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Colorado Springs
Colorado
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Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado is located on the eastern front of the Colorado Rockies, 66 miles (106 km) south of Denver and 278 miles (448 km) north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Colorado Springs sits more than a mile above sea level at an elevation of 6,035 feet (1839 m.) with some areas lower and higher because of the mountainous terrain. Colorado Springs experiences moderate temperatures year round and avoids harsh weather due to its protection from two natural barriers: the Monument Divide to the north and The Rocky Mountains to the west.

Colorado Springs Airport is small and very easy to navigate. It is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs and is within driving distance of 14 major Colorado ski resorts. Taxis and shuttles are available outside on the airport's lower level and ground transportation telephones are found in the baggage claim area.

Royal Gorge Bridge Courtesty of J.C. Leacock / CTO
At depths of more than 1,200 feet, Royal Gorge is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. Visitors can take in the view from the Royal Gorge Bridge or ride the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, which operates year-round sightseeing trips.

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak is the stunning 14,110-foot (4.300 meters) mountain sitting in the western backdrop of Colorado Springs. It is named for the 1800's explorer Zebulon Pike. It is the 31st highest peak in Colorado and the most visited mountain in North America. An 1893 excursion to the top of Pikes Peak gave Katharine Lee Bates' inspiration to pen the words to the song, "America the Beautiful".

There are several ways to get to the top of Pikes Peak: you can hike the 13-mile (21 km) Barr Trail, drive the 19-mile (30 km) Pikes Peak Toll Highway, or ride the 8.9-mile (14 km) Cog Railway. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway takes about three hours roundtrip from the station in Manitou to the Pikes Peak Summit House. Driving takes about two hours round trip, and hiking usually takes considerably longer. Visitors should remember to dress appropriately as the temperature at the Summit House is typically 30 degrees colder than at base elevations. The fare on the Cog Railway is $31 per adult and $15 per child. Tolls on the highway are $10 per adult and $5 per child. Visitors at the top will be rewarded with spectacular views, but should limit their visit to only 30 or 40 minutes to avoid altitude sickness.

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North Pole Home of Santa's Workshop

A favorite family attraction located at the foot of Pikes Peak is the family theme park known as the North Pole Home of Santa's Workshop. Santa and his elves have been welcoming visitors there since 1956. The park has more than two dozen rides including the Enterprise Space Shuttle and an Antique Carousel. Visitor can take a ride on the Miniature Train, fly thought the sky on the Aerial Tram and feed Santa's goats and llamas. Shows are performed though out the day, and there are many shops and eating areas in the park. Santa's Workshop is open from mid-May though December 25th each year.

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a beautiful 1392-acre (563-hectare) public park and a Registered National Natural Landmark located only minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. The area is filled with striking sandstone formations with a nice view of Pikes Peak. The Garden of the Gods has a visitor and Nature Center which are both free of charge. The area is a great place to explore the outdoors as a hiker, mountain biker, or rock climber. Guided walks and horseback rides are available to visitors. It is also a favorite scenic wedding location.

Air Force Academy Courtesy of J.C. Leacock / CTO
The prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy is located nearby at the base of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains.

U.S. Air Force Academy

The prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy is located nearby at the base of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Academy offers a four-year program designed for each cadet to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. The graduate cadets ultimately serve as Air Force career officers.

The Air Force Academy Visitor Center, a 31,600-square-foot building that has exhibits, a snack bar and a gift shop, is open to the public daily from 9AM until 5PM. Visitors can view a 14-minute movie about the academy experience. The spectacular Cadet Chapel is one of the tour's highlights that can be reached by a one-third mile (half-kilometer) hilly nature trail.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the United States. It is located in the Pikes Peak region and is home to more than 750 animals including 32 endangered species. There is plenty to do at this zoo. A refurbished antique Zoo Carousel is open daily during the summer months and on weekends, and during the remaining months when weather permits. A tram that has eight stops around the zoo is also open on the same schedule. "My Big Backyard" is an area where guests can pet and hold a variety of animals, and in "the African Rift Valley" visitors can feed giraffes.

Seven Falls Courtesy of J.C. Leacock / CTO
The 181-foot tall (55 meters) Seven Falls is often referred to as the "Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado."

Seven Falls

The 181-foot tall (55 meters) Seven Falls is often referred to as the "Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado" and is the only waterfall located in Colorado that is listed in the National Geographic list of International waterfalls. The drive on South Cheyenne Creek to the natural box canyon of Seven Falls is about fifteen minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. Your $8.75 admission fee includes a ride on the mountain elevator to Eagles' Nest Observatory for spectacular views. You may, if you prefer, hike the 224 stairs on the side of the falls. You can also hike a one-mile trail that leads to spectacular Inspiration Point or a half-mile trail that leads to Midnight Falls. The Seven Falls are illuminated with colorful lighting after dark.

Cave of the Winds

The Cave of the Winds, located in Manitou Springs only eight miles (14 km) from downtown Colorado Springs, holds 200 million years of geological history and has been a commercial attraction since 1880. It is filled with beautiful limestone stalactites and flowstone curtains. Guided tours are available year round including a traditional tour or a lantern guided tour.

Area attractions

The spectacular Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River is located just a one-hour drive southwest of Colorado Springs near the town of Canon City Colorado. This well-known tourist attraction offers the highest suspension bridge over water at nearly 1200 feet (360 meters) above the Arkansas River. It also has the longest single-span aerial tramway, the world's steepest incline railway and one of the scariest Skycoasters in the world.

A two to three hours drive west of Colorado Springs brings you into the heart of the Rocky Mountains with its numerous ski resorts, cattle ranches and mountain scenery including the spectacular Black Canyon Gorge near Gunnison. This area offers some of the bets opportunities for hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing and scenic driving in the USA.

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair
Top Photo Credit: © Jay Miller / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
Photo Description: View of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, as seen from Palmer Park.