It’s always so fun to figure out what path and direction we’re going to take when we have a far-off destination in mind. We pull out our road atlas (yes, a paper map!) and start looking at all the options, and it’s very exciting to envision ourselves on different adventures along these different routes. When it came time to leave Iowa, we knew we would be heading towards the Southwest for the winter but we didn’t know what we wanted to see on the way there. Realizing that we might be able to catch some of the golden Aspens in Colorado helped us make our decision.
THE QUICK DETAILS
- There are tons of camping options in the area but we stayed at Pike’s Peak RV Park – a Good Sam park – which put us just 10 minutes from Garden of the Gods
- There are 15 miles of trails within Garden of the Gods. We enjoyed the 1.5 mile paved Central Garden loop which takes you closest to some of the iconic rock formations
- Visiting during the Fall? We loved seeing the golden Aspens on our drive to Cripple Creek
- Are you gluten-free? We discovered that Colorado has tons of breweries offering gluten-free and gluten-removed beers!
- Don’t forget to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak and keep reading for more hiking and exploring ideas
We stayed at Pike’s Peak RV Park, which is just a 10 minute drive to Garden of the Gods. This is in the eastern half of Colorado, very close to Colorado Springs, but the actual city we stayed in was Manitou Springs. It’s a small RV park and you are incredibly close to your neighbors but you have some mountain views, there’s a babbling stream in the park, and there’s a liquor store and a cute little coffee shop just a block away. We also appreciated the reasonably priced laundry machines at $2 wash/$2 dry. This is a Good Sam park, so be sure to get your discount when you call for a reservation. Funny sidenote, the power pedestal at our site ended up not working but we were able to plug into the one behind us and share it with our neighbors.
Our first night in town we visited Garden of the Gods. Man did it feel great to be back in mountain country! It was busy near sunset but we still were able to find time to ourselves on the paths. We decided to walk the Central Garden loop because it brought you really close to some of the most magnificent rock formations. There were so many birds, singing beautiful little songs to each other and there were SO many magpies in the park. In one field I bet there was over 30 of them. We made it back to the car after about an hour or so and the sun had just fallen behind the mountains.
Our next stop was FH Beerworks – chosen because they offer a few different house brewed gluten-free beers! Normally they have three on tap but when we visited they were out of the stout. The Milletology gluten-free IPA was fantastic. This area of town was pretty busy so we were a bit worried about parking but the brewery had a small lot in back and there were a handful of open spaces there. There was also a food truck in the back serving the brewery guests.
For our Aspen/fall colors drive, we were debating between going to the top of Pike’s Peak or taking a scenic drive to Cripple Creek. Each takes about an hour to get to the destination. We were definitely leaning towards the Peak but when I checked the webcams on the mountain, it showed that the view was entirely socked in by clouds. It was sunny up there, but looking down all you saw were clouds. It would have been a cool experience but it wasn’t really what we were hoping for up there, so we decided to do the drive to Cripple Creek. There are several pull-outs along the highway to stop and soak up the gorgeous views and golden leaves and we passed what looked to be a very popular hiking trail Horsethief Falls. There are also several roads off Highway 67 that you can explore down – just be sure to respect that some are private drives. The town of Cripple Creek itself is adorable and has a rich history as a gold mining town. The area has been revitalized and is full of cute shops, coffee houses and more casinos than I could count (a huge reason for the town’s revival!). We also read that there is a pack of wild roaming donkeys that sometimes stroll down main street but we didn’t see them on our visit.
Our stay in the area was quite brief and there were a lot of things we still have on our adventure list for next time. We would have loved to hike in the Red Rock Canyon Open Spaces, explore Seven Falls, hike the famed Manitou Incline, check out the Red Mountain hiking trail, drive up Pike’s Peak, visit the unique Bishop Castle and the Miramont Castle, and just get to stroll more in the charming area of Manitou Springs.
If you’d like to know more about this area and our time here, be sure to check out our vlog!