Big Adventures around Pike’s Peak – Colorado Springs, CO

By the time you read this I’ll be 8,000 miles away visiting family in the Philippines again. Our time at Colorado Springs consisted mostly of completing details of my family reunion activities, packing, exploring the area and getting this post finished before leaving.

Because of this trip I must temporarily pause my blogging activities.  We have selected a few of the most popular postings about our 2012 Alaskan Adventures, and Steve will re-publish them during my absence.

But now – about Colorado Springs, our second stop in this beautiful state.  It sits at the foot of a famous American landmark, Pike’s Peak.  And because of its location the city is a popular tourism destination that we wanted to enjoy to the fullest.

There’s an endless list of things to do and places to see in and around Colorado Springs. Since this was my friend Ingrid’s old stomping grounds, we picked her brain for some must see and do activities, given our somewhat limited time.  Then we hit the road and experienced as many of those fun things as we could.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak on a clear day – it stands at 14,115 ft

Pikes Peak

Driving into the Colorado Springs area, The towering mountains around the city welcomed us.  Pike’s Peak is one of Colorado’s 53 fourteeners, mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the mountain rises 8,000 ft. above downtown Colorado Springs.  At 14,115 ft., the summit can be tackled three different ways – a 13-mile hike up the Barr Trail, a 28-mile drive up Pike’s Peak Highway or a ride up the mountain aboard the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway.  Given the snowstorm that occurred the previous day, we opted for the easy option and took the railway.

The full 8.9-mile ride to the summit and back takes about three hours.  We passed an area called Inspiration Point where Katherine Lee Bates, upon seeing the beauty of Pike’s Peak in 1893, wrote a poem that later became the song known as “America the Beautiful.”

Unfortunately, the recent storm had made the tracks impassible above 12,130 ft., so we headed back down from that elevation.  We had wanted to go to the summit, but Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating and we settled for frolicking in the snow at the 10,000 ft. platform stop.

Garden of the Gods

It was a rainy day when we visited the Garden of the Gods, which was good in a way as we had the park almost to ourselves.  Access to this 1,364-acre city  park is free, and we heard that it can get very busy.  We learned from a short video at the Visitor’s Center that this natural treasure was gifted to the city by the children of Charles Elliot Perkins in 1909.  The only stipulation was that the public be able to enjoy it for free.

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods viewed from the Visitor’s Center

Before this was called the Garden of the Gods, it was known as Red Rock Corral.  But two surveyors with lots of imagination expressed other suggestions in 1859.  One of them suggested the area would be a “capital place for a beer garden“.  The other, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, “Beer Garden!  Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble.  We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”  The name stuck.

Garden of the Gods
A row of hogbacks

The garden has quite a collection of 300-foot towering sandstone formations.  There were some hiking trails, but they were muddy due to the rains and the weather was not getting any better.  We took along our trusty umbrella so we could get some pictures of the various geologic features – many boulders toppled, overturned, pushed around or slanted upward out of the ground.

Outside the park, there was further evidence of geologic upheavals, tectonic activity and erosion spanning millions of years and shaping the Colorado Springs area.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

After spending a morning looking at all of those marvelous rocks, we took a break for lunch.  French onion soup isn’t our usual lunch fare, but La Baguette had an excellent one for a cold day.  It always pays to listen to our friends’ recommendations, and we were glad that Ingrid had suggested we check out this place.  Yum!

French Onion Soup
A most yummy French Onion soup!

The Royal Gorge

Formerly known as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge is a huge canyon near Cañon City, Colorado.  It is only 50 ft. across at some parts of the base and well over 1,200 ft. across at its top.  Ten miles long, it’s also about 1,200 ft. deep and runs through the granite of Fremont Peak.

The Royal Gorge
The Royal Gorge viewed from the bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge
Exceptional views of Colorado mountains all around

Hanging 955 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest in the U.S.  Steve had seen a story about it in a Motorhome magazine and made a note to check it out.  Our stop in Colorado Springs put us only about 45 minutes away, and we’re very glad we made the drive.

We learned that the bridge was not constructed for transportation uses; it was purpose-built to be a tourist attraction, and since its completion has remained one of the most-visited places in Colorado.  The bridge deck is 1,260 ft. long and 18 ft. wide, with a wooden walkway consisting of 1,292 planks.

