Over the weekend we visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo located here in Colorado Springs. Having been to zoo’s in many other cities, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, and Dallas, just to name a few, we can say that this zoo is truly world class. Situated in the foothills south of Pikes Peak, the zoo is the only mountainside zoo in America. The exhibits are all meant to take advantage of the areas’ natural beauty as well as provide an environment suitable for each of the over 750 animals, representing nearly 150 species, 30 of which are on the endangered list, that inhabit the zoo. We enjoy the zoo so much that we decided to become members so that we could benefit the animals as well as give us the opportunity to enjoy more of the special events that are held at the zoo.
Since the zoo sits in the mountains, you’ll want to bring your walking shoes as the zoo is spread out across over 140 acres and there is a good gain in elevation as you work your way up through each of the different exhibit zones. And if the views on the ground aren’t good enough, there is a chairlift ride that will take you over top of the zoo where you can see for miles around. Each section of the zoo is set up to mirror the natural habitats of the animals within it and each also has unique attractions, making it a joy for all to explore.
You start in the African Rift Valley which is home to the giraffes and meerkats. From there you can head to Encounter Africa with the Rhinos and Elephants or to Asian Highlands with an assortment of big cats. You’ll definitely want to check out the Rocky Mountain Wild for a look at the grizzlies and mountain lions or take a look at the wallabies in the Australia Walkabout. There are plenty of places to stop and rest as you make your way through the zoo and there is even a place to get an adult beverage if you’re in the mood.
Sitting above the zoo, and included in your price of admission, is the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. At 8,136 feet above sea level, it has spectacular views and is well worth the short drive up the side of the mountain. Built by Spenser Penrose and dedicated to Will Rogers who died in plane crash in Alaska in 1935, the tower has been a landmark in the area since its completion in 1937. Its a tuff walk up the stairs to the top, but you won’t regret it.
Regardless of what animal is your favorite, whether you have kids or don’t, a day at the zoo is a day well spent. For the first time this autumn, the temperatures felt seasonable and cool, which everyone seemed to enjoy, including the animals who all seemed to be very active. As the Simon and Garfunkel song says in their song At the Zoo, everyone should take some time to go the zoo “and the animals will love it if you do”.