and diverse history in the development of railroad routes, the excitement of the gold rush, and the installation of military facilities. The history of this area takes you to some of the best sites in and around Colorado Springs. These stories will surely inspire you to visit these attractions and enjoy them in a deeper way.
Garden of the Gods
What is Colorado Springs most famous for? The most popular Colorado Springs site has to be the Garden of the Gods. This 480-acre park surrounds stunning the geological feature which is a National Natural Landmark. The park was conveyed to the city in 1909 after owner Charles Perkins passed away in 1907. He had purchased the land to build a property on it, but he never did. He decided instead to leave the gorgeous natural environment alone so that the public and future generations could enjoy it. Although he never made arrangements for it to become a park, his children knew his wishes and it remains pristine today.
There are so many fun activities to do in the Garden of the Gods park, which is part of the reason it is such a popular Colorado Springs attraction. It has some of the best trad climbing in Colorado Springs, horseback riding, hiking, and guided e-bike tours. Seeing the Garden of the Gods via bicycle is one of the best ways to explore these rock formations from different angles. The tour is a ride of about five miles and three hours.
Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway
This storied railway is the highest in North America, climbing almost 9 miles to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,110 feet above sea level. It was built as a tourist attraction by the founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company after he spent two grueling days on a mule to get to the peak. Zalmon Simmons funded the railway in 1889, and the project finished just two years later and opened in 1891. After the project proved unsuccessful financially, Simmons sold the railroad to the Broadmoor Hotel in 1925. The hotel still owns and manages it today, nearly 100 years later.
One of the best ways to experience Pikes Peak and the Railway is with the Cog Up, Bike Down Guided Tour, which lets you enjoy views from the summit before biking down the 19.5-mile winding road. The trip is five and a half hours and provides amazing views of the Front Range of the Rockies. This is a popular tourist destination, and it’s no wonder why: these panoramic views make this one of the best sites in Colorado Springs. If you are not able to complete this exhilarating intermediate biking adventure, you can enjoy the newly created Summit Complex, including world-famous donuts and a well-stocked gift shop, before taking the cog railway back down.
Rocky Mountain National Park
One of Colorado’s greatest outdoor wonders is a short drive from Colorado Springs just past the town of Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a 415-square-mile park boasting stunning views, exhilarating hikes, and great opportunities to see wildlife like elk and bighorn sheep. Early recordings of park exploration date back to the mid-1800s. Around this time, the area became popular due to the Pikes Peak gold rush. Federal law established Rocky Mountain as a National Park in 1915. Private homes scattered the landscape, but the government removed and replaced them with campsites and facilities.
Today, Rocky Mountain National Park is a gorgeous expanse of wilderness, with five visitors centers and over 100 backcountry campsites. There are opportunities for fishing, rock climbing (one of the most popular spots in Colorado for bouldering), and trail hiking. Serious hikers should check out the 45-mile loop of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. You should visit in the summer, as the park closes in the winter due to weather hazards. Most trails in the park also allow horseback riding, so there is no shortage of exciting ways to experience this park.
Rocky Mountain National Park was also one of the first World Biosphere Reserves, designated by UNESCO in 1976. This awards dedication to sustainable development and efforts to encourage human exploration in tandem with conserving the area’s biological diversity. With such a rich history and so much to explore and learn, the park truly is an essential Colorado experience.
Mining and Gold Camp Road
As you now know, Colorado Springs grew out of the Pikes Peak gold rush and subsequent mining. This famous Colorado Springs site was officially founded in 1871 and just celebrated its 150th year. The tunnels throughout Gold Camp Road were constructed in the late 1800s. A railroad called the “Short Line” opened in 1901 to help facilitate mining. The 200-car freight train transported miners, supplies, and minerals from mines near Cripple Creek back to Colorado Springs.
The best way to explore Gold Camp Road is to hike or bike it. The hike is moderate difficulty, 14 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Mountain biking is a popular way to explore the trail, too, and it appears on cycling event routes often. It is possible to drive through the first two tunnels, but eventually the road becomes too rocky.
Colorado Springs’ unique history is just one more exciting thing to explore. With stunning views, diverse wildlife, and beautiful wildflowers, there are so many ways to enjoy an outdoor adventure and learn something new about Colorful Colorado. No matter what you like to do, there will surely be something awe-inspiring and memorable in your travels. If you are looking for your next adventure, Broadmoor’s guided tours teach new skills and explore new parts of town.