Pikes Peak Trail Guide

Major Attractions
Colorado Springs has more natural attractions than nearly any other city in America. The whole lifestyle is centered on outdoor activities, and there is plenty to keep a person busy if their interests are in parks and outdoor attractions. There are several major parks that are well known nationwide, and also easy access to the National Forest and the mountains of Pikes Peak. Listed below is a summary of the more popular attractions.
Garden of the Gods The towering rock formations of Garden of the Gods are known nationwide. This park is loaded with formations of all sizes ranging from hundreds of car sized ones to 250 foot Gateway Rock on the park's east side. The central courtyard is an entertaining maze of pillars and one of the favorite attractions is spotting the tiny climbers dotting the walls. Several miles of roads weave through the park, and several years ago the main loop was turned into a one-lane drive, with the second lane turned into a great biking lane. The park is now more popular than ever and is the best place in town to meet people from across the country.
Pikes Peak Highway The twenty mile road that climbs to the top of Pikes Peak is one of the most spectacular drives in America. It starts in Cascade, ten miles west of Colorado Springs, and starts out steep. It stays steep the whole way except for the few miles as it passes Crystal Reservoir on the plateau above Green Mountain Falls. The view of Pikes Peak across the lake is one of the most beautiful in Colorado. As the road climbs above treeline the view towers above miles of mountains and forest. Once on top, mountain ranges a hundred miles away come into view, and there's nothing to block the view in any direction. Colorado Springs looks like a finger painting, 8000 feet below.
Royal Gorge Fifty miles south of Colorado Springs, and just west of Canyon City, is the Royal Gorge. This 1200 foot canyon is one of the most exciting places in the region to really feel the dizzying heights of huge cliffs. You can cross the canyon on the big bridge (walk or drive), or take the tram, which is a little scarier as it swings 1200 feet above the river. There is also a cable car that goes to the bottom. The park is one of the busiest tourist spots in the region but it's still one of my favorites.
Seven Falls In the southwest corner of Colorado Springs are North and South Cheyenne Canyons. North canyon is a city park of towering cliffs, and south canyon is Seven Falls. The 150 foot falls is really a series of seven or eight cascades in a narrow crevice. A long stair follows the cascade to the top, offering interesting views of the water and valley from a variety of vantage points. Another stair and elevator provide views from another angle, and a trail follows above the canyon rim.
Air Force Academy North of town on a forested plateau is the huge Air Force Academy. This military base is open to the public and is one of the region's most popular tourist spots. A drive or bike ride around the base is scenic enough in its self, but the main attraction is the cadet area with the visitor center and towering chapel.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway
There are three ways to the top of Pikes Peak: Hike the Barr Trail, Drive the Highway, or ride the Cog Train. The Cog starts in Manitou Springs and make the steep ten mile climb along the south side of the peak. (The highway goes up the north side.) The train is a little more leisurly than a car and the conductor provides geography and history lessons as you go.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Thirty five miles west of Colorado Springs is Florissant. This beautiful area of rolling hills and trees is one of the most fossil rich locations in the country, and is now protected as a National Monument. It's monument status is meant to protect not develop, and is fairly undeveloped with a small visitor center and lots of scenic hiking.

Pike National Forest
The Pike is a million acres of mountains and forest that start in Colorado Springs and sweep west nearly to Breckenridge. It's loaded with trails and jeep roads that can take you to mountains, rivers, cool rocks, ghost towns and wilderness. When you get tired of the busy tourist stops, grab your bike, motorcycle, fishing pole and camera, and spend a week exploring your own corner of the forest.

North Cheyenne Canyon Park
This impressive canyon is a city park with towering cliffs, a creek, waterfalls, forest and picnicing. On the southwest side of town, it's right next to Seven Falls, and is nearly as spectacular, plus it's a hub for loads of trails leading into the mountains.