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The Garden of the Gods is a public park and United States National Natural Landmark that was deemed a "fit place for the gods to assemble" by Rufus Cable, one of the two surveyors tasked with identifying a site for Colorado City in 1859. With its towering spires of red sandstone pitted against the incongruous greenery of its surrounds, Cable's inspired choice of name is an apt summary of the wonders that it contains. The jagged pinnacles, mammoth needles, and precariously balanced rocks strewn across the landscape are glorious monuments thrust upward, sideways and slanted by tectonic undercurrents, subsequently whipped by the wind into curious shapes. From the biological perspective, the Garden of the Gods is a remarkable merger of the vegetation typical of both highlands and lowlands creating a kind of chronicle of the evolution of planet earth. The land was bequeathed to the City of Colorado Springs by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins who originally owned this parcel of land. The only stipulation was that it must remain “free to the entire world.” Riddled with nature trails and hiking paths, the Garden of the Gods is a popular spot for outdoor activities like horseback riding, rock climbing and hiking that is always free, in keeping with Perkins' wishes.
Located in the foothills just west of the The Broadmoor, this park is the perfect locale to visit if time is limited and you want to get a sense of some mountain hiking. It offers hiking trails through mountain canyons, many of which offer great views of the Rockies to the west. The canyons are also popular with climbers. There are plenty of picnic shelters, and for wildlife and fauna information visit the Starsmore Discovery Center inside the park.
Spread across a whopping area of 789 acres (31929 hectares), the Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a popular city park that was converted from a landfill. The park is known for its spectacular canyons and rock formations. There are several trails leading to these natural formations and hikers often explore these well marked trails. Mountain biking is another activity that is enjoyed by many visitors at the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Rock climbing can also be enjoyed at the park, but a prior permit is required.
Towering 14,110 feet (4,300 meters) above Colorado Springs, this mountain serves as one of the nation's most famous landmarks. Believed to be the sacred home of the Ute people, this summit vaults wondrously above mosaicked landscapes, and can be seen at its majestic best from the Garden of the Gods balcony. The Barr Trail, a 13-mile (20.9-kilometer) path meanders itself along precarious slopes, providing an arduous yet rewarding way to reach the summit. The Pike's Peak Cog Railway, and the Pikes Peak Highway, alternate paths that lead to the summit, wind through stands of pine and aspen before cresting above treeline. A soul-stirring experience for many, Pike's Peak is best known for having inspired Katherine Lee Bates to pen the utterly patriotic America the Beautiful.
Spend a day at America's only mountainside zoo. The zoo features endangered species in mountain exhibits that resemble their natural habitat. You can walk the hilly terrain or catch the tram at one of seven stops. Hands-on contact with animals is permitted in front of the Aquatics building - giraffes will eat from your hand, and zoo crackers can be purchased at the entrance. Mountain weather changes rapidly, so bring a light jacket.
If you lack the time to wander into the mountains for a hike, this city park provides a quick and surprisingly bucolic alternative. Hiking, biking and horseback riding trails fan throughout the park's foliage-thick hills and bluffs. Some portions of the trails yield little hint that downtown is just minutes away. In addition, there are plenty of baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as volleyball courts. Picnic shelters and restrooms make it conducive for summer gatherings.
Minerals, the lure of the west, are now the lure of this museum. Featuring four buildings in a park-like setting, it provides a window to the world of mining. It includes over 4000 mining items like steam engines, drills, picks and pans, early photographs and even a stable of live burros. In this hands-on museum, kids can try their luck at panning for gold. There are tables for picnics and plenty of RV parking.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument spans a massive 5998 acres (2427.3 hectares) and is home to one of the richest cache of prehistoric fossils in the country. Believed to have been the result of volcanic activity, the site is notable for yielding impeccably well preserved fossils of insects as well as plants of as many as 1700 species. The petrified sequoia trees of the park, which are some of the largest in the world are a sight to behold. Visitors can learn more about the events that transpired to form the fossils as well as admire the delicately preserved insect specimens at the visitor center. Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled at the nearly 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) of hiking trails within the park's confines.
Regardless if you are a seasoned rider or a beginner whose only horse experience was reading Black Velvet, this riding center accommodates all abilities. Riders can choose from one or two hour rides, or during the winter there is also the option for a three-hour perimeter ride. All horse-strolls are guided and wander through and around he Garden of the Gods. Larger groups can arrange in advance for breakfast or dinner rides. Kids must be over eight to ride.
This 193-acre park offers more recreation and entertainment options than most cruise ships. Besides the usual park offerings of tennis courts, ball fields, jogging paths and picnic shelters, it also offers swimming, fishing and sailing on Prospect Lake, as well as year round ice skating and hockey in the Sertich Ice Center. The park also plays host to the Colorado Balloon Classic and the annual 4th of July Celebration. Picnic shelters can be reserved in advance for family picnics and such.