Colorado Springs - Colorado

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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 feet.

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 town.

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 school year.

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.

For details on Pike's Peak,
Go to the Manitou Springs Page

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