Exploring Pikes Peak + Garden of the Gods

Hello friends! My parents recently came in town for a visit and we decided to check out some iconic Colorado Springs sights: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. If you find yourself in Colorado Springs, these are two beautiful spots well worth a visit.

First up was Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain. My dad and I actually hiked Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail several years ago, which was quite the adventure. This time around we decided to take the easy route and just drive up. There are lots of pull-off and viewpoint areas along the drive up so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Pro tip: pay for your tickets online in advance for a small discount! It’s also helpful to call before making the drive over to ensure entire road up is open, as they sometimes close it for poor weather or high winds.

Pikes Peak recently opened a brand new visitors center which is super nice and modern. You must try the famous fresh donuts and coffee, and make sure you take a stroll through their small museum as well. The visitor center is also a great opportunity to take a seat and drink some water which will help you avoid getting altitude sickness. It’s super common to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous when you gain elevation so quickly, so it’s really important to listen to your body and stay hydrated.

Pro tip: it is typically very cold and windy at the summit, even if the weather in the city of Colorado Springs is mild. Make sure you bring layers!

This was my first time driving myself down the mountain, as I’ve always pawned the task off to my husband or parents in the past. Pikes Peak Highway can be a bit stressful because of how steep and curvy it is, and if you’re not a fan of heights you may be a bit wary of the sheer drop-offs. If you don’t feel like taking on the task of driving yourself, there’s also the option of taking the Cog Railway. I haven’t taken it myself, but I’ve heard it’s another beautiful way to experience the mountain.

Next up was Garden of the Gods, an iconic outdoor area featuring dramatic spires and formations of vibrant red rock. Garden of the Gods offers tons of opportunities for walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and rock-climbing, so there’s really something for everyone! Even if you just drive through the garden, it’s a stunning area any time of year.

Another perk of visiting Garden of the Gods is how close it is it’s location and proximity to other activities. I would recommend visiting the garden earlier in the day, grabbing lunch at a nearby brewery (I personally recommend Trinity Brewing – we loved it so much we went twice in one week!) and then doing some late afternoon shopping in downtown Colorado Springs or the nearby Manitou Springs.

Colorado Springs is a beautiful town with so many activities and sights to offer. We’ve had a lot of fun hosting friends and family over the past year since moving here, and we’re always discovering new spots. What are some of your favorite things to do in the Colorado Springs area?

Diamond Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Diamond Lake Trail, located in Indian Peaks Wilderness, is a moderately challenging out-and-back hike with beautiful views of Diamond Lake and the surrounding peaks. Altogether, the hike is about 5.4 miles in length and gains roughly 1,220 feet in elevation.

Pro tip: make sure to check the weather frequently, as it can change very quickly in the mountains. The forecast the night before we hiked was clear but we ended up getting rained on about a mile into the hike and again during the last quarter mile! Which reminds me…

Pro tip: ALWAYS pack rain gear (if space/weight in your pack allows) – even if the forecast is clear.

The hike begins on Arapaho Pass Trail which departs from the end of Fourth of July Road, just past the town of Eldora. The trail will lead you gradually uphill through dense forests, until you reach a junction at about 1.2 miles, where you’ll bear left to begin on Diamond Lake Trail.

From here, the trail gradually descends, leading you over a creek crossing. After the creek, you’ll begin ascending once more until you reach Diamond Lake after about a mile. Diamond Lake offers lots of options for walking around and exploring the surrounding meadows!

Mayflower Gulch Trail

I’ve been wanting to get out and take advantage of the warm weather before Colorado goes full fall mode, so I decided to explore the Mayflower Gulch Tail. This trail is located near the town of Breckenridge and will lead you along an old wagon trail to the abandoned Boston mine camp where you can roam among old cabin ruins. The trail itself is about 6.1 miles out-and-back, though you can add mileage by hiking around the gulch once you reach then cabins, and gains about 1,500′ of elevation. The trail gains elevation at a fairly moderate rate but once you reach the cabins it makes the whole hike worthwhile! Unfortunately, it was still pretty hazy from the wildfires when I took on this hike, so I’d love to return when the weather is a bit clearer.

Check out All Trails for all the info!

Exploring Colorado’s Gold Belt Scenic Byway

Make sure to check out the vlog here!

This past weekend we wanted to get out of the house and do some exploring, but with all the smoke and insanely hot temperatures, we didn’t really feel like hiking. We decided to check out the Gold Belt Scenic Byway, and I’m so glad we took the time to explore it!

Image courtesy of GoldBeltByway.com

The byway covers over 100 miles and goes through a number of unique communities and areas with rich mining histories. We didn’t drive the full byway, but we did see some of the highlights along the route. We left from Colorado Springs and first made our way to Vindicator Valley Trail, a short detour from the town of Victor. This trail takes you through old mining buildings and ruins, and was the perfect way to kickstart our day.

From there, we made our way through Victor and Cripple Creek, and then we took Shelf Road all the way down to Cañon City. This portion of the byway was definitely a highlight, as it took us through some gorgeous scenery. We even ran into a family of sheep along the way!

Cañon City was another cool spot, and the perfect area to grab some lunch and enjoy a walk by the river. All in all, exploring the Gold Belt Scenic Byway was a great way to see some new areas of Colorado without having to sacrifice air conditioning or spend too much time in the smoke!

A Weekend in Breckenridge

Hi folks! Recently we’ve gotten to take several trips to Breckenridge and have absolutely fallen in love with this mountain town. We haven’t yet experienced it in the winter, but look forward to checking out the ski resort when the season starts! Today I’ll be sharing with you the perfect 2-day itinerary for exploring all that Breckenridge has to offer.

Day 1: The Great Outdoors

Breckenridge is nestled in between some amazing hiking areas and peaks, so on your way in I definitely recommend stopping for a hike. We loved exploring the Blue Lakes area (check out that blog here) because it was very accessible and offered different options depending on how long and challenging of a hike you are looking to do.
On the way to Blue Lakes, we also passed the parking lot for Quandary Peak, a well-known 14er. I haven’t hiked this mountain myself, but I hear it’s quite challenging, though you do get some rewarding views at the end.
If you have kiddos with you or are looking for something where you can pretty much drive up and explore, I would recommend the Breckenridge Troll, Dillon Reservoir, or Sapphire Point Overlook. All beautiful options with little to no hiking required for some awesome sights!

For lunch, there are tooooons of options available in Breckenridge depending on what you like. I