How To Spend Weekend in Colorado Springs
In this blog, I share my weekend in Colorado Springs, what I experienced, and the places to hike.
I arrived in Denver and as soon as I got off the plane, I could smell the winter freshness. It was such a nice change. The week before the trip we had Santa Ana winds in California and constant fires during that kind of weather. It was so nice to leave the icky feeling of the winds and the worries of fires behind.
I picked up my rental car from the airport and drove the hour to Colorado Springs. You can fly into Colorado Springs too, but there were no flights from LAX to COS on Friday night for the time I needed.
At check-in at the SCP Hotel, they give you a complimentary locally crafted beer. If you don’t want it right away, you can get a pebble and redeem your beer later. But really, you’re on vacation and it’s happy hour somewhere, right?
SCP stands for Soul Community Planet. The whole hotel is centered around holistic hospitality and conscious stays. The design is modern yet earthy, it’s very eco-friendly and locally centered. There is a 24-hour mini food market with healthy snacks and to-go meals all from local companies. So if you’re like me and get to your hotel at 2am, are starving, but everything is closed, this is the perfect solution without turning to fast food. There are communal areas with a giant Jinga game, a pool table, hang out areas, free yoga classes, a gym with Peloton bikes (the spin class lover in me was so excited).
This was my second time in Colorado Springs. The first time was in July for a wedding and it rained most of the trip so I didn’t get a chance to experience Colorado Springs like I did this time. This time, the whole trip was planned around experiencing local treats and scenic hikes.
Yoga at the SCP Hotel
I started Saturday with a 9:30am yoga class at the hotel. This was my first yoga class ever! I know, I’m surprised how I’ve made it this long without yoga. No that’s not sarcasm. I’ve always meant to try it, but something always got in the way of when the class was scheduled. One time I actually signed up for yoga at my gym, but I was new there and accidentally ended up in kickboxing instead, which I feel in love with! But that’s a story for another day.
My travel buddy and I were the only two in class. Both of us beginners. So we asked the teacher to take it easy on us, focus on stretching and give us something more beginner-friendly.
The class was about 45 minutes long and full of flow work and stretches. Afterward, I hit the gym and recreated my own cycling class. Yes, it was very exciting. At least I was excited.
Then we showered, grabbed brunch at the Red Gravy restaurant. Another first this weekend, I tried eggs benedict. Specifically their Caprese Benedict and the Blackberry Mojito. Amazing is all words can say. As for the Mojito, it was 12pm and it’s hard to resist a good fruity mojito. Yolo right?
Next, we headed to the SunWater Spa. I love hot springs, I’m a firm believer that a good soak in a natural spring will cure everything and anything. Ok maybe see a doctor first, but hot springs help a lot.
This isn’t quite a hot spring, but it’s the next best thing. And it’s another fun thing to do in Colorado Springs.
The SunWater Spa has seven cedar communal hot tubs and one private one. They’re filled with mineral water from the Seven Minute Spring and heated to 100 to 104 degrees using solar panels. The heat releases oils for the cedar tubs and helps soothe and heal your body, your respiratory system, promotes healthy skin, and is a form of aromatherapy.
Most of the pools are outdoors, but there are three indoors. These three are on the very first level (there are three floors) and have a cold pool, a warm pool, and a hot pool. It was a nice contrast between the hot soaking pools, patches of snow around the tubs, and the chilly afternoon November air.
SunWater Spa also has saunas, mediation steam, yoga classes, and massages.
A Two-Hour Soak Pass is $25 per person, and the private soaking pool is $35 per hour per person.
Bring flip flops to walk around in. I didn’t and regretted it. There are mats that help prevent slipping, but they’re harsh on the feet.
Sunset at the Painted Mines Interpretive Park
Next, I drove an hour to the Painted Mines Interpretive Park for sunset. It’s a nice scenic hike near Colorado Springs.
To get here, you drive through what seems like nothingness. Then you get to the parking lot, start hiking and then you see these formations. It’s a 3.4 mile loop with 334 feet of elevation gain total. You don’t need to do the full loop to see these beautiful formations. I hiked around 1.5 miles round trip.
There’s a lot of cultural as well as geographic significance in these. There is evidence of human life in this area going back as far as 9,000 years ago. The Painted Mines are named after the colorful clays that were collected by Native Americans for paint.
