TRAVEL PLAN, WATCH VIDEO, GET MAPS AND DIRECTIONS, THINGS TO DO!
North on I-25 from New Mexico
Trinidad, Colorado is home to a museum that contains historic photos, family heirlooms, even a buckskin coat that belonged to Kit Carson (one of the earliest visitors/scout to Colorado.)
Continuing north, the next town you will pass Walsenburg, Colorado, once part of the far-reaching Spanish land grants of Colorado. Its original name was Plaza de los Leon. Coal mining, farming and industry are what this area's primary industries were, and today you can revisit the coal-mining era at the local museums.
From coal-mining to steel mills, your next stop is Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is the site of trader Jim Beckworth’s adobe fortress, which became a gathering place for mountain men, Native Americans, trappers, and immigrants coming out west. Zebulon Pike actually first spotted Pikes Peak from Pueblo, Colorado. Local museums show visitors the many cultures that are part of Pueblo’s history.
Just 40 more miles and you are in Colorado Springs. Your first stop is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and its fabulous new Rocky Mountain Wild. This state-of-the-art exhibit connects you with Colorado’s wild heritage. Rocky Mountain Wild showcases moose, mountain lions, North American river otters, lynx, bald eagles and grizzly bears. For a bird’s eye view of the only private mountain zoo in the United States, take the zoo’s new Sky Ride.
After your visit to the zoo be sure to see Seven Falls, pure Rocky Mountain water cascading 181 feet in seven distinct steps. The falls are beautiful by day, spectacular by night. During the summer, Native American dancers perform against a backdrop of an enduring Colorado granite canyon.
Ghost Town Museum takes you back to the 1800s when Colorado was a frontier and gold fever swept through the West. Everything you see inside this perfectly-preserved ghost town is authentic. Be sure to try your hand at panning for gold. Kids love it!
Next, drive to Garden of the Gods, a natural park with over 300 sandstone rock formations that jut out of the earth like a dinosaur’s backbone. A registered National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods is where the life zones of Colorado’s Eastern Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Start your trip through the garden at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. Be sure to watch the multi-media presentation about the formation of the garden and pick up your park map. Spend as much time as you like exploring the park and then visit Garden of the Gods Trading Post, the largest art gallery and gift shop in Colorado. For another taste of the old West you will also enjoy seeing the park on horseback on a ride with Academy Riding Stables. For an actual taste of cowboy cooking and ranch life, enjoy dinner and a stage show at the Flying W Ranch Chuckwagon. Nothing tastes better than dinner under the stars, listening to the genuine cowboy music and fiddle playing.
South on I-25
From Wyoming Fort Collins, Colorado was actually a fort on the Cache la Poudre River. It was built in the mid-1800s when there were conflicts with the American Indians in Colorado. Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University and known primarily for its agricultural roots, surrounded by many farms and ranches. It is also home to two major breweries.
In the distance, you can see Longs Peak.
Denver Colorado is home to the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Avalanche, the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Nuggets. Denver is also home to the State Capitol, famous for its gold-leafed dome. Denver is known as the mile-high city because of its 5,280 altitude above sea level. Although Denver is mistakenly thought to be known for being named for famed singer John Denver, who wrote the song Rocky Mountain High, the city was actually named for former Kansas territorial governor James W. Denver. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians also used Denver for seasonal encampments. Denver was selected to host the 1976 winter Olympics, but Colorado voters, citing the high cost of the games, voted against the ballot initiatives that would have allocated public funds to pay for the Olympics. Instead, the Olympics that year were held in Austria.
South of Denver, you enter Castle Rock, Colorado, a city that was named after the prominent butte that you see east of I-25. The discovery of Rhyolite stone is really what put Castle Rock on the map. rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic rock, the equivalent of granite in its properties, and was primarily used as a building material. Next, you’re heading to Monument, Colorado and Palmer Lake, Colorado. These cities are two of three communities in the Tri-Lakes area. The 15-mile Santa Fe regional trail runs south from Palmer Lake to the southern boundary of the United States Air Force Academy. This trail is one of the largest continuous trails in El Paso County and follows part of the old Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad.
- South Platte River – Fur traders (will cross the river)
Your next stop is the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, an absolute gem! The museum is a living mining heritage site with working steam engines and restored mining machines. Hands-on exhibits create a fun learning atmosphere for the whole family. Oro and Nugget, the resident donkeys, make a great photo-op. Explore another piece of Americana at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. It’s fascinating to trace the roots of modern day rodeo back to ranch life in the American West and equally captivating to see rodeo and Western life depicted in art and sculpture.
Along Highway-24 from Burlington, Colorado
Burlington, Colorado has a Colorado Welcome Center and is known for its famous antique carousel. Established in the 1880s, it was built to support the railroad. Next stop is Limon, Colorado, a city named after a railroad crew boss, John Limon. The railroad today is still very much a part of Limon's history. Passing through the farming communities of Simla, Ramah and Calhan, Colorado, you will find the Paint Mines Interpretive Park (just south of Calhan). These mines contain evidence of human activity as far back as 9,000 years ago. The Native Americans used the colorful clay to make beautiful pottery.
