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Learn about the Colorado Springs area of Colorado by reading High Time in the Rockies by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

High Time in the Rockies

by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer

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The route of the cog railroad to Pikes Peak reveals the magnificent beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
Photo courtesy Colorado Springs Convention and Tourist Bureau

There’s one big problem when you visit the Colorado Springs area—this section of Colorado has so many interesting and beautiful places you will have a difficult time deciding where to start. Pikes Peak is the most famous landmark in the area but you will find literally dozens of other places that will entice you to extend your stay.

Within a few miles of this majestic mountain you will witness the grandeur of gorges and rock formations produced by nature over the ages and will be inspired or entertained by museums and other more modern creations. The city of Colorado Springs has more than 30 major cultural attractions. These range from the Fine Arts Center, where you will view American, Native American and Hispanic artifacts, to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy, to the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

Before we visit any of these, let’s take a short train ride to the top of Pikes Peak and see why this towering mountain inspired the song “America the Beautiful.” The 8.5-mile trip aboard the nation’s highest cog railroad carries us through levels where you might see mule deer grazing to above the timberline where the ground is frozen year-round and where you could catch a glimpse of Bighorn sheep. It’s a steep climb early in the trip, following a cascading stream. Then the train moves up a more-gentle grade until about the five-mile point where the climb steepens again. The last three miles are above the timberline. At the top you will have 30 to 40 minutes to take in the magnificent views. Longer than this and you might feel the effects of the 14,110-foot altitude. (If you have breathing problems, don’t make the trip.) The round trip takes about 3 hours and ten minutes. Trains run seven days a week from mid-April through December.

Another railroad journey gives us an entirely different look at the mountainous beauty. The Royal Gorge Route has been called “The most spectacular 12 miles of railroad in America.” It follows the old Denver and Rio Grande Western line. The two-hour round trip is aboard comfortable coaches and open observation cars, with connected bar car and cafe car. Fare runs $26.95 for adults and $16.50 for children three to twelve years of age. Three runs are available daily from early May to early October.

Just when you think you have absorbed the limit of nature’s wonders, we enter the Garden of the Gods, a 1,300-acre park filled with red sandstone formations. Start by viewing the 12-minute theater presentation “How Did These Red Rocks Get There?” which tells the history and geology of the Park. There is a $2 admission ($1 for children). The exhibit area is free and it provides information about the ecology, geology, and history of the area. To see the impressive formations, take a nature walk with a Park naturalist or enjoy the sights during a 30-minute bus tour.

With such famous natural wonders at hand, it seems fitting to recognize the athletic wonders of the nation and this we do at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, located in the city of Colorado Springs. This $8-million dollar facility welcomes about 140,000 visitors a year. It is the primary facility for the public to learn about the Olympic movement. An hour-long tour takes you through the training facilities where the athletes work out. Stops include the weightlifting facilities, shooting center, aquatic center, and sports medicine facility. Narrative panels provide information about the various sports and there are kiosks where you can look up information about all American Olympic Athletes.

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Spires of the chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy are seen behind these fountains.
Photo courtesy Colorado Springs Convention and Tourist Bureau

The U.S. Air Force Academy is one of Colorado’s most frequently visited man-made attractions. The Academy Chapel alone is worth the visit. This all-faith house of worship soars 150 feet toward the Colorado sky. It has 17 spires. The Protestant nave is on one level, the Roman Catholic and Jewish Chapels plus an all-faith’s room are located on another. Each chapel has its own entrance.

In the visitors’ center you will find informative exhibits on cadet life and history of the Academy. Here you can obtain self-guided tour maps. Areas open to the public include the Field House, Visitor’s Center, Chapel, and Thunderbird Airmanship Overlook. All attractions are free.

The U.S. Air Force Academy welcomes visitors, but since 9-11 security is tightened. All visitors must be able to produce some form of photo identification on entering the gate.

Colorado Springs is the perfect place to reinvigorate yourself with pride in the United States—its natural wonders of the land, the teamwork of its people, and the dedication of its defense.

Details

How to get there

The Colorado Springs Airport (COS) is just six miles southeast of the city. Ten airlines serve the airport. The airport boasts the longest runway in Colorado. All ground services are available including rental cars, limos, and shuttles to major hotels. Motorists will find Colorado Springs at the crossroad of two Interstate Highways: U.S. 25 north and south, U.S. 24 east and west.

Where to stay

You have a wide choice of lodgings in the Colorado Springs area, with convenience to attractions and your budget dictating which to choose. Here are a few:

  • Red Crags Bed and Breakfast. A four-story Victorian mansion with views of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. Rates from $85 to $185.
  • Drury Inn Pikes Peak. Four miles from the Air Force Academy and 20 minutes from Pikes Peak cog railroad. Restaurants nearby.
  • Quality Inn Garden of the Gods. Outdoor heated pool, restaurants nearby, Air Force Academy close.
    Hearthside Suites. Pets are welcome here, fitness room, daily or weekly rates from $55.
  • Wyndham Colorado Springs. Four miles from downtown, 10 minutes from Garden of the Gods, easy access to Air Force Academy and Olympic Center. Rates about $108 per night.
  • Broadmore Hotel. A magnificent hotel on 3000 acres at the foot of the Rockies. Dedicated to service, 700 hotel rooms and suites. Rates: $225 to $2,100.

You can check rates and book your room, rental car, and airfare at WTA's Online Travel Booking Service. Deep discounts may apply to your rental car and hotel.

Where to eat

You can eat or dine, whatever suits your palate.  Some of the places you might want to try include:

  • Edelweiss Restaurant—German cuisine with entrees $8 to $20
  • Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.—what its name implies; $8 to $20
  • Garden of the Gods Trading Post —Sandwiches and burgers; $2.50 to $6.50
  • Briarhurst—a national historic landmark built in 1878, lunch and dinner only $17 to $40
  • Hearthstone B&B—Lodging $49 to $199, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, restaurant open to all, $7.95 to $29.95

Notice: This information is current as of August 2002. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to determine any changes to the information.