The second-largest city in Colorado, Colorado Springs is often overlooked by travelers who travel from Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and further south.Although this city is mostly known as home to the Garden of the Gods, and the challenging Manitou Incline, there are plenty other outdoor activities in Colorado Springs.
Whether you want to explore the outdoors, learn some local history or visit the museum, Colorado Springs is a worthy stop on your Colorado itinerary.
In this article, I will give you a detailed overview of some of the best outdoor activities in Colorado Springs that will show you that this city is worth a stop, whether you live in Colorado, visiting the state for the first time, or traveled around the state before and want to spend more time in Colorado Springs.
BEST OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN COLORADO SPRINGS
1. Walk through Garden of the Gods
Hiking in the Garden of The Gods is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark and with dramatic sandstone formations situated against the backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak. This is is a unique blend of landscapes where Great Plains meet the American Southwest with its bright orange outcrops and desert-like vegetation creating a unique landscape that has made the Pikes Peak region so famous.
The best thing about Garden of the Gods is that it has a great variety of paved trails great for beginner hikers. There are 15 miles of trails in the area with Perkins Central Garden trail being the most popular, as it’s paved and accessible for all hikers.
During the summer, many visitors choose Segway tours of the park as well as guided hiking tours that are great if you want to learn about the unique geological history of the Pikes Peak region.
While you will not find challenging trails here, you can take in the gorgeous views around you while enjoying a relaxed walk. The on-site museum and visitor center have ongoing interactive exhibits and are excellent for all ages. Garden of the Gods is free to the public and is open from 9 a.m.- to 5 p.m. during summer and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during winter.
Address: 1805 N. 30th Street, Colorado Springs
2. Climb on top of Manitou Incline
Ready for a physical challenge?
Head over to Manitou Incline, a popular hiking trail outside of the town of Manitou Springs. The trail gains 2,000 feet in elevation over 2,744 steps from start to finish in less than one mile and attracts hikers, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts who come here to test their stamina.
Depending on your fitness level, it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to one and a half hours to go get to the top. The grade gets as steep as 68 percent in some parts, so make sure to take your time.
This is an arduous hike better suited for physically active people who are used to the elevation. Make sure to bring plenty of water and pace yourself.
To do this hike, visitors are required to obtain a reservation online. The Colorado Springs city staff checks reservations at the base of the hike.
3. Admire the views from Pikes Peak
A visit to Colorado is not complete without visiting the iconic Pikes Peak – the highest mountain in the Front Range and a crown jewel of Colorado Springs.
One of Colorado’s 52 fourteeners (mountains with an altitude of at least 14,000 feet), Pikes Peak stands 14,115-feet tall.
But unlike most fourteeners in Colorado that require hours of hiking and sometimes advanced mountaineering skills, Pikes Peak can be accessed via Pikes Peak Highway, a beautiful alpine road that sits at 14,115 feet; or Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest locomotive-carrying railway in the United States.
If you are an avid, hiker, you can also summit Pikes Peak via a trail. When you make it to the top, you will find many stores and restaurants with delicious food awaiting hungry travelers. One of them is Pikes Peak Summit House that specializes in delicious doughnuts.
Summiting Pikes Peak is a major bucket list for many adventure lovers and one of the most popular things to do in Colorado Springs for the outdoorsy folks. Although this is a busy place with thousands of people coming here daily, it’s worth a stop. Make sure to spare at least half a day for your visit to Pikes Peak during a stop in Colorado Springs.
Pikes Peak Entrance tickets:
May 1st to November 30th.
- Adult: 12 USD
- Children (6 to 15): 5 USD
- Carload up to 5 passengers: 40 USD per car
December 1st to April 30th
- Adults: 10 USD
- Children (6 to 15): 4 USD
- Carload up to 5 passengers: 35 USD
4. Enjoy Seven Falls (The Bradmoor Seven Falls)
If you are looking for one of the most spectacular things to do in Colorado Springs, you can’t miss Bradmoor Falls.
One of Colorado’s most spectacular natural wonders, Seven Falls is a series of seven waterfalls with a height of 181 feet inside the narrow box canyon. While there are many other waterfalls in Colorado, Bradmoor Falls is the only waterfall that made it to the list of National Geographic international waterfalls.
To see this iconic geological wonder, visitors can walk down the 224 steps along the staircase on the side of the mountain or take the in-mountain elevator to the Eagle’s Nest. For those who like a good adventure, the area offers the Broadmoor Soaring Adventure, a cool exploration venue with several zip-lines.
