Colorado is home to some of my favorite destinations from the city of Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park and now added to the list: Colorado Springs. There are so many fun things to do in Colorado Springs, it can be difficult to fit it all in over a long weekend but it’s possible! Colorado Springs is one small town just south of Denver that has been on my list for a while so when I got the chance to visit for a long weekend, I had a full itinerary already preplanned.
From well known spots like Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak to lesser known Red Rock Canyon Open Space and nearby Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, we’ll cover all you need to know for a thrilling visit to Colorado Springs!
Colorado gets the full brunt of all seasons so it’s important to understand how the weather could impact what you want to do. Colorado Springs’ southern location means its winter is actually a bit more temperate compared to other parts of Colorado. Like most places in Colorado, Colorado Springs is near ski resorts and other wintertime activities but it’s not the best base for skiing unless you’re willing to drive 1-3 hours. You can enjoy all that Springs has to offer in the winter but the best time to visit Colorado Springs is between April and October with peak season June to August. Visiting during this time will ensure pleasant temperatures for things like mountain biking in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, hiking, or visiting Pikes Peak.
We visited at the end of May when the temperature was in the high 60s and low 70s (Fahrenheit) and sunny. It was very pleasant during the day and only slightly chilled at night. There was some snow at the top of Pike’s Peak still so we weren’t able to drive to the top but the new, updated Cogway is open year round.
Those living in and visiting Denver benefit from so many gorgeous places just a road trip away and it’s no different with Colorado Springs.
Arriving from Denver International Airport, you can rent a car and drive the 2.5 hours south to Colorado Springs very easily. This is what we did which allowed us to stop in Denver and enjoy the city for a bit before heading south. The caveat is you can potentially run into rush hour traffic or construction. Make sure to use Google maps ahead of time so you can plan for the time needed.
There is also a shuttle you can book to go to Colorado Springs but you’ll definitely want a rental car to get around once in town. For that reason, it makes much more sense to rent the car from Denver International Airport if flying in that way.
Colorado Springs has its own airport which would be the fastest way to get there and would work best if you’re not interested in stopping by Denver. But who wouldn’t want to stop in Denver?! Flying into Colorado Springs Airport will most likely cost more and will add a layover, so decide which is best for you.
Colorado Springs is great for everyone – the adventure seeker, families, relaxing getaways with friends. But just like pretty much anywhere in Colorado, it’s especially great for outdoor lovers. From mountain biking and hiking to the scenic Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, there’s something for all activity levels to enjoy the landscape of Colorado Springs.
First on the list, and probably the most popular place to visit, is Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is a protected nature preserve covering over 1,300 acres of sandstone. The large rock formations are hard to miss. The park is a beautiful place to walk, hike, bike, climb and/or take a jeep or Segway tour. The large rock formations dart from the ground and really are striking to look at. The park is free to enter and open every day of the week. The visitor center is open 8am to 7pm where you can learn more about the park and book a tour.
We skipped the visitor center and instead, drove through the park, stopping along the way to take in the pretty views. What I wish we would’ve done was rent E-bikes and rode through the park and around the perimeter! Make sure to check out that tour option if you visit.
I definitely suggest stopping at Garden of the Gods but I actually enjoyed the less crowded park nearby – Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Red Rock Canyon Open Space covers even more land than Garden of the Gods, about 1,400 acres and is great for hiking, biking, and climbing. We opted for mountain biking which was probably the highlight of my whole trip and one of the best mountain biking experiences I’ve had (though I’m a beginner). There was plenty of parking at the various lots, much less people than Garden of the Gods and similar views. However, the red rocks aren’t as dramatic at Red Rock Canyon Open Space when compared to Garden of the Gods (as you can imagine just from the names!)
Renting mountain bikes was very easy – we went to Routes Outfitters which was right next to Red Canyon Open Space and rode over to the park entrance from the bike shop once we got our gear and bikes. You may want to make a reservation ahead of time because they sell out of bikes especially on the weekends.
Afterwards, ride your bike back to the store and head to Trails End Brewery for tasters and food which is conveniently in the same shopping plaza as Routes!
