Sitting at the edge of the
Rockies, Colorado Springs is Colorado's most popular
tourist destination. The attractions are many, both
natural and man-made. Undoubtedly the greatest of these
is Pike's Peak, the mountain which rises alone from the
high Colorado Plateau, and overshadows everything at its
In addition to visiting the nearby
mountain, there is a rich variety of things to do and see
in the Colorado Springs area, not the least of which is
the U.S. Air Force Academy, which attracts more
than a million visitors each year. Indeed, this city is a
gigantic military installation, with several major
enterprises based in or near the urban area. These
include NORAD, the North American Aerospace
Defense Command, in an underground fortress within
Cheyenne Mountain, nearby Fort Carson and Peterson Air
Force Base, Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S.
Space Command, with a complex having been built east of
What to See & Do
The Air Force Academy has a campus
of more than 18,000 acres, sitting at the foot of the
Rampart Mountains. Some of it is open to the public, and
a good way to visit the grounds is to obtain a
self-guiding tour brochure which is available at the
Academy's visitor center. The soaring chapel, with its 17
spires, is a favorite of visitors to the campus. The
large square below the chapel is filled with parading
cadets at noontime, Monday through Friday, during the
If you could only visit one attraction
during a stopover in Colorado Springs, then it should be
the Garden of the Gods. This 1,350-acre city park
features hundreds of red sandstone formations, pinnacles,
balancing rocks, and other strangely-shaped natural
sights -- all in a city park at the west end of town.
This unique area was formed when erosion and other forces
brought rocks and other debris from the nearby mountains
about 250 million years ago. Then the Rockies began to
rise once more, tilting the rock layers in the park. More
wind and water laid bare the rocks and pinnacles we see
today: Steamboat Rock, Balanced Rock, the Rocking Chair,
and the Three Graces, among many others.
The park was dedicated in 1909, and is now
a Registered National Landmark. While it is possibly to
take a short drive through the Garden of the Gods, you
really can't get the full effect of the dramatic
sandstone shapes unless you park and walk along one of
several trails which lead to various scenic viewpoints.
The Hidden Inn is in the center of the garden, with a
lookout tower, cafe, and gift shop. The famous Trading
Post, which has been here since the 1920s, has
Pueblo-style architecture. It's the largest gift shop in
the area, selling Southwest Indian art and crafts, and is
located at the west end of the park, near Balanced Rock.
Other very popular area attractions include
Seven Falls, a spectacular series of connected
falls, that cascade 300 feet down a granite cliff in the
South Cheyenne Canyon. On summer nights, the
complete canyon is illuminated by thousands of colored
lights, which add a surreal beauty to the falls. There
are two pathways with stairs to the viewing locations.
Admission is charged for entry to the falls and South
Canyon, located at the southwestern edge of Colorado
Springs. To get to the entry point, take Cheyenne Blvd.,
and drive west to the end of the road. It is possible to
walk to the rim of the canyon (and see the falls for
free) by walking through North Cheyenne Canyon, and along
the Mt. Cutler Trail for two miles. This is an
easy walk, and the view of the falls is spectacular.
Another commercialized natural attraction
is Cave of the Winds, located six miles west of
Colorado Springs, off Highway 3. A 40-minute guided tour
of the underground passages takes you into several huge
rooms, with stalactites and stalagmites. A recently-added
feature is a 60-foot-long room (35 feet high) which is
lit by a humungeous lighting system. A windbreaker is
advised for the longer (wild" tour of the caverns. This
tour takes more than two hours, and leads through the
deepest parts of the cave. An admission fee is charged.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a small but
interesting collection of mostly-endangered species,
housed in fascinating habitats. Admission to the zoo also
includes entry to the Will Rogers Shrine of the
Sun, commemorating the great Western humorist. The
zoo is open year-round. To get there, take Nevada Avenue
(which becomes Highway 155), turn right onto Lake Avenue,
and drive to the Broadmoor Resort. Turn right onto
Miranda Road, and drive to the zoo.
The thin mountain air of Colorado Springs
is perfect for athletic training, and so the U.S. Olympic
Committee established a national training center in the
city. Nine teams are housed at the U.S. Olympic
Complex, and athletes train here regularly. There is
a visitor center, with an Olympic film show, and gift
shop. A 90-minute tour of the complex is also available.
The complex is located at 1,776 Boulder Street.
Pike's Peak is located west of
Colorado Springs, near the old resort town of Manitou
Springs. For those who wish to assault the peak -- by
one of several ways.
The Broadmoor (1 Lake Avenue) is
Colorado's (and some say the nation's) top resort hotel
complex, a super-deluxe operation containing three
hotels. There are hot spring pools, 3 golf courses, chic
shops, tennis courts, restaurants & lounges.