The surrounding area offers beautiful hiking, trails, and gorgeous landscapes with plenty of wildlife. Most visitors spend between 1,5-2 hours exploring the area. There are two hiking trails: Midnight Falls Trail, a short hike, and Inspiration Point Trail, a one-mile round trip hike that offers gorgeous views of Colorado Springs.
Address: 1045 Lower Gold Camp Road, Colorado Springs
5. Hike in Pikes Peak National Forest
One of the best places for outdoor enthusiasts near Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak National Forest boasts a whopping 1,100,000 acres with plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking and rock climbing!
This national forest is also home to many beautiful alpine passes such as Kenosha Pass and portions of Guanella Pass. Pikes Peak National Forest is a popular getaway thanks to its proximity to Denver and Colorado Springs, especially during summer when the temperatures are comfortable for spending time outside.
Some of the most popular spots within this national forest are Mount Bierstadt, Mount Evans, Mount Cameron, Mount Gross, as well as many alpine lakes such as Kite Lake and Jefferson Lake.
6. Grab tasty treats at Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory
If you have a sweet tooth, there’s no better place to visit in Colorado Springs than Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
And, it’s one of the best indoor activities in Colorado Springs, if you need a break!
This small old-school shop in historic Colorado City offers a nice selection of chocolates, truffles, fudges, and all sorts of other candies. The menu has tons of sweet treats such as caramel apples, fudges, clusters and jelly, peanut butter treats, and if you need presents for your friends – boxed chocolates and goodie bags.
There’s a good reason why this local company has become a successful franchise in several states, and once you get a chance to try one of its delicious treats, you will understand why!
This is an excellent place to visit in downtown Colorado Springs as it will allow you to treat your taste buds and explore the history of Colorado Springs since this story is located in the historic part.
Address: 2431 W Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs
7. Explore Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
From museums to cool stores and spectacular natural landmarks, Colorado Springs is chock full of them! But if your itinerary includes multiple stops, it could quickly add up, and your trip could turn out to be more pricey than you expected.
One of them is Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument located a short distance from Colorado Springs. The monument is home to many petrified trees that offers plenty of space to wander around and check out these fossilized trees.
If you like to hike, I got great news for you: This national monument is home to two, self-guided trails that gain near the visitor center. Here’s a brief description:
- Petrified Forest Walk – A 1-mile trail takes you to pass petrified Redwood trees and a geologic exhibit.
- Ponderosa Loop Trail – A one-and-a-half-mile loop trail that goes through a Ponderosa pine forest.
In addition, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument has 14 miles of other hiking trails where you can enjoy superb scenery and see wildlife.
This national monument makes for a great escape from the city. The entrance fee is $3.
Address: 15807 Co Rd 1, Florissant, Colorado
8. Learn history in Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum
Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is a popular landmark in downtown Colorado Springs and a can’t-miss stop for history buffs and everyone who wants to learn more about the Pikes Peak region.
The museum houses many impressive artifacts (over 60,000 objects) with many items from Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Ute tribes that once called this area home. It has several permanent and temporary exhibits that show the evolution of the area over years.
Here you can find a treasure trove of objects, historic documents, and Native American artifacts such as spectacular quilts, pottery, and many other household items.
Another cool thing about visiting Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is the collection of papers written by the founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer that document the history of the first European settlers in the area.
Address: 215 S. Tejon Street, Colorado Springs.
9. Take a hot air balloon ride with Adventures Out West
Have you ever taken a hot air balloon ride above the snow-dusted mountains framed by the bright orange outcrops?
Colorado Springs is the perfect place to do that!
Adventures Out West, a Colorado recreational company offers amazing outdoor adventures in Colorado Springs and many other parts of the state. Whether you want to zip-line between towering cliffs, mountain bike or enjoy a thrilling ATV ride in the backcountry, Adventures Out West got you covered.
And how about a fun Segway ride through the spectacular Garden of The Gods? One of the most popular tours at Adventures Out West during summer is a guided Segway tour through Garden of the Gods.
Taking a tour with adventure Adventure Out West is one of the most fun things to do in Colorado Springs as you will be able to see some of the most beautiful areas in the Pikes Peak region. The company has many packages for all sorts of adventures and occasions. If you want to make your Colorado Springs visit more fun and memorable, taking one of the Adventures Out West is a must!
Address: 1680 S 21st St, Colorado Springs
10. Take a Lesson at Pikes Peak Alpine School
From ice climbing in remote backcountry to mountaineering on the steep edges of the tall cliffs, Pikes Peak Alpine School is your go-to place for all things adventure in the Pikes Peak region.
The company offers myriad activities such as hiking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and so much more! Pikes Peak Alpine School is a local company that offers classes for all levels as well as equipment rentals and professional guides who will teach you how to navigate challenging mountainous terrains.