Next up, Pikes Peak, affectionately called America’s Mountain, is the highest summit in the front range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s also the place that inspired “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates back in 1893 which is pretty wild to think about! Pikes Peak is only about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs and easily accessible by car. You can actually drive all the way to the summit at 14,112 feet during the warmer months.
Another popular option is to take the cog railway to the top of the mountain for a more scenic trip. It takes about 3.5 hours to ride the railway 9 miles up the mountain. Make sure to buy tickets ahead of time if visiting on the weekend since time slots can sellout. Tickets are priced around $59 for adults and $49 for kids. You can buy tickets here. The railway was actually closed for a few years while undergoing renovations and just reopened in 2021 with a brand new visitor center.
Feeling extra adventurous? You can hike or bike to Pikes Peak, or even better, ride to the top on the cog and bike down!
The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park was an unexpected highlight of our trip to Colorado Springs. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the United States that provides a stellar view into the depths of the gorge and the Arkansas River below.
It takes a little more than an hour to get to the bridge from downtown Colorado Springs. The visitor’s center highlights the historical significance of the area and the process of building the bridge. The surrounding park has something to do for all activity levels: a sky coaster swing, zip line, and my favorite, the Via Ferrata. Truthfully, the whole reason why we visited the Royal Gorge Bridge was to do the Via Ferrata (also because my partner Joey was a civil engineer and loves a good bridge). For more details on the park and the Via Ferrata check out my post here.
The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park did not disappoint. If you’ve been following for a while, you know we had a great experience doing the Via Ferrata at Nelson Rock, West Virginia but we may have enjoyed Royal Gorge Park’s Via Ferrata even more! The bridge was definitely impressive and the views of the Arkansas River flowing through the Gorge were amazing.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is a great stop for families and adults looking for some fun. The park has a ton of activities to choose from like cave tours, rock climbing, and ziplining. The guided cave tours would be a great rainy day activity; they range from 45 minutes to a haunted 90 minutes tour. Cave of the Winds also has a 2-hour guided Via Ferrata as well as the Terror-Dactyl ride for the thrill seekers. Terror-Dactyl will catapult you 150 feet into the canyon up to 100 miles an hour! You can find more information on the park, prices, and everything else they offer here.
It feels wrong to go to Colorado and not do some kind of hiking, right? Colorado Springs has lots of nearby trails but an extra interesting one is the Broadmoor Seven Falls Trail. The trail is actually a series of staircases that follow seven waterfalls. Total number of steps? 224! Entrance fee to hike the falls is $16 for adults and $10 for kids (children under 2 years old are free). The falls are closed in the winter.
If the Broadmoor Seven Fallas Trail sounds like child’s play to you, check out the Manitou Stairs. Made from an old railroad, the Manitou Stairs climb over 2,000 feet in elevation and total about 2,744 stairs! You can see how it got its nickname “Colorado’s Stairway to Heaven.” Obviously not for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge you can conquer one of the “tallest sets of stairs in the world.”
A nice bonus stop after completing the Via Ferrata at the Royal Gorge Park and much lesser known: Desert Reef Hot Springs near Colorado Springs. Having a nice soak in the hot mineral water is a great way to recover after so much physical activity. Make sure to check out the operating hours first (typically only open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and note that some days are clothing optional if you’re not into that kind of thing. Check out more info at their website here.
Colorado Springs is a pretty small city but has a couple of nice Main Street options that make walking to restaurants and shops easy. There are actually three main areas to choose from when visiting Colorado Springs: downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, or Manitou Springs.
We used Hilton points and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn downtown which worked well for us. It’s a fairly new property with large rooms. Also, it was near Denver Biscuit Company which is a must stop for brunch!
A bit closer to some of the action but a small town feel, Old Colorado City has a western feel. There are not many lodging options but they do have a few B&B’s like The Old Town Guesthouse.
Manitou Springs is just past Old Colorado City is similarly just as quaint. There are a handful of inns and motels but the 4 star hotel, The Cliff House, stands out the most.