Spring Break in Colorado – Cañon City and Colorado Springs

Besides spending three days in Denver and the Rockies, we also went on a road trip to explore more of central Colorado.

Cañon City is approximately a three hour drive from Denver. The main attraction is the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. At 956 feet, it’s one of the highest suspension bridges in the world.
Also included in the admission price are the aerial tram and the incline railway, respectively one of the longest and one of the steepest in the world.

Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado.
Royal Gorge Bridge.

A walk across the bridge offers incredible views of the canyon below (carved out by the Arkansas River) and of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Royal Gorge, Canon City, Colorado.
Royal Gorge, view from the bridge.
Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City, Colorado.
Panorama of the gorge and bridge (click to enlarge!).

We walked to the other side of the gorge, took the aerial tram back and then went down to the bottom with the incline railway (at a 45° angle). While it was quite sunny and warm at the top, at the bottom it was absolutely freezing.

Incline Railway, Royal Gorge, Colorado.
Incline railway.
Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City, Colorado.
Royal Gorge Bridge and aerial tram, seen from the bottom.

In the end, we spent a whole afternoon there. There’s lots more to do as well: there’s a skycoaster, zip lines, horse riding, a wildlife park, a great souvenir shop… Keep in mind that some of those activities may require an extra fee. It’s a really great place to spend a day/afternoon!

Cañon City, Colorado.
Driving through Cañon City.

In the morning we had been warned about an approaching snowstorm. We were hit by a sandstorm on our way north towards Colorado Springs, which soon turned into a proper snowstorm. So windy!

Sandstorm in Colorado, USA.
Sandstorm on the way to Colorado Springs.

(Tumbleweeds are funny.)

The roads were pretty bad and we needed to find a place to spend the night. After quickly checking Lonely Planet, we made the spontaneous decision to stay at the Broadmoor. Let me just say this: “the Broadmoor is the longest-running consecutive winner of both the AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star awards”. It was ridiculously fancy…

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs.
The Broadmoor entrance.
Hall of Fame in the Broadmoor.
Hall of Fame in the Broadmoor.

…And a lot of fun! We spent the evening in the indoor pool and outdoor whirlpool and eating dinner in one of the many restaurants. Breakfast the next morning was one of the best I’ve ever had. Honestly.

Breakfast in the Broadmoor, Colorado.
Breaky in the Broadmoor. (Credits go to Caroline and her iPhone!)

The hotel lies at the foot of Pikes Peak. The brochure, that you get when you pay the fee to drive to the summit, says it’s the most visited mountain in North America. Apparently Katharine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” while gazing at the panoramic scenery from the summit. Thanks to her lyrics, the mountain is now known as ‘America’s Mountain’.

Pikes Peak, Colorado.
Carl the Corolla, our rented car on Pikes Peak.

Normally it’s a 19-mile drive to the summit, but because of the snow the road was now closed off after 13 miles. It still was a spectacular drive though!

View from Pikes Peak, Colorado.
Great views from the flank of America’s Mountain.

When driving back down I saw one of the greatest views I’ve ever seen in my life: Ute Pass. What an awesome lookout that was…

By the way, it’s best to save your stops at the lookouts for your way down; your car will be grateful!

Ute Pass, Colorado, USA.
Ute Pass, seen from Pikes Peak.

Oh, and there’s a cog railway all the way to the summit too!

Our next stop arguably was the most interesting of the entire vacation. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are cliff dwellings built more than 700 years ago by a mysterious culture that lived in the Four Corners area from 1200 BC to 1300 AD.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

It’s undoubtly fascinating and you’re allowed to enter the ‘caves’ (they’re way more than just caves…), touch and climb through.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA.
View of the Rocky Mountains from inside the Cliff Dwellings.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA.
Exploring the Cliffs Dwellings in Manitou Springs.

There’s also a great little museum that offers more insight into the ancient civilization and culture that once thrived here.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA.
Looks a little bit other-worldly, doesn’t it?

A short five-minute drive took us to another attraction in the Colorado Springs area.

Pikes Peak region, Colorado Springs.
Driving in the Pikes Peak region.

This was my favorite place, for reasons I can’t really describe. I just loved it a lot.

The Garden of the Gods is a breathtaking park. I can’t put it differently. It’s extraordinary, a 1,350-acre park full of towering rock formations. Most of those are 300 million (!) years old. You can go for a short or longer hike, or a scenic drive.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado.
Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado.
Great hiking paths in Garden of the Gods.

