A nature and adventure trip to Colorado
My son Logan and I share a love for hiking, exploring, and appreciating all that nature has to offer for adventurers such as ourselves. We wanted to take one last trip before Logan went back to school, so we flew to Denver and based ourselves in Colorado Springs as a central location. Colorado seemed like the perfect place for outdoor lovers like us, even if it was just for a quick visit. We tried to maximize the four days we spent in this scenic area, and we were able to see some amazing sights. Here’s what we would recommend if you’re looking for an adventure filled getaway.
What we did:
The Garden of the Gods
The first stop we decided to make during our stay was The Garden of the Gods. This place is absolutely stunning with red rock formations, miles of trails to explore, and the best part is, it’s free!
- Tip: stop at the visitor’s center first for information and a map you can take with you of all the trails
If you don’t want to spend the entire day hiking (especially if it’s warmer outside), we recommend driving through the park and stopping at various spots to visit the sights. It’s a great way to see the park if you don’t have the entire day to spend here.
- Tip: make sure to bring water bottles, sunscreen, a first aid kid, and a camera in case you do decide to get out and do a little hiking
Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center
The Colorado Spring Olympic Training Center is a great attraction for anyone who has an appreciation for sports and athletes. We have a family friend who gave us a private tour, but you can take an hour long guided tour through the facility. At this center, you can see everything that goes into being an olympic athlete. It was a very inspirational experience for us, and we would recommend it to anyone who enjoys athletics. My favorite quote from the tour was from speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who said, “My mantra has always been to have zero regrets in life. Everything I do at one speed, I go all out.”
Seven Falls was by far my favorite place we visited. If you love nature and adventure, this is a must see spot. We parked at a parking lot which has a shuttle that takes you up to the falls. From there we hiked up the 224 steps to the top to see the waterfalls. It’s a pretty decent workout to get there, but totally worth breaking a sweat. The view is spectacular!
- Tip: If you’re afraid of heights, the hike up the stairs may not be for you
Santa’s Workshop is a fun little amusement park on the way to Pike’s Peak and is best suited for families with smaller kids. We didn’t stay for long, but if you need somewhere to spend a few hours it might be an option.
Manitou Springs Colorado
This is an adorable little neighborhood with fun restaurants, shops to explore, ice cream, and our favorite, the penny arcade. Only a 20 minute drive from Colorado Springs, it’s a great town to spend an afternoon in. We had lunch and found some treats at a candy shop before hitting the penny arcade. This arcade is indoor and outdoor, and has tons of older arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger. It was so fun to show Logan the kinds of games I used to play as a kid. The arcade has every game you could imagine and is fun for everyone, even adults. It was one of Logan’s favorite stops of the trip.
We also visited a fun little Christmas shop while in town, Christmas in Manitou, where we picked out a white water rafting ornament as our souvenir of the trip.
The Royal Gorge Bridge
The Royal Gorge Bridge was about an hour and 20 minutes from Colorado Springs but it’s an easy drive. The photos simply do not do this place justice. It’s stunning.
- Tip: bring a printed map with you when heading out to this place. Because of its rural location, getting a GPS signal might be challenging
When we arrived, we got tickets for the bridge and the gondola. We did the gondola ride first, which was very slow and not at all scary.
You can also walk across the bridge and get a spectacular view from up top. There are also other attractions here, such as a playground and carousel for smaller children, a beer garden and places to eat, and an amphitheater.
Echo Canyon Rafting
About 15 minutes away from the Royal Gorge was the rafting company, Echo Canyon Rafting. We chose to do the Bighorn Sheep tour which was slightly more advanced than the family tour but I knew Logan would love the faster rapids (category 2 and 3). There are several rafting experiences to choose from, making this great for kids of all ages.
- Tip: Bring a cooler with food, snacks and drinks. There were not any quick food options in this rural area, but luckily we had some snacks in our bag to hold us over.
- Tip: For the rafting, bring water shoes, sunscreen, a waterproof case if you bring your phone on board, and a pair of cheap sunglasses or a lanyard to put on your sunglasses in case they get knocked off in the rapids.
Photo tip: The rafts have go-pros mounted on the front so if you want a video tell your guide you want to sit in front, but be aware that this part of the raft sets the pace for the paddling and gets the most wet.
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
If your kids are into dinosaurs we heard this was a fun place and it’s close to the rafting and Royal Gorge Bridge park, however, we did not have a chance to check it out.
Other Activities that came highly recommended in the area:
Red Rock Canyon
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Cave of the winds
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Where we stayed:
We flew into Denver and drove an hour and 1/2 (because of the construction on the road) to Colorado Springs.
We opted to stay at the Drury Inn and Suites Colorado Springs. We love staying at Drury hotels whenever possible because of the amazing value. I’m all about maximizing my travel budget and no other hotel compares to Drury with their friendly staff, modern and clean hotels, and loads of amenities.
Why my boys love Drury hotels: Free hot breakfast, indoor-outdoor pool and hottub, free popcorn and drinks, and free Wii-fi for all the games they want to play.
Why I love staying at Drury hotels: Kickback hour with 3 free drinks per night and hot “snacks” which are a meal for my family. While we were staying here, snack options included chicken tenders, tacos, salads, hot dogs, etc.
I also love staying in a suite when traveling with my family so we have separate bedrooms. This makes it easy for people who go to bed at different times, as well as having a more private space.
So if you are looking for a mini vacay for nature lovers and anyone who is up for an adventure, give Colorado Springs a visit! You won’t be disappointed.
For other fun trips ideas check out other posts here: Flagstaff, Phoenix, Nashville, Memphis and St Louis.
Check out our Colorado Instagram stories here.
We partnered with Drury hotels for this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Happy travels, where are you off to next?