One of our favorite things to do during autumn when the leaves turn vibrantly colorful is to go hiking in the mountains. At these elevations, around 8,000 feet (2,400 meters), the leaves change sooner than they do in other places and they also don’t last long as winter arrives swiftly. We went to Mueller State Park, located about an hour outside of Colorado Springs, and spent a day hiking among the pine trees and aspen trees. The temperatures were cool and the skies were clear, so it was a perfect day to spend time in the mountains on some trails that we haven’t previously hiked.
The great thing about hiking in the high country is that you get a mix of seeing the changing colors up close as well as the tapestry of colors across the skyline. The park is located on the backside of Pikes Peak and the scenery was simply amazing as it almost always is at this time of year. The colors are mostly the golds and yellows of the aspen groves surrounded by the deep greens of the pine trees, which is different than the reds and oranges that you find in most places. If you get a chance to visit Colorado in autumn, we’d highly recommend that you get into the mountains, even if just by car.
We are fortunate to live in Colorado Springs, Colorado and enjoy taking advantage of all of the unique places to see in the area. Even though these are all popular sites for tourists to visit, they are also things that locals enjoy as well. In addition to those things in the city itself, we’ve also included a couple of day trip locations as well. Even though Denver is about an hour north of Colorado Springs, we did not include any locations there as they are worthy of their own list. No matter what you do when coming to Colorado, making sure to get out and enjoy nature is certainly the highlight of any trip to this wonderful state. Here are our recommendations, in no particular order.
Pikes Peak – Whether driving to the top of Pikes Peak, taking the Cog Railway (when it is open), our even hiking to the top of the mountain, it is certainly a must do activity in Colorado Springs. Known as “America’s Mountain” for it being the inspiration to America the Beautiful, the views are absolutely stunning. With an elevation that is over 14,000 feet (4,250 meters), it is important to be aware of the effects of the altitude and people need to be sure to hydrate.
Garden of the Gods – Walking or driving through this geological wonder is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Colorado Springs. To say that Garden of the Gods is truly beautiful would be an extreme understatement. With various rock formations such as balancing rock, steamboat rock, and kissing camels, there is a lot to see when visiting the park.
The United States Air Force Academy – Located on the northern end of Colorado Springs, visiting this military campus is certainly worth the time. With many different statues depicting various aircraft and a chapel that is truly unique, it is worth going into the academy grounds and not just stopping at the viewing area that is located off of the highway. It is important to remember that this is an active military base, so there are times that it is closed to the public and you will have to show id upon reaching the gates.
Mueller State Park – We love hiking in this state park throughout the year, but it is definitely our favorite place to go when the leaves change in autumn. It is about an hour drive from Colorado Springs, but it is worth getting into the Rocky Mountains when coming to Colorado. There is also an opportunity to see a variety of wildlife in the park, so be sure to visit the visitor center and speak to the rangers to see where animals might be active.
Historic Manitou Springs – Sitting on the outskirts of town, between Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak is Manitou Springs with its western charm. Many people choose to stay in Manitou Springs when coming to Colorado Springs, but even if you don’t stay there, it is worth visiting. There are many different shops, restaurants, and interesting buildings to see in this small town.
Seven Falls – Visiting this waterfall in the southern part of Colorado Springs is a popular attraction. It gives you a chance to get into the mountains without having to drive out of the city. It is a steep climb to the top of the falls, but it is certainly worth it to see the amazing views. If you even more adventurous, you can zip line in Seven Falls, but just walking through the park and eating at the restaurant at the base of the falls is worth the visit.
The Colorado Springs Zoo – Although almost every city has a zoo, but the Colorado Springs Zoo is definitely different than any other zoo you may have been to. The zoo is the only mountain side zoo in America and has wonderful views of the city, especially if you go to the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking along paths that take you higher and higher through the exhibits.
The Royal Gorge Train – Going to Canon City, located about an hour outside of Colorado Springs, is worth the drive just to see the amazing canyon. For really adventurous people, you can go whitewater rafting through the gorge, but for a more relaxing time, we’d recommend taking the historic railway along the river at the base of the canyon walls.
Cripple Creek – If you want to do a little gambling while enjoying some beautiful scenery, then a drive to Cripple Creek trip for you. It is about an hour and a half outside of Colorado Springs and is an easy day trip, but there are hotels if you would prefer. Since Mueller State Park is on the way to Cripple Creek, it can certainly be combined into a single visit.
There are a few other places that are often on people’s itineraries including the Cave of the Winds and the North Pole, but we found the above listed places to be some of the best of Colorado Springs. It is certainly a beautiful area and we would definitely recommend dedicated at least three days to the Colorado Springs area if you are planning a visit.
We have said many times that every trip is special in its own way and we certainly can’t pick a favorite. Some are great for adventure, some for history, or culture, or because of the people that we met. As we enter our 5th year of hosting this site, we thought that we would take a quick moment to reflect on some of our trips that have been memorable for many different reasons. Having visited so many wonderful countries and cities, there were many to chose from, but these stood out to us.
New York City – As much as we love traveling to foreign locations, visiting New York City was definitely a wonderful trip. Walking through Central Park, going to the Top of the Rock and the observation deck at the Empire State Building, the emotional experience at the 9/11 Memorial, and seeing a Broadway play were just some of the things that made it memorable.
Chennai, India – The first trip that took us completely out of our comfort zone, which has had a lasting impact on the way that we travel. Visiting the temples, learning about the culture, and tasting the amazing food were just part of the experience. The highlight of the trip was having dinner at the house of a local family and is a memory that we will always cherish.
Southern Spain – We saw so many interesting places while spending a couple of weeks in Southern Spain including Seville, Granada, Ronda, Gibraltar, and even a day trip to Morocco. We went to a wine tasting, toured the largest bullfighting ring, and seeing the Alhambra Palace and Fortress were some of the many highlights of our time there.
Ecuador – With such a diverse ecology, it was almost as like combining three trips into a single visit. We stayed at an ecolodge in the Amazon where we paddled boats through the jungle, climbed to the top of the rainforest canopy, and saw wildlife everywhere we went. While we were in Quito we took time to visit two very different volcanos, hiked in the Andes Mountains, and stood on the equator.
Our First Trip to Europe – It took us longer than some people to get to Europe, but have obviously been there many times and even lived there since our first trip. We were definitely tourists and not travelers during that trip to Paris, London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Manchester, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Walking the streets of Paris, staying in a flat in London, and seeing an EPL (English Premier League) soccer/football match made the trip truly special.
Egypt – Taking a cruise down the Nile River, seeing the Great Pyramids, climbing into tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and walking through temples that are thousands of years old is something that we’ll never forget. Obviously the history and amazing scenery were completely amazing, but the people that we met also made the experience one of our favorites.
Clearly these trips are just the tip of the iceberg and we have many other memorable experiences. We are also looking forward to creating many new experiences in the coming months as well. With busy lives and seemingly always planning an upcoming trip, it is good sometimes to sit back and reflect on how fortunate we’ve been to see some of the things that we have.