Colorado is one beautiful state. It has a diverse landscape of rocky mountains, wildlife, lush forests, and tons more to satisfy any nature-lovers appetite. Whether you stay in Denver, Colorado Springs or some of the other surrounding cities, you will have plenty of opportunities to enrich yourself in some of its beauty. I called Denver home for my time in Colorado. The distance between Denver and Colorado Springs was a quick 45-minute scenic drive down Interstate 25S. Brace yourself for the journey; it is stunning! I’ve never seen so many mountains in one place. So I rolled down all my windows, cranked up my music and set my cruise control to 75 and enjoyed the drive!
Why did I decide to go to Denver? It was the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
When I choose a state to visits, it’s either because I heard good reviews about a fantastic zoo or natural history museum it has. I then start building my activities around that. I’m starting to enjoy Botanic Gardens as well. You’re able to see exotic flowers and trees from all around the world that you otherwise might not have the opportunity to see. The Floral Showhouse in Ontario, Canada is by far my favorite garden. The Botanic Gardens in Denver was beautiful, but I didn’t have much time to enjoy it. The day that I went, they closed early for a special event. I had checked the hours before I went, but I didn’t check to see if any events were happening that day. Womp, Womp. However, I did get a good taste of the place which gives me a reason to go back to enjoy a real feast some day.
Here are a few places that I enjoyed visiting in Denver and Colorado Springs
Denver Botanic Gardens
The Museum of Nature and Science was pretty cool. Had I not visited the Smithsonian Museum in NYC the year before I would have been very impressed with what I saw. If you ever been to a Smithsonian Museum, there’s no comparison. The Denver Museum was relatively large with tons of exhibits halls for you to enjoy. Every time I walk into a History or Science museum, I always think about the movie Night at the Museum. Has anyone seen that movie? If not, you should! It’s a pretty good movie. What I enjoyed most about the Denver Museum was the Dinosaur that greeted me at the entrance and the Gem and Minerals exhibit hall. Mercy me, I saw some real beauties I tell you! Wonder what it’s like to own something so precious. I saw diamonds the size of tennis balls. At the NYC museum, they keep their jewels in a vault with several security guards patrolling at all times. I was too afraid to whip out my camera and snap a few photos. But those exquisite jewels are forever embedded in my memory.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is actually on a mountain. How crazy is that? It’s like the side of the mountain was blow off, and they built the zoo right into it. I didn’t get a chance to view the whole zoo because it’s very hilly. I was tired after walking just a short distance from the entrance which I see why they have the main highlight of the zoo at the entrance and that’s the giraffe enclosure. It’s the world’s largest giraffe herd in captivity! I was very impressed with how healthy the giraffes and other animals look. The giraffes walk right up to you for a selfie or a hand-feed snack. The elephant enclosure is just as impressive. It even has a sky bridge you can walk along to get an ariel view of the elephants and picturesque view of the surrounding mountains. Would love to go back one day and experience the whole zoo. I will have to eat plenty of Wheaties that morning. To walk around that zoo, you will need to do a 15-minute stretch, have a good pair of tennis shoes and don’t forget your heart rate monitor. Ha!
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
After leaving the zoo, I headed over to the Pike Peak Highway to make my way up to the summit. Up the 19-mile scenic drive with an elevation of 14,115 to the summit. You’ll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery and wildlife that Colorado Springs has to offer as you wind up and down the PPH. Oh, mercy, what a drive. I was experiencing so many emotions as I was driving up the side of this mountain. It was a scary journey and one that I may never do again. Ha! It’s one of those things that I can say I did but maybe…never again. So as you’re ascending the mountain, the road is pretty flat and even. Then you start winding your way up. The higher you go up, the scarier it gets because there are no guard rails and people are descending the mountain at the same time. The lanes are narrow that it requires you to keep your eyes on the road. But don’t worry there are plenty of pull-offs for you to stop and calm your nerves or check your heart rate. Or barf! If you’re lucky, you may even spot a few elks, bighorn sheep or the infamous Bigfoot. I think I saw Bigfoot! I’m lying. Lol
I have to admit; I stopped several times to calm my nerves. I knew I couldn’t turn back. I came too far, and I had to see the top of the summit so with my heart on my chest, and my knuckles clenched to the steering wheel I kept going. I reached an elevation of 8,000 feet, and the headaches kicked in. I heard that you could experience headaches and dizzy spells and I did. Great, now I can add headaches and dizziness to my nausea. I was on one roller-coaster of a ride. But again, I couldn’t turn back. I was happy that I was making this drive by myself. I needed only to hear my thoughts and rely on my intuition and my good judgment. I had to tell my heart a few times to quit beating so loud. Lol, My stomach knew what was up and eventually stopped rumbling.
It took me roughly 2 hours to drive 19 miles; that’s crazy! Finally reached the top and I had to sit there for a minute because I was short of breath as well as dealing with a plethora of emotions. One, I couldn’t believe I drove up the side of a mountain. Two, I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. To see the views at that altitude was surreal. When I did get out the car, it was like I was walking on the moon. I was very spacey, and a bit disoriented being up to such a high altitude and I couldn’t stay up very long. If that wasn’t enough, I had snow blowing on my face. Snow in the summer! It was a pleasant 78 degrees at the base of the mountain but a 40-degree difference at the summit. The air is very thin at those elevations. I snapped a few photos, ate world famous donuts and made my descent back down the mountain. My body was not equipped to deal with all those changes. Don’t get me wrong it was a great experience, and I might repeat it. I say that very loosely. I do have family that wants to travel up a mountain now.