If you ever wanted to go on a thrill-seeking trip, booking a tour at Pikes Peak Alpine School is one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs. And the bonus is you get to do that in one of the most scenic destinations in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced outdoors person or just a newbie, Pikes Peak Alpine has you covered as it has many programs and guides for all levels.
Address: 1819 N. Corona Street, Colorado Springs
11. Pick up fresh produce at Colorado Farm and Art Market
Visit the Colorado Farm and Art Market, a cooperative farmers’-owned venue where you can find dozens of local vendors selling their fresh produce, warm delicious bread, wines as well as arts and crafts produced by local artisans.
The venue has a nice social atmosphere and offers a perfect opportunity to mingle with tourists and locals. Colorado Farm and Art Market is the best place to visit if you want to see the non-touristy side of this town.
Entrance to the market is free and you can walk around and explore numerous stalls with food and produce until you find something you want to buy.
This is a weekly market that takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays from June through October and twice a month from March through May. There’s also the Winter Wonderland market that takes place in December.
Address: 7350 Pine Creek Road, Colorado Springs
12. Soak in hot springs
After enjoying some of the best adventures in Colorado Springs, it’s time to relax and get some of your energy back. There are numerous hot springs in the Colorado Springs area that can be visited on a half-day trip from Colorado Springs. Although there are no hot springs in the downtown area, all you need to do is get in your car and take a 2.5-hour drive.
- Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Nathrop – If you are looking for a resort-style accommodation with great amenities, check out hot springs in Mount Princeton where you can find hot springs, a water park as well as spa treatments, and yoga classes. This place makes for a perfect mini-getaway from Colorado Springs if you need to recharge your batteries before hitting the road again.
- Alpine Hot Spring Hideaway, Nathrop – Another hot spring facility in Nathrop, Alpine Springs Hideaway is a smaller, more secluded facility that is perfect for travelers who are looking for more privacy and more vacation-home style accommodations. This is a perfect place to enjoy a quiet serene atmosphere in the Colorado mountains for a couple of days.
- Indian Hot Springs, Idaho Springs – One of the most popular hot springs in the Denver area, the Healing Waters Spa at the Indian Hot Springs has swimming, pools, geothermal caves, and jacuzzis with mineral-rich water. Located just off Interstate-70, this place can get busy, and the traffic can get bad along the Interstate during weekends, so always make sure to check availability and road conditions ahead of your visit.
- Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa, Buena Vista – A cute place located in one of the most beautiful Colorado mountain towns, Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn and Spa is a great alternative to remote getaways in Nathrop as it offers just as much scenery and access to many stores and restaurants in quaint downtown Buena Vista.
13. Learn history at Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum
One of the best things to do in Colorado Springs is to learn about this region through its many historic landmarks. To do that, check out Manitou Cliff Dwellings, the remaining ruins of the Anasazi cliff dwellings that date 800 to 1000 years back. The dwellings were originally discovered in the southwest region of Colorado near Mesa Verde National Park and were brought to Colorado Springs in the early 20th century to protect them from looters.
Visitors can take a tour of the dwellings to see how Native American tribes lived thousands of years ago.
The onsite museum contains historic artifacts that document the lives of the Pueblo Indian tribes. Here you can see pottery, jewelry, weapons, and household items of the Anasazi people. The on-site museum located inside the three-story Pueblo building is home to a museum and a gift shop
Where you can find many cool replicas of original Anasazi items and more Southwestern-themed merchandise.
Opening hours can vary depending on the season, but the general times are from 9 or 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. Tickets are $12
Address: 10 Cliff Dwellings Road, Manitou Springs, Colorado
14. Wander around Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Dive into Colorado history at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site where you can get a glimpse of what life looked like for early settlers. The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site is a non-profit history farm where you can learn about four time periods in this part of Colorado: American Indian area in 1775; 1860’s Galloway Homestead; 1880’s Chambers Home and Ranch; and the 1907 Orchard House.
Unlike regular museums where history is typically shown through exhibits, Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site has special guides who tell visitors about the history of the region.
Address: 3105 Gateway Rd, Colorado Springs, Colorado
15. Check out Old Colorado
If you mix some of the best outdoor activities in Colorado Springs, head to Old Colorado, a historic neighborhood located in the heart of the city. It’s an excellent place to learn Colorado’s mining history that brought many people from all over the country.
Colorado City has a colorful history:
The city was established in 1859 during the gold rush in the Pikes Peak region and served as a stop for miners who would come here to buy food and supplies before going to mine gold in the mountains. Later, Colorado City became the capital of Colorado Territory (before the capital was moved to Denver for convenience purposes)
You can still find many stores and restaurants in the area that has been carefully restored to preserve its old-time feel. To find Old Colorado, get off Interstate-25 at Cimmaron Street (also known as Highway 24) and drive toward the mountains.
