Colorado: The real great outdoors

There are probably not enough words to describe the beauty of this state and I am sure that this post may not do it justice, but I hope it perks your interest to visit this majestic state. I did as much roaming as I could on my days off which is enough for a good trip here and there is plenty left to explore yourself.

Let’s begin in Colorado Springs, a lovely little town next to Colorado’s tallest peak, Pikes Peak, standing 14,000 feet over the city. I think the first stop you must make in town is the park named Garden of the Gods. A short jaunt to the west of downtown, it is a lovely park with stunning rock formations that seems they have been set there by someone grand, thus the name. The contrast of red colors that make up the giant rock formations will just leave you breathless. Walking amongst the rocks makes you feel so small in this giant world of ours. A few spots are set up for experienced rock climbers to attach to the rock walls to climb and then repel down. It looked like so much fun and maybe next time with some guidance I may give it a go.

Garden of the Gods posing
Strolling amongst the red rocks

Beyond the main park, walking or driving further takes you to the balancing rock. It literally is that, a massive stone that seems to balance on one tiny portion of itself, teasing gravity. It makes for some great Superman strength photo ops.

Massive balancing rock

Getting a bit outside the Springs, just a short one hour drive south is spectacular Royal Gorge. This stunning park lies at the top of Royal Gorge itself, a vertigo on your eyes, falling over 1200 feet below. The suspension bridge that spans it held the record for highest bridge in the world from 1929 until 2001 when a construction in China took its place. Once you pay the admission to enter, they suggest taking the gondola across the ravine and walking the bridge back. You can do it as much as you want once inside to get all the photo angles needed to capture the grandeur of the sight. Also, appealing to thrill seekers is the zip line across the gorge or the giant swing that literally swings you over the drop. Both can make your heart skip more than a few beats.

Taking a walk above the walls of Royal Gorge
Swinging in the gondola above the drop

One thing that is not to be missed is the scenic train ride that runs along the river that splits the gorge walls.  At certain times of the year it can run once a day and other times of year, several.  Make sure you look it up not to miss your run, staring up from the narrow bottom to the heavens.

The train tracks running along the river at the gorge’s bottom

Now we cannot mention Colorado without talking about skiing. I have skied on many hills around the world, but I do think Colorado has some of the best hills and villages that I have seen. I have only skied Breckenridge and Vail but there are countless hills and budgets to consider. I am a little partial to Vail just cause I love getting lost in its endless back bowls that seem to span forever. The price has definitely gotten up there a bit lately, but coasting down its many trails or bowls for countless hours is well worth the price. The village is another highlight that has so many shops, restaurants and hang out areas that you will never be bored.

Lovely walks in the village
Most trails offer a spectacular view around
Always the best way to relax after a day on the hills

Don’t worry.  It is not just about the back bowls.  That is what is great at Vail.  You don’t have to be crazy advanced to enjoy its trails.  They have green runs that are a good warm up or you can stay and cruise on them all day long, even a run or two out in the back bowls.  For the adventurous though, they definitely have some double black diamonds runs that aren’t for the faint of heart, some dropping what seems like almost vertical.

Diving into the back bowls

I have read many articles about of people’s options of which national parks are the greatest in the states. There are many varied options to choose from but on most lists, Rocky Mountain National Park usually makes a cameo. Reachable from most cities along the foothills, this park is a true assault to your senses.

I began at the entrance in the little town of Estes Park. Surrounded by stunning scenery itself, Estes Park is most known for the rustic Stanley Hotel, the old eerie hotel that Stephen King stayed at which inspired his frightening tale,  The Shining. You can stop in to check out the grounds and lobby. It really has a ghostly feel that can plant you into the movie itself and send a few shivers down your spine.

Stanley Hotel

From the little strip of town, there are a few routes to take to enter the park. There are a few options for fees into the park, whether you are just there for the day or week, or different types of vehicles, all which are found on the national parks website. Once inside the vast open space is yours to enjoy. We went at the beginning of spring and some of the roads to the west of the park were closed still, so we were only able to roam the east side and did not pass the continental divide. Still, the powder dusted snow caps that surrounded us made for several moments to stop and gaze. There are many trail options to choose from for all levels, but I must suggest taking bear lake road to the end and doing the hike up to dream lake at least or all the way to emerald lake. Looking straight up at the cliffs above make you believe you are on some winter movie set in a far-off land. We even bumped into a skier who had gone off trail to hike up the side and come barreling down the nearly vertical drop. Talk about heart pumping!

Trekking up the snow covered trails
The cliffs towering over emerald and dream lakes

Although we only did half of it, the hike upstream at the Alluvial waterfall trailhead and climbing the rocks makes for great pics and a fun workout as you maneuver up and down the massive stones that create the falls themselves.

Rock jumping over the falls

Within the park itself the elevation can vary from one level to another and you can experience very drastic temperatures from one hour to the next.  We ventured here in April when the peaks were very snow capped and at bear lake hikes we were quite bundled up with ski jackets on.  Doing some of the lower hikes, like at Alluvial falls, we were peeling off layers because we were so warm.  We felt as if we encountered all 4 seasons in just one day.  Look ahead before you plan out your day.

The state of Colorado is so laid back and chill you may not think that all the adventure you could ever want awaits. Don’t be fooled and head out to get lost is some of the most expansive scenery in the states, if not the world.

 

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