Colorado Springs (file photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Head south to discover the lush green landscape against the stark mountain peaks of Colorado Springs. Just a little more than an hour from Denver, Colorado Springs offers an amazing opportunity to soak up the beautiful Pikes Peak culture. This day trip includes hiking, biking and climbing as well as great food and historic culture.

Getting There

Simply take Interstate 25 south toward Colorado Springs for this 75-mile drive. Enjoy a beautiful drive down this highway through Castle Rock and Monument. Just past Monument, be sure to stop at the Air Force Academy.

The United States Air Force Academy (Photo by: AFP/Getty Images)

Air Force Academy
North Gate Exit 156B on Interstate 25
(719) 333-2025

Price: free

A must-see stop along the way, the Air Force Academy, sits right off Interstate 25 just before Colorado Springs. You will see the unmistakable white spikes of the Cadet Chapel and the stunning Falcon Stadium as you approach. A symbol of American pride, this tour of the academy grounds will give you a glimpse of life of a cadet, the academy’s history and the chapel’s beautiful stained-glass windows. For security reasons, a valid photo ID will be required. No large purses or backpacks or wireless devices are allowed inside.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods (credit: JR Patton)

Garden of the Gods
1805 N. 30th
Colorado Springs,CO  80904
(719) 634-6666

Price: free

Garden of the Gods Park, a National Natural Landmark, features sandstone sock formations, flawless skies and the presence of beautiful Pikes Peak. Enjoy 15 miles of hiking trails, a visitors center and education programs for school tours. Maps are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. Horseback riding, biking and amazing areas to enjoy a picnic lunch round out a perfect visit here. This park basically has a 360-degree view of gorgeous red rock, sandstones and limestone. For rock climbing enthusiasts, visit Mountain Project for details and regulations.

Cave of the Winds
100 Cave of the Winds Road
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-5444

Price: $18 to $24 adults/$9 to $14 children ages 6 to 11/free children 5 and younger 

Learn about the history of Cave of the Winds as you venture through caverns to step back in time in an amazing adventure for all ages. Choose from the Discovery Tour and the Lantern Tour. The most popular, the Discovery Tour, takes you through nearly a mile of Colorado caverns as you marvel at geological formations, and explore the wonders of the underground. Bring a light jacket. Although the outside temperature could be in the 90s, inside of the caves stays around 54. Wear comfortable shoes with some traction. No strollers, pets or baby backpacks are allowed. For the ideal for more adventurous visitors, The Lantern Tour will take you deep into the Manitou Grand Caverns, exploring formations and passageways lit only by hand-held lanterns.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Cog Railway Depot
515 Ruxton Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-5401

Price: $35 adults/$9 children ages 3 to 12

Travel to the top of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The scenic journey will take three hours and 10 minutes. It will take you through four life zones starting with lush green plains to barren alpine tundra above the treelike, often with snow still at the top. The railway has been taking visitors up the mountain since 1891. The conductor will fill you in with the incredible history of the highest cog railway in the world. Some of the trees are estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. You might catch a glimpse of yellow-bellied marmots and bighorn sheep. The view from the top is breathtaking with the Continental Divide, Cripple Creek area and dramatic drop offs. Reservations are recommended. This is definitely a morning activity as the weather is often volatile in the afternoons, as with most fourteeners. Because of the altitude, bring a jacket and drink plenty of water.

Garden of the Gods Trading Post

1805 N. 30th
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 685-9045

The Trading Post and Café sits at the heart of the park and serves amazing beef burgers, buffalo burgers and sandwiches. These are perfect for a quick refueling lunch before heading out for more outdoor adventures. The café offers indoor as well as charming outdoor patio dining among beautiful trees. It’s an ideal place to take the family after a day of exploring the red rocks.
La Baguette French Bakery and Cafe
2417 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 577-4818

This great little French bistro features a mouth-watering bakery and amazing food perfect for a midday meal. This wonderful bistro has entertained customer for more than 20 years. It is best known for its French onion soup and an amazing cheese fondue with fruit and a baguette, but don’t miss out on its jaw-droppingly good tortellini alfredo. Top if off with a wide variety of bakery deserts and you will be ready to head out for more adventures.

Jose Muldoons
222 N. Tejon South
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 636-2311

After a full day of outdoor adventures, dinner offers the time to unwind from the day’s activities and refuel for the return drive home. For the best Mexican food in the area, José Muldoon’s has been a staple of the springs’ downtown scene for more than 30 years. The menu features authentic Mexican food, delicious margaritas and a variety of burgers, sandwiches and vegetarian entrees. Jose Muldoons features an inviting atmosphere of hard wood floors, fireplaces, and an indoor/outdoor bar and patio.

Craftwood Inn
404 El Paso Blvd.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-9000

For those who would like to indulge with fine dining, the Craftwood Inn offers exquisite four-course dinners to die for. This restaurant is for the more adventurous connoisseur as it specializes in wild game, steaks and fish. It also offers unique vegetarian choices such as macadamia crusted tofu wraps. With an amazing wine list, this restaurant will not disappoint.

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Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on