The spires and hoodoos formed through erosion that created the incised gullies and exposed the layers of selenite clay and jasper. The bright colored bands of pink, yellow, white, and mauve were created by oxidized orion compounds found throughout the different layers.
When I went, there was a nice dusting of snow which hugged the rock formations. Remember not to climb on them. Stick to trails. If you’re going during the fall/winter months, bring waterproof shoes. There were sections of the trail that were really muddy, I had my winter hiking boots on so I was fine in the mud and snow. Even though the trail is muddy, stick to the trail, going off-trail tramples plants and makes the area erode faster, follow Leave No Trace.
If your goal is photography, I recommend going during sunrise or sunset to shoot during softer lighting.
Also bonus, for me anyway, this was my first hike since my knee injury in August on the John Muir Trail, and my knee didn’t hurt! It’s a sign of promise that my knee is finally healing and that the last few months of physical therapy and rest have finally started to work. I explored the park until it got completely dark and hiked back to the car with a headlamp on. Then drove the hour back to town, grabbed Thai for dinner with the friends who got married back in July and off to bed.
I started Sunday with the full intention of getting up and going to the Garden of Gods for sunrise. But between the bed being so comfortable and the late flight Friday night catching up to me, I needed sleep. So I pressed snooze on my 5am alarm and finally got up and out at 8am.
I started with breakfast at the Sacred Grounds Cafe. This is very cozy, it looks like it was a home turned into a restaurant. My favorite part is that they had homemade Layered Russian Honey Cake. Dessert for breakfast is 100% acceptable on vacation. My family is Russian and I grew up with the culture, food, and language, so it was a nice taste from home. Actually, I haven’t been to Russia yet. So really it’s a nice taste from my childhood.
Hiking Around the Garden of the Gods
Now finally to the Garden of the Gods. There are so many scenic hikes here and most are family-friendly, so bring the kiddos. Personally, understanding the geographic history of a place helps me appreciate an area with a deeper understanding. So I started by stopping by the Visitors Center and watching their 15-minute movie that shows how the Garden of the Gods formed through history.
These rock spirals and balancing rocks that look almost surreal. The layers of sedimentary rock were originally deposited horizontally, but the mountain building forces that uplifted the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. Then the Ice Age and erosion followed, creating these beautiful rock formations we see today!
Earth isn’t just a dead rock, it’s constantly shifting and growing. Sometimes we get to see the change in our lives, other times we get to read about it and see the current remains. Interesting right?! YES! I’m sure you can guess who got an A in her Earth Science class in high school. Anyways. The park has about 15 miles total of hiking trails that take you through these rock formations. You can also go biking, which is permitted on select trails and go rock climbing.
Keep an eye out for these rock formations:
- Balanced Rock
- Cathedral Spires
- Giant Footprints
- Gray Rock
- Keyhole Window
- Kissing Camels
- North Gateway Rock 8 Pulpit Rock
- Sentinel Spires
- Siamese Twins
- Sleeping Giant
- South Gateway Rock
- Steamboat Rock
- Three Graces
- Tower of Babel
- White Rock
Exploring Scenic Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet
Pikes Peak is a 14er that overlooks Colorado Springs. You can hike to the top or drive to the top.
Be cautious of the weather and altitude sickness for both hiking and driving up. It’s usually cold and windy at the top of a 14er, but the scenic views are always worth it. You can drive, take a shuttle, bike or hike to the top. I was recovering from a knee injury so I drove instead of hiked.
It’s a 20 mile drive one way and it was so beautiful. There were lookout points everywhere. Since I went in November, there was snow on the ground. The road was plowed but it was cold. At the top, it was 20 degrees, but with the windchill, it felt like 6 degrees. I could only stand to be outside for a few minutes because of how cold it was. I did not dress appropriately for 6 degrees. Bring gloves and layers.
I got there at a good time too. We got there in the afternoon, the wind started picking up and clouds started rolling in. On the drive down, at around 12,000 feet, we pulled over to look around and take photos. A ranger pulled up and was telling everyone to start making their way down because road conditions were getting icy.
For more tips on driving or hiking up to Pikes Peak, read through this blog post. When we got down, the sun was setting, my flight was leaving from Denver at 10pm. So we drove back to Denver, stopped by the giant REI, grabbed dinner and headed to the airport.