What’s really great here, is that it’s free. We didn’t visit the Visitor and Nature Center, which has over 30 exhibits, but it’s supposed to be really wonderful as well.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs.
Towering rock formations, Garden of the Gods.

Those two days were pretty well-filled, as you can imagine. On the way back we stopped in Old Colorado City, one of the oldest settlements in Colorado. But that honestly was disappointing. It seemed like just an old(er) street. And the people were weird.

Old Colorado CIty, USA.
Old Colorado CIty.

Then again, maybe there’s an entirely different atmosphere in summer – it is full of shops, restaurants and bars – but I guess we’ll never know.

It was a truly great road trip and I think I’m not lying when I say that we saw a lot of great stuff in only two days: canyons, a high class resort, old cave dwellings, a snowy mountain peak and 300-million-year-old rocks… And of course the obvious big ranches, cowboys, horses, indians and several old mountain/mining towns.

One could do worse!

Prairie near Denver, Colorado.
Almost back in Denver: prairie once again!

A closing thought: As great as Colorado was, I’m left with the feeling that I have seen almost nothing. When looking at a map, I still find it really hard to wrap my head around the sheer size of the USA. Coming from Belgium (which is about as big as Vermont, mind you), I just can’t get used to the vast distances in the country. At home, when I drive, say, an hour and a half I’m in a place where people speak a different language. In America you can drive two weeks and still be in the same country. It’s so big and diverse, and that’s why I love it! I’m falling more and more in love with the country and its people…

I wanted to take a moment to thank Caroline’s aunt and uncle for being incredibly welcoming and letting us stay at their house in Westminster, a suburb of Denver. A big and genuine ‘thank you’ for your hospitality!

16 thoughts on “Spring Break in Colorado – Cañon City and Colorado Springs

  • I’m going to pull over here, I want to take a picture with st ummm Carl.

  • Isn’t Colorado amazing?!? I love all of it but most especially Colorado Springs. In fact I’ve done / been everywhere that you mentioned except for the Manitou Cliff Dwellings….now I’m dying to check those out the next time I return. Luckily when I went up Pike’s Peak last it was in the summer. Despite the 75° in town it was freezing up top and had been snowing all morning. I actually wrote about it on my site 😉

    But you’re right, that is one amazing thing about America: there is so much to explore and so many subtle variances in between these states and cities that most people have never truly seen all of the US, even if they have visited all 50 states.

    • It’s my favorite state so far! Next time I’m there I think I’m going west, to check out some dinosaur stuff and go hiking (not enough time this time).

      America is gigantic. You could spend a lifetime traveling around… I really wish I could stay longer than three months at a time.

  • I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t make it to any ski resorts!!! Oh well it looked like a pretty decent trip, I mean I’ve never even seen the Royal Gorge myself. If you’re still in Westminster, give me a call because I’m only a short trip away in Boulder. I’ll come pick you up if you don’t have a ride and take you up to Boulder for some fun times. Send me an email for my phone number…

    • Not enough time to go skiing! And, oddly, I’ve never skied in my entire life :-). It’s just not a priority of mine for some reason…

      I’m back in Belgium now, unfortunately. I liked Boulder though, there’s a special vibe there ;-). Maybe we could meet up next time I’m in the area!

  • I’m SO bookmarking this!
    Looks like an amaaaaaaazing trip!
    Was the hotel really expensive?
    Looks that way… That breakfast looks delicioussss:-)

    • That definitely was the most expensive place I’ve ever stayed in. Ever. But because we were staying with family all other nights, I think it was justifiable :-). And yup, it totally was an amazing trip! Five days are not enough though!

  • I absolutely love Colorado! Your photography really captured its beauty. I agree, America is so huge and diverse! I’ve lived here my whole life and hardly seen it all!

    Driftwood and Daydreams

  • I’m glad you enjoyed my state! Sometimes I forget these things are in my backyard so thanks for the reminder that I have a few places that need revisiting.

    • Haha I totally know what you mean! It’s easy to forget about your own backyard, isn’t it? I’m reading a lot about Ghent, Belgium, on blogs lately, but I haven’t been there in one and a half decade. It’s so beautiful and less than an hour from my house…

  • stunning photos, I love Colorado it’s an awesome place

  • Great summary! I’ve been to Colorado Springs twice but never made it out to Canon City. Seems like it’s worth the drive.

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