From Calhan, Colorado, you’re heading towards Colorado Springs, Colorado. Continue traveling west on Highway 24 and take the exit for Manitou Springs. This quaint small town was developed as a health resort in the 1800’s, centered around the town’s many naturally-carbonated, free-flowing mineral drinking springs. Stop by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce to pick a free Visitor Guide, maps, and free mineral water sampling cups. The springs are scattered throughout Manitou’s National Historic District which is also filled with unique shops, art galleries and an eclectic mix of restaurants.
Miramont Castle, with its nine different styles of architecture, is filled with memorabilia from Manitou Springs’ Victorian past. Nearby the Manitou Cliff Dwellings recreate the actual cliff dwellings of an ancient Indian culture and its museums showcase the superb pottery and basket-making skills of these people. For more than 100 years Cave of the Winds has been a delightful and educational way to explore the geological history of the region. Consider taking the Lantern Tour with only a candle to light your way. Manitou Springs is also where you can take an indescribable trip to the summit of Pikes Peak aboard the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the world’s highest cog railway. Since 1891 the Cog has been taking visitors to the summit of the mountain that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful”. For an evening of knee-slapping, eye-rolling, rib-tickling fun, enjoy dinner and a show at the Iron Springs Melodrama Dinner Theatre. Just be ready to cheer for the hero and boo the villain!
Leave Manitou Springs and continue driving west on Highway 24 to Cascade, Colorado. You have two great reasons to take that turn, the North Pole - Home of Santa’s Workshop and the Pikes Peak Highway. The North Pole is magical, an entire theme park about Santa and Christmas! There are rides, shows, and Santa is in the house for cozy fireside chats. The Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles of photo snapping, “ooooh and ahhhhh” scenery and the view from the summit of Pikes Peak - America’s Mountain is beyond words.
If you are up for an adventure, try biking down Pikes Peak with Challenge Unlimited - Pikes Peak by Bike. Challenge Unlimited provides the bike, helmet, all weather gear, meals and, of course, a professional guide.
West on Highway 24 to Highway 67
Driving further west on Highway 24 you are traveling up Ute Pass, a local reference to the trail once followed by the Ute Indians. You continue to see the many faces Pikes Peak - America’s Mountain as you drive through small mountain towns. At Divide, Colorado turn south on Highway 67. You are on the road to Cripple Creek, America’s greatest gold camp. You will see a turn-off for Mueller State Park on Highway 67. The views of Colorado mountains from Mueller State Park are well worth your time. Start your visit in Cripple Creek at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. The center features interactive and educational exhibits about the region’s colorful gold-mining history and natural history. Then you can experience gold mining for yourself at the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour, a fascinating experience 1,000 feet underground. Next take a ride back in time aboard the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Along HWY- 50 From Kansas
Traveling west on Highway 50, starting at the Kansas border, the first stop is Granada, Colorado, the site of camp Amache, a Japanese-American internment camp from 1942 -1945. Camp Amache is on the register of National Historic Places. Next stop is Lamar, Colorado, a city that is one of twelve sites for the “Madonna of the Trail” monument. The other eleven, each in a different state, and Lamar’s Madonna mark one of the country’s oldest trails, the Sante Fe trail. Lamar also has a Colorado Welcome Center for folks to visit and get lots of helpful information. Las Animas, Colorado, which takes its name from "The river from lost souls in Purgatory", is a trading center for the ranches and farms in the surrounding area. This is where Colorado’s produce comes from, e.g., Rocky Ford cantaloupe, sweet onions and tomatoes, some of which can be bought from roadside stands operated by local growers.
Next stop is La Junta, Colorado, which was literally the junction of the Arkansas River and the old Santa Fe trail. Close to La Junta you will find Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, which is actually a reconstruction of an old fur trading post that was in operation from 1833 -1849. Kit Carson worked here as a hunter and a trader. The Koshare Indian Museum is also located in La Junta, a unique museum and a must-see for anyone who visits this city.
Continue on Highway 50 to Canon City and you are in Royal Gorge Country. The Royal Gorge, carved out of granite millions of years ago by the Arkansas River, is ten miles long. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is the site of the world’s highest suspension bridge at an impressive 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River. The Park offers unique ways to span the gorge including an aerial tram and an incline railroad.
There is still one more way to experience the Royal Gorge Region ----in the water on the Arkansas River. Echo Canyon River Expeditions has been guiding raft trips on the river since 1978. Echo offers a variety of river experiences from easy family trips to class IV adventure trips. Echo also offers a “Raft N Rail” package with the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and their “Paddle-N-Saddle” combines rafting with horseback riding.
On your return trip to the Colorado Springs’ region stop at the May Natural History Museum. Turn left (north) onto State Highway 115 at Penrose and look for the gigantic beetle on the west side of Highway 115. This one-of-a-kind roadside attraction is home to thousands of giant tropical insect specimens. An exhibit of photos taken by the Hubble telescope is an added attraction.