Early travellers were drawn to Colorado Springs for the high altitude, sunshine, mineral waters, and dry climate. Present-day travellers visit for many of the same reasons. At 6,035 ft., Colorado Springs even surpasses Denver, the mile high city. Most travellers fly into Denver International Airport and drive 75 miles (121km) south on Interstate Highway 25 to Colorado Springs, the second largest city in Colorado.
Where to stay
For unparalleled views of The Garden of the Gods Park and Pike’s Peak, stay at the luxurious Garden of the Gods Collection. We loved the over-sized, quiet, comfortable suite, the infinity pool, and the delicious breakfasts.
Things to Do
The poetically named Garden of the Gods, containing 300 million years of geologic history, was donated to Colorado Springs in 1909, with the proviso that it be operated permanently as a city park, open to the public.
Hiking, biking and horseback riding are popular activities in the 1334-acre park. If you only have time for one trail, the paved Central Garden Trail is the best introduction to the geology and plants of the Garden. Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is a Trip Advisor traveller’s choice for #1 park in the US. Admission to the park and the state of the art visitor center is free.
Golf at Kissing Camels Golf Club at Garden of the Gods Collection. J. Press Maxwell and Mark Rathert designed this challenging, well-routed and well maintained 27-hole championship track. Five sets of tee boxes (look for the colourful camel markers) make this an enjoyable course for every level of golfer.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort features an immaculately groomed 18-hole Pete Dye championship track designed to challenge golfers at all skill levels.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort boasts tour-quality greens and broad fairways on a course set beside a private, 35-acre lake. Hole nine is a short par four. Keep your tee ball left for a short approach in and a good opportunity for birdie.
Colorado Springs was named for the natural mineral springs in nearby Manitou Springs. This historic, quirky town is known for its mineral water. Manitou Springs’ visitor center can supply you with a map to the springs and a cup. The eight springs (or fountains) are easily found walking along Manitou Avenue. Each spring has a distinctive taste due to the difference in mineral content. Our favorite is the Shoshone Spring, which has the highest lithium content.
Colorado is teeming with natural hot springs but unfortunately, there are no local options for residents and visitors of Colorado Springs. The nearest hot springs are 2 hours drive, depending on the traffic.
Terrace at Garden of the Gods Resort photo credit: John Cameron
Kissing Camels at Garden of the Gods Park photo credit: John Cameron
Tee box markers photo credit: John Cameron
Infinity Pool at Garden of the Gods Resort photo credit: John Cameron
Study at Garden of the Gods Resort photo credit: John Cameron
Garden of the Gods Collection photo credit: John Cameron
Our first destination is The Sunflower Inn, a four-Diamond luxury bed and breakfast, where we’ll spend our first two nights. Located on a quiet street, the 12-room Sunflower Inn has a pool, hot tub and creative homemade breakfasts . We’re pleased to discover our beautiful room has French doors leading out to a terrace overlooking the pool and the hot tub.
While Mike is picking up the other members of our group at the Moab airport, we grab a quick swim. Later we get acquainted with our fellow hikers over dinner, a short walk away at Twisted Sistas Café. The café menu features creative farm-to-table dishes like a perfectly baked, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, halibut.
Next morning after a tasty baked egg dish at the Sunflower, we head out on our first hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, a five-minute drive north of Moab. Mike is chauffeuring us in his new silver Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, outfitted with custom seats.
Arches National Park has the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches and the iconic Delicate Arch, seen on Utah license plates, is the best known of these. The hike, considered moderately challenging, is five miles round-trip from the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch to Delicate Arch, with a elevation gain of approximately 600 feet. Mike has given us backpacks and water bladders, much appreciated, as there is no shade.
On the hike we were lucky to photograph Miss Utah framed by Delicate Arch.
In the afternoon we hike Murphy Point Trail in Canyonlands National Park. I doubt we would have found this awesome viewpoint without Mike’s insider knowledge. Another great viewpoint in Canyonlands is Shafer Trail. Look way down to see Jeeps slowly negotiating the dangerously narrow, twisty trail.
That night we eat at award-winning Jeffrey’s Steak House just off main street in Moab. The American kobe beef, sourced from a farm in Nebraska, is tender and grilled to perfection, served with spot-on wine pairings. Always willing to tailor the experience to the group, our guide Mike has graciously taken one of our group on a personal sunset photo shoot.
After another satisfying home-cooked breakfast at The Sunflower, we check out and pack the Mercedes for a trip to Capitol Reef National Park. We spend the morning hiking the wide, dry creek bed of the Grand Wash Trail, enclosed by towering red rock cliffs – one of the flattest and easiest hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.
Next up, a self-guided walk through the phantasmagorical Goblin Valley State Park before our gourmet picnic lunch – curry-coated fish tacos accompanied by a healthy, fresh coleslaw prepared by Logan, Mike’s right hand man.
This three-storey log cabin bed & breakfast, situated on the Fremont River, harkens back to trading posts and hunting lodges. Red River Ranch Lodge, complete with fine art and historic artifacts, features a grand fireplace in the great room and a wood-burning one in your own room, lit upon request.
Hand-pressed apple juice and fluffy omelets appear at breakfast at the Red River Lodge. Today we will be hiking the Waterpocket fold and Strike Valley Outlook in Capitol Reef National Park. Mike has his trusty Toyota Land Cruiser, as the elevation changes are greater and the roads are more narrow and washboard bumpy. The Waterpocket Fold stretches for nearly 100 miles, running north-south from Thousand Lake Mountain down to Lake Powell.
Views from the Toyota are spectacular and we can’t wait to get out and walk around. After lunch Mike guides us over slickrock and flat stream beds to Strike Valley Overlook, an elevation gain of 600 feet. The snow-capped Henry Mountains in the east and the north-south 180 degree view is awesome.
Our final dinner is at the recent James Beard award-winning Hell’s Backbone Grill, accessed by a scenic mountain drive, where you can see deer and elk up close on route.
Mike Coronella was headed for Wall Street when he discovered his true passion – the outdoors. He made a left turn into the Utah desert and has been there ever since, exploring and guiding others through Utah’s National Parks. Mike pioneered an 800-mile desert hike, the “Hayduke Trail” making him an authority on desert parks.
Over my two-plus decades of guiding and exploring these parks, I have amassed a lot of knowledge about the history of these iconic lands. There is nothing I love more than sharing a vista or a unique hiking experience with my guests and knowing full-well that I am blowing their minds.
Every detail is taken care of, from luxury accommodations at the region’s finest properties to first-class dining prepared by caterers on location or enjoyed at the best and most renowned restaurants on route. A full-time, dedicated concierge accompanies guests in a separate vehicle to ensure a stress-free voyage.