Colorado Springs is a longstanding popular tourist and retreat destination for both visitors and Colorado residents. Located south of Denver, it's a great getaway from the hectic city life. Most people think of the springs the city gets its name from, but there's a lot more to see and do in Colorado Springs, especially if you're interested in outdoor activities. Whether you're looking for an adrenaline rush or just want to relax on a sunny day, you're sure to find plenty to do here.
Here are some of our favorite things to do outside in Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs area is known for its whitewater rafting, and there are plenty of services where you can rent gear and go out on the Arkansas River. A local favorite is Echo Canyon River Expeditions, which offers three different trips to cater to different wants. For adrenaline junkies, there's the Royal Gorge. For families with small children who just want a peaceful trip down the river, there's the Family Float. Or for a middle-of-the-road option, there's Bighorn Sheep Canyon, which has a few big rapids, but nothing too scary.
You can book trips in two different durations: half days and full days. A half day lasts three hours, two of which will be on the river. A full day lasts six hours, with four of those being on the river. Each full-day trip comes with a gourmet boxed lunch, and vegetarian options are available. Ticket prices will vary depending on the chosen trip and the duration. The Family Float Rafting Trip also offers child prices for kids six and under.
The time of year can also affect the rivers. The earlier in the season you go, the rougher the waters tend to be. This is due to the melting snow from the mountains flowing down into the rivers. For a hardcore experience, try going during spring. But for a relaxed experience, it's better to wait until late summer.
Going to a state park is a quintessential activity for those who love spending time outdoors. Just south of Colorado Springs is Cheyenne Mountain State Park, a huge park that covers 2.625 square miles and is filled with plenty of options for staying entertained such as hiking trails, an archery range, campsites, horseback riding trails, and more.
With 21 hiking trails ranging from easy strolls to challenging expeditions, there is a hike for everyone. Trails that allow horseback riding and dogs are marked specially. Five trails allow horses and four allow dogs, and some of these are only partially open for horses and dogs. When choosing a trail, be sure to double-check which ones you're allowed to use if you're bringing a pet.
The park also a has a visitor center that is open daily. Here, visitors can purchase park passes, check in for camping, and learn more about the park from its educational exhibits. Visitors can also purchase souvenirs, snacks, ice, and firewood, which is a relief for campers who may have forgotten something at home. The park is open year-round, so fans of winter sports should feel free to come and go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Daily vehicle passes are available for $9 each, and there are also annual passes starting at $70. Reserving a campsite starts at $28, and there are also facilities for weddings.
The Garden of the Gods is a famous local park that is completely free to go to. Here, visitors can go mountain climbing, ride bikes, hike, and go on Jeep or Segway tours. Also located in the park is Academy Riding Stables, where visitors can mount a horse and be taken on a scenic tour of the park.
There are two different ride lengths: one hour and two hours. Riders don't have to have any experience with horses—all the horses are well-trained and don't spook easily, and all riders will be given a safety lesson before mounting their horses. The trips are also accompanied by expert guides who are also real cowboys. As you ride, the guide will teach you about the area, natural landmarks, native plants and animals, and the history of Garden of the Gods.
Tickets cost $65 for a one-hour ride or $95 for a two-hour ride, and riders must be at least eight years old. Academy Riding Stables has two riding schedules: one for winter and one for summer. If you're planning a trip to the Colorado Springs area, make sure you take this into account when booking reservations for a trail ride.
Zoos are a fantastic place for visitors of every age, and Colorado Springs is home to the fantastic Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. This zoo is home to eleven ecosystems and even more standalone exhibits, from My Big Backyard where visitors can relax next to a koi pond or feed chickens to the Australia Walkabout where they can feed budgies and see wallabies, alligators, emus, and even a Matschie's tree kangaroo.
The zoo also offers special animal encounters where visitors can pay an additional fee to go one-on-one with an animal of their choice and learn about them directly from a zookeeper. Some animals include Poe the common raven, Jumbe the Eastern black rhino, Emmett and Digger the grizzly bears, and more. Or if that just isn't enough time to get close to an animal, visitors can also shadow a zookeeper and spend 4–8 hours helping with zoo tasks like cleaning enclosures and feeding the animals.
Outside normal zoo activities, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also provides classes for children, teens, adults, and families. For example, the zoo offers animal care classes that are perfect for anyone thinking about getting a new pet. Anyone can sign up for these classes and learn how to house their new pet, what to feed it and how often to feed it, and how keep it happy and healthy. Whether you're getting gerbils, pigeons, or a ball python, you can learn how to care for it with these classes.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to 750 animals, and this includes more than 30 endangered species. Tickets for non-members cost $19 for adults, $14 for children, $17 for seniors, and babies ages two and younger are free.
The Seven Bridges Trail is a stunning hike along a crisp, cool mountain stream. Even in the summer, the area stays cool, making it a popular destination for hiking in Colorado Springs. Just five miles southwest of Colorado Springs, this trail is a great place to go that isn't too far away from home.
At a bit less than six miles long, this trail is good for those who are already comfortable hiking, and it can be difficult for those who are new to the activity. This trail follows a stream up and down the mountain, and there's an elevation gain of 1,597 feet from beginning to end. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trails, but because there are stairs on the trail, it's best to leave the bike at home. However, the trail has a lot of natural shade, and the running water makes it a cool hike, even during hot days.
For those who want to escape into nature for two or three hours, this is the trail to do so. Just make sure to bring water and comfortable shoes.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Colorado Springs
Whether you're just staying in Colorado Springs for a weekend or you're planning to move here permanently, there are plenty of fantastic ways to spend your time here. Between the scenic mountains and the white froth of the rivers, there is always something to see—it's just a matter of getting out of your condo or townhome and finding it.