Colorado Springs beckons in the outdoorsy types and culture lovers. There are a wide variety of incredible natural and historical attractions – visitors can hike Garden of the Gods, train with Olympic athletes (or learn how they train), and visit the old Colorado City. Its proximity to Denver makes it a great spot for a day trip too! No matter if you’re here for a day or a week, check out the best things to do in Colorado Springs.
1. Garden of the Gods
It’s not hard to see how this natural landmark earned its otherworldly title. The towering red sandstone rocks look like they might as well have been carved by gods themselves. In reality, they are the work of geological activity over nearly 300 million years. There are many ways to experience its grandeur: hike the trails; rent an e-bike; go on a Segway or horseback tour. Some people also come here to rock climb, but you’ll need to register beforehand. If you’re on a budget, hiking and exploring on your own two feet is completely free. If you’re short on time, the park has a loop road that you can drive to see some of the main highlights. In short, there is no reason why Garden of the Gods shouldn’t be at the top of your Colorado Springs itinerary! Tip: try to come at sunset or sunrise for the brightest hues.
2. Pikes Peak
Sitting at the base of Pikes Peak, one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs is to climb its summit. See for yourself the view that inspired the song America the Beautiful. If you’re on a road trip or renting a car, you can enjoy it via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile (30km) mountain road that has many beautiful scenic viewing areas. Another way to get to the top is to hop on the historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway. It’s been operating since 1891 and is the highest cog railway in the world! At the summit you’ll see the Visitor Center, which has delicious views and delicious donuts. The recipe is so top-secret that employees have to sign a contract to promise that they will not share it!
3. Manitou Incline
Can’t get enough of the great outdoors? The Manitou Incline is not an easy climb, but you sure get bragging rights if you make it to the top. Originally an old cable car track to carry pipeline materials on Pikes Peak, the incline was off-limits for many years. When officials reopened it for hiking in 2013, it quickly became a rite of passage. It’s just one mile (1.6km) long, but the climb involves 2,774 steps made from cable car ties at an average of 45-percent incline. If you’re up for a heart pumping, quad-building time, Manitou Incline should be one of your must-do things in Colorado Springs.
4. Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Step back in time at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a preserve that protects ancient cliff dwellings of the ancient Anasazi civilization. Their descendants are the modern Pueblo Indians. Though the dwellings are now near Colorado Springs, they were originally in McElmo Canyon, on the border of Colorado and Utah. In 1907, a team extricated the dwellings and moved them here for preservation and protection from robbers and vandals. Today, visitors can tour the dwellings and get to know what life was like thousands of years ago. There is also a three-story Pueblo building, which was home to Native Americans until 1984. Here you’ll also find a museum detailing the history of the Anasazi.
5. Old Colorado City
Old Colorado City was Colorado’s original capital. In the 1890’s, it was the hub of early settlement in the region. Saloons, brothels and gaming parlors dominated this Wild West town fueled by the gold rush. Today, art galleries, quaint boutiques and restaurants line the historic city. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Take a few hours out of your day to soak up the Old West charm and vitality!
6. Olympic Training Center
Covid-19 update: The OPTC Visitor Center and Team USA Shop are temporarily closed. In addition, tours are unavailable at this time.
Elite athletes tend to train at high altitudes because the air is thinner. And at 6,035 feet, Colorado Springs is the ideal spot for the Olympic Training Center. This is also the national headquarters of the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Swimming and Shooting, two international sports federations, and 15 other organizations. That’s a lot of sports going on! A VIP tour is the best way to go behind the scenes, as it includes lunch in the athlete cafeteria. Who knows, you might end up next to Michael Phelps?