16. Hike at Mueller State Park
If you are looking to escape the busy Front Rage and spend time in nature, Mueller State Park is the place. This beautiful state park offers over 5,000 acres of backcountry where you can hike, camp, and mountain bike.
There are no lakes or rivers within this state park but there are many great trails for mountain biking (a total of 19 miles) and hiking (55 miles) that range from easy to moderate and challenging.
If you decide to camp here, make sure to bring bear-proof containers and pack up everything, because this is active black bear territory.
Mueller State Park is located about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs along the Gold Belt Tour.
Address: 21045 Highway 67 South, Divide, Colorado
17. Snap photos of Royal Gorge Bridge And Park
Often referred to as “America’s Bridge,” Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in North America located at the 1,200-foot canyon over the Arkansas River. It’s a popular destination in Colorado with visitors coming here from all over the country, and is one of the unmissable outdoor activities in Colorado Springs.
The bridge was originally constructed as a tourist construction in 1929 and has been visited by more than 25 million people since then.
There are a few things to know about visiting this popular landmark. If you just want to check out the bridge and the nearby areas, you can do it for free. To cross the bridge and enjoy many attractions in the area such as the gondola, you have to pay general admission which is $25 for adults.
Popular tourist attractions in the area include rock climbing adventure called Via Ferrata, the World’s Scariest Rollercoaster, and the Cloud scraper ZipRider zip-line.
Royal Gorge Bridge And Park is located about one hour south of Colorado Springs. To get here, take Interstate-25 south and exit at Highway 115 to Penrose. From there, get on Highway 50 toward Canon City and look for signs leading toward Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Address: 4218 County Road 3A in Cañon City, Colorado.
18. Go camping at North Cheyenne Canyon Park
North Cheyenne Canon Park is one of the best outdoor destinations in the Colorado Springs area. This park boasts 1,600 acres with spectacular scenery and great outdoor activities.
Unlike other popular outdoor venues, North Cheyenne Canon Park can be reached by a quick drive from downtown Colorado Springs.
Some of the best trails in the area are North Cheyenne Canyon, a 7.6-mile track that provides access to the waterfall and is rated as difficult; Mount Cutler trail, an easy 1.7-mile hike that provides beautiful views in all directions, and the Seven Bridges Trail, a 4-mile track with great views of Colorado Springs below.
Weekends can be really busy here because of proximity to the city, that’s why it’s better to plan your outing for a weekday.
Admission is free and the park is open seven days a week from 5 a.m.-9 p.m.
Address: 2120 S Cheyenne Canyon Road in Colorado Springs.
19. Visit Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is one of the most unique places to visit in the area.
Located in a scenic mountain destination less than one hour away from the city, this place is one of the few sanctuaries in the United States that are dedicated to the preservation of Mexican Grey Wolves, coyotes, and Swift Foxes. Here, you can learn everything about these species as well as support their conservation efforts, as they run mostly on donations.
The facility offers several types of tours where visitors can learn about wolves and wolf-dogs as well as ongoing conservation efforts.
Making a reservation for your visit is highly recommended. Also at the center, you can ask about volunteer opportunities and learn about how you can help to spread awareness about wolf conservation efforts.
Address: 4729 Twin Rocks Road in Divide, Colorado
20. Take a quick trip to Painted Mines
If you want to see some cool scenery, head to the town of Calhan northeast of Colorado Springs, where you can find the Painted Mines Interpretive Park that has candy-cane like rock formations that you will not find anywhere else in Colorado. Besides offering a perfect backdrop for your photos, this places is also home to some cool history as Native Americans said to have mined the materials from this thousands of years ago.
You can visit Painted Mines seven days a week for FREE and enjoy its gorgeous and relatively easy hikes. As always, stay on trails, do NOT climb rock formations as you can damage them.
Address: 29950 Paint Mine Road, Calhan, Colorado
Where to stay in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs has a good variety of hotels for all budget types and tastes. Many visitors who stop in Colorado Springs do it as part of their road trip around the state, spending a couple of days in the city. Whether you plan to spend some time in Colorado Springs or planning just a quick stopover, here are some a few options for your stay:
BEST OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN COLORADO SPRINGS: FINAL WORD
Colorado Springs is one of the most beautiful and often underrated towns in Colorado. From backcountry hiking and camping to historic venues and wonderful hot springs in the area, there are many things to do in Colorado Springs which means you should spend at least a couple of days in this city.