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.
Breckenridge is a resort town in the Colorado mountains that is quite popular for skiing during the winter and hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities in the summer. With so many things to do in Breckenridge, it is a great place to spend at least several days, if not an entire week. Not only are there plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, but the town also has many wonderful restaurants as well as stores offering collectables, clothing, and art. Most everything can be found right off of main street, which is surrounded by a variety of condominiums, rental homes, and hotels.
Since we are avid hikers, we truly enjoyed getting out into nature like we did when we hiked Burro Trail. In addition, though, we also enjoyed our time in the town of Breckenridge as well. One of the things that we had heard about was the “Breckenridge Troll”, officially called Isak Heartstone, which is a giant wooden sculpture that has recently been relocated to near the ice skating arena. The creation is the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who came back to Breckenridge to oversee the relocation of the piece of art. It is very large and dramatic.
We also took the free gondola ride up to peak 8 where there are many activities for the entire family to enjoy, but especially children. There is a mountain rollercoaster, a zip line, maze, putt putt golf, as well as an alpine slide. For those that rent mountain bikes, there is a chair lift that will take you to the top of the mountain where you can ride down one of the many trails. Even though it was the middle of summer, there was still some snow on one of the ski runs for people to slide around and throw snowballs at each other. There are also a couple of restaurants to enjoy a cool refreshment and get a meal to keep your energy up for the activities.
The town of Breckenridge is very walkable with many shops and restaurants along the streets, but there is also a free trolley that will take you throughout the area. Like most places in Colorado, the people are extremely friendly and very welcoming to tourists that arrive from all around the world. Another benefit of getting into the mountains during the summer is that the temperatures are much milder and it can even get a little cold in the evening. We really enjoyed our time in Breckenridge and found that it was certainly a wonderful place for people of all ages.