Driving up I was able to reach speeds of 30 mph but going down was more of 5-10 mph.. You can’t use your brakes that much because you will burn those little puppies out. The drive down is very steep. For the first time, I learned how to use all of a cars lower gears shifts. There was no room for error. I made just as many stops going down as I did going up. Snapping photos, checking my heart rate and waiting for the color to return to my knuckles. What an adventure! Going up you can see the road ahead of you even around the tight turns. Well, going down you can’t see much of anything with all the tight turns and drop offs. Not until your right up on it. You also have to deal with gravity pulling you down which isn’t cool at all. My body went into survivor mode– head and stomach ache disappeared with the quickness, or I was too focused to notice anything else. And I was FOCUSED! All-in-all it was a great experience one I was glad to experience. YOLO!
After that experience, I was done for the day. I made my journey back to Denver to relax for the rest of the evening. I knew my heart had enough adrenaline-pumping adventure for the day. When I travel, I do include a thrilling and high-energy experience, and I got that on the Pikes Peak Highway. Sometimes it’s good to test our limits and push ourselves out of our comfort zone a bit. But don’t be reckless or foolish – safety first. If I scared you sharing my experience of driving the PPH you could always take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the summit. I heard it’s a nice relaxing way to travel up the Pikes Peak. For the active adventurers, you might enjoy taking a bicycle tour up the PPH. There’s something for every comfort level.
Pike Peak Highway
What can I say about the Broadmoor Seven Falls? It will leave you speechless. What a beautiful place and experience. Seven Falls has seven-tiered natural waterfalls that cascade down a 1,250-foot canyon. You can climb a 225 steep step to get up close and personal with the falls, and it leads you to several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the eastern plains. I opt to hang out at the foot of the falls on a platform that had rocking chairs for you to sit and enjoy its beauty… There was another set of stairs about a ½ yard away that I could have climbed but why would I? Not when it had a steel elevator next to it to take me to the top! Once you reached the top to the observation deck, you could look out at the waterfalls and Seven Falls stunning views. Since I rode the elevator up, I did decide to take the stairs down. After walking half way down, I quickly realized my knees would not have made it all the way up. The descent down wasn’t bad, and it had a sitting area to rest my weary bones.
After enjoying the falls, I made the 1-mile journey back to the entrance. You can’t drive into Seven Falls, so they offer shuttle services to transport you back and forth. The parking lot is just a few miles away. I wasn’t sure how far the waterfalls were from the entrance, so I paid $1 to ride the tram to get me to the falls. It was a fun experience and quick way to get you to the waterfalls. I decided to walk the 1 mile back to the entrance to get the whole experience of the trip. The walk back is what impressed me the most because you’re walking between several mountains on a narrow road with the sound of water running down the stream next to you. Not to mention you get to enjoy seeing all of the beauty that the Seven Falls has to offer. I’m glad they don’t allow cars into Seven Falls because everything is well preserved and untainted by car exhaust and toxic fumes. Nature at is finest.
I can say now that I’ve driven up a mountain, walked through a mountain and stood on a mountain. Have I driven around a mountain? Hmmm. I take these experiences not for granted. I’ll never forget where I come from and where God has brought me too. These experiences make me grateful and keep me humble. It does take a lot of savings on my part to make these experiences happen, but it’s worth it! So far, this has been my least expensive trip, Niagara Falls the second. Most of the places that I went to on this trip was free. Crazy, right!
The Broadmoor Seven Falls
Garden of the Gods is a public park that is free to all visitors. It’s over 1300 acres of geological rock formations surrounded by trees, weeds, and unknown creatures. I did get a glimpse of a few deer rustling in the brush on one of the many walking and hiking trails it offers. My best deer experience was when I was driving to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I was blown away to see deer sitting on the side of the road and even grazing in people’s yards. I pulled right up to them and snapped a few photos, and they didn’t even flinch.
The rock formations in the Garden have unique names like kissing camels, praying hands, cathedral valley and more. I have no facts, but I’m sure the naming of the rocks came from its shape. What do you think? Something else I experienced walking through the garden was professional rock climbers, and I did some amateur rock climbing myself. Talk about a workout. Man, the trails were steep and unstable, and the rocks were very smooth which had me slipping a few times, but I make it to the top. It was a sight to see from way up there. Experiencing views at such heights changes you. I sat up there for several hours and commune with nature. I understand why John Muir kept going back to the mountains. Spending time on a mountain, trekking up a mountain or even between a mountain changes you. It’s a humbling experience that one should experience at least once.
Garden of the Gods
I can ramble on about my Colorado experience, but I want to hear from you. Is anyone planning a trip to Colorado soon or would like to share their experiences of this beautiful state? Love to hear your stories or help you plan your next adventure. Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”
– John Muir