Are you excited about an upcoming trip to the Pikes Peak region and looking for sustainable travel tips? You’re in the right place. As passionate purveyors of all things Colorado, we’re always stoked to help visitors not only enjoy our state, but keep it enjoyable for their fellow future visitors. Sustainable travel isn’t just about carbon offsets and transportation choices; there are dozens of small ways that you can be eco-conscious when you visit Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region this season. Let’s take a look at some ideas that will help you have all the Colorado fun imaginable while still caring for our beautiful state.
Take the Road Less Traveled to Hidden Pikes Peak Gems
One of the best ways to lesson your impact on the destinations you visit is to venture off to places with a little less foot-traffic. If everyone spreads the love to more diverse locations, it means the super popular trails and attractions get more time to heal and recover. For example, the Pikes Peak Highway and the summit of Pikes Peak might see brisk business throughout the year, but the trails around America’s Mountain tend to be a little quieter, particularly the further out you go (check out our tips for hiking at altitude here). Since you’re already on the highway, start with a visit to the new Summit House and then find one of the trailheads on your way back down and explore all the flora and fauna contained in those incredible views.
While trails around places like the world-famous Garden of the Gods do fill up in peak season, there are other areas in the Pikes Peak region that offer an easy hike or stroll with fewer people (although we do recommend you pop into the Garden of the Gods Trading Post for a snack and gifts while you’re out and about). For a more pedestrian or cycling-type experience, check out the Pikes Peak Greenway trail, which cruises along the creek behind Downtown Colorado Springs and even connects you to the Midland Trail, which runs through Old Colorado City and Historic Manitou Springs. For hiking, check out the trails in North Cheyenne Canyon Park near the Broadmoor Seven Falls.
Outdoor recreation isn’t the only place where you can lessen your impact. We’ve got plenty of fascinating attractions that are worthy of your time and relatively chill The May Natural History Museum is one such hidden gem, featuring one of the world’s largest private insect specimen collections tucked into a rather unassuming little complex south of Colorado Springs. Peruse thousands of carefully preserved specimens from all over the world, include a walking stick the size of your arm. The Western Museum of Mining and Industry is an equally unique and interesting attraction on the opposite side of Colorado Springs, and you can learn all about mining and minerals in Colorado and get the chance to pan for gold.
Travel to Colorado During Off-Peak Seasons
One of the reasons Colorado tourism spikes in the summer is the belief that it’s the only time the weather is good for outdoor recreation. That’s not actually true. Despite our annual snowfall numbers, winters in Colorado — and in the Pikes Peak region in particular — tend to be mild. It’s not uncommon to see people on bikes on a sunny day in December or trailheads crowded with cars on a breezy November afternoon. Even our local amusement park, The North Pole—Santa’s Workshop, stays open long after others tend to close to offer visitors a little Christmas cheer on mild winter days.
Even if it is a bit colder on occasion, the region boasts lots of cool winter events, too. Coloradans don’t hibernate when the days get shorter, they bundle up. (Some of them, anyway. There’s a militant flip-flop n’ shorts population in the Pikes Peak region.) If you come for some winter hiking or a few days on the ski slopes, there’s lots to entertain you in between conquering hills. Manitou Springs hosts an annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race in October, its fruitcake toss in January and a Mardi Gras celebration in February. Cripple Creek hosts an ice festival in February, too, and they also have holiday light displays during December. Sure, you might have to wear a few extra layers, but your low-impact, “off-season” visit will be just as fun in a hat and gloves, we promise.
Leave No Trace
One of the best mantras you can recite when traveling anywhere, even your own hometown, is to leave it better than you found it. If your favorite reason to visit the Pikes Peak region is the beautiful scenery, we hope you’ll be an enthusiastic steward of that beauty by helping keep it clean and pristine.
- Trash: The first rule to live by is to pack out your own trash wherever you go. That includes pet waste. It’s not the most fun ever to carry a bag of dog waste for several miles, but it is the best way to help keep the natural ecosystem balanced and the local waterways clean. Keep all your butts, bottles and baggies with you while you hike, bike and camp and then throw them away or recycle them in proper receptacles when you leave. Our trails see huge numbers of visitors and the occasional wrapper or bottle can easily become mounds of hard-to-access trash within a few weeks. Remember, there are no janitors in the woods (unless they’re hiking on their day off).
- Trails: Erosion and environmental destruction are two more big baddies that come along with maintaining an epic trail system. To be an eco-friendly visitor, stay on marked trails — don’t make new ones, cut switchbacks or follow unregulated offshoots. This damages the environment, creates flooding, and causes trail damage. If you get led astray on a non-designated trail (sometimes it’s difficult to tell), just do your best to get back on proper track as quickly as possible. It’s also important to follow the rules for designated use. Don’t take mountain bikes on restricted pedestrian trails or hike on restricted biking trails. And everyone should give the trails a break when they are muddy. Today’s muddy footprints become tomorrow’s bone-jarring ruts real quick when the sun comes out to play.
- Fire: Unless you are camping or picnicking in a designated area with clearly stated permission to start a fire, just … don’t. Fire is one of the biggest, most dangerous threats to Colorado’s outdoor spaces and the damage it can cause is catastrophic and long-lasting. Pay careful attention to all fire advisories in any season you are visiting, even when it is rainy or snowy. Do not be deceived by seemingly safe locations (near lakes or rivers) or ideal conditions — decades of drought mean that our trees are poised to burn with even the tiniest of sparks. Always monitor your fire the entire time it’s burning and put it out completely when you leave. Keep cigarette and cigar butts in your vehicle or on your person and leave the fireworks to states that haven’t been engulfed in flames every summer for the last decade.
Whatever you do to make your travel more sustainable this season, one thing is certain — we are very excited to welcome you to our inspiring, beautiful state and share all it has to offer!