Royal Gorge Bridge
The bridge deck crosses the Royal Gorge 955 feet above the Arkansas River

Riding the aerial gondolas was exciting, as we glided 2,300 ft. across the gorge.  Then we watched the story of the gorge at the Plaza Theater, learning about the construction of the bridge and park, and the rebuilding that took place after a devastating fire destroyed much of it in 2013.

Once Steve spotted the zip line that ran across the gorge, he just couldn’t stop looking at it.  Well, he finally gave in to his excitement late in the afternoon, riding the gondola across the gorge to the zip line tower and then “zipping” back to the Visitor’s Center.  We did a zip line once before in a forest, but this place takes it to a whole new level!

Aerial Gondolas
First he took the tram across to the zip line tower…
Zip Rider, Royal Gorge
…and here he comes on the way back!
Zip Rider
Wohoo – this is the way to see the gorge!

What a week it was!  Our adventures so far in Colorado have exceeded our expectations and we’re having a blast.  I’m kind of dreading flying to a faraway hot and humid country for several weeks!

So we had to say goodbye to Pike’s Peak, as we headed up to Denver.  Steve will hang out there and take care of several maintenance items as he awaits my return later in the month.

Pikes PEak
Pike’s Peak as we left Colorado Springs






  1. We visited Colorado Springs on motorcycle trip and it is a beautiful place to see in the open air vehicle. Many, many years ago we did a car trip and visited Pikes Peaks on July 4. They had snow the night before so I guess snow is usual up there. Love the photo of Steve on the zip line!! Glad you were able to get the photo. Too bad it rained during your visit to Garden of the Gods but as you said, it was nice to have the place to yourselves:) Sounds like a great week in Colorado Springs:)

  2. Colorado is such a lovely state. I am not crazy seeing that snow though.

    You couldn’t pay me to ride that aerial gondola. Glad you two enjoy that sort of adventure. Not for us.

    Enjoy your visit with family. Be safe.

  3. I would have loved all those rock formations and spent a long time exploring them. Fascinating scenery and great pictures! I hope I make it over there one day.

  4. The fire at the Royal Gorge was a scary event. We had ash falling on our home and could see the flames. The smoke was so thick that at 2 in the afternoon the sun was blocked and the skies looked like it was evening. Glad they’ve rebuilt.
    Oh how I’ve missed that French Onion Soup. I think we’ll need to make a trip down from Denver just to have lunch at La Baguette. Have a wonderful visit with your family.

  5. We loved Colorado Springs when we visited four years ago. We opted to take the drive to Pike’s Peak and like you, could not go all the way to the peak because of the weather. And Garden of the Gods is a beautiful place. Have a safe trip!

  6. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time in Colorado. Too bad the snow did not allow you to get up to Pike’s Peak summit but I’m sure the views were terrific. Have a great visit with family MonaLiza.

  7. Wow a snow storm the previous day and it’s May or nearly I guess when you did that. But what a great train ride that snow made. I didn’t know that about America the Beautiful which IMO should be our National Anthem rather than the thing we sing now about war.
    We’ve been to Colorado several times but never to that area so I had no idea Garden of the Gods was a city park. Is that Steve up there in front of that rock that looks like it might topple right over on him?
    French onion soup is my kind of lunch. Steve sure looks like he enjoyed that zip line.
    Safe travels to you and a wonderful visit with your family. I know both Colorado and Steve will be anxious for your return.

  8. Snow, rain, and beautiful skies … All your destination spots still look awesome whatever the weather is. Too bad about the snowstorm though. Then again, I’m sure it’s still scenic. I’m more drawn on the marvelous rock formations. Beer Garden? Garden of the Gods? I’m sorry but to think about it, the story doesn’t fit more so the names. 😀

  9. I’ve added all this to the list of things to do this summer. The last time we were in Colorado Springs was in the fall of 1991 … we were driving from SLC to DC, making the permanent move that kept us on the east coast for over 20 years. Can’t wait to get back into the mountains.

  10. ML, I hope you’re having a wonderful visit with your family. And hopefully the weather will be sunnier for more Colorado adventures when you return! You guys certainly are off to a great start — the Garden of the Gods looks gorgeous, even in the rain. That bridge over the Royal Gorge, though — that looks terrifying. There is no way you could get me on that zip line. Way to go, Steve! 🙂

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