Red Rock Canyon#9 in Best Things To Do in Colorado Springs
Arizona and Utah aren't the only states that boast rust-colored rocks – Colorado has them, too. And you don't have to stray too far from Colorado Springs to get a good look at them from a hiking or biking trail. Sitting about 4 miles northwest of downtown along Highway 24 (right before you reach Manitou Springs), Red Rock Canyon has contributed to the area's scenic landscape since 7000 B.C. In the 1800s, the desert landscape was used to refine the ore that came from the gold mines in nearby Cripple Creek. During the 20th century, Red Rock Canyon was owned by the Bock family, who had plans to transform the land into a vacation haven, complete with a resort hotel and a golf course. In 2003, the city of Colorado Springs purchased the land and used its striking red cliffs to punctuate miles of new hiking and biking trails.
Recent visitors claimed Red Rock Canyon is a must for outdoorsy travelers, as is wearing comfortable walking shoes and bringing a camera. The park also features an open-air pavilion that can accommodate live entertainment and evening movie screenings.
Between May 1 and Oct. 31, you can enter Red Rock Canyon between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.; during the rest of the year, the park closes at 9 p.m. Admission to the Red Rock Canyon is free. To learn more, visit the city's website.
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#1 Garden of the Gods
It's easy to see how this natural landmark earned such an ethereal title: These magnificent red rock formations look as though deities themselves could've carved them. However, the sandstone pillars are, in fact, the work of geological activity along a natural fault line, as well as rainfall over millennia. You can learn about the garden's formations at the visitor and nature center, which houses numerous informative displays and hosts daily nature presentations. You are welcome to explore the park on your own time (either on foot or by bike); the visitor and nature center also offers guided hikes, as well as bike, Jeep, trolley and Segway tours (prices vary by vehicle and tour length). Or, if you're looking for a more authentic "Wild West" experience, you can reserve your spot on a guided horseback tour offered by Academy Riding Stables.
Because there is no admission fee if you are exploring the Garden of the Gods on your own; previous visitors recommended returning to the park throughout your time in Colorado Springs to see the rocks at different times of day. They also offered high praise for the knowledgeable staff at the visitor and nature center. Others were pleased to find out that many of the trails are paved – meaning those using strollers and wheelchairs can still access the park. If you don't want to deal with the landmark's heavy crowds, plan to arrive before 10 a.m. on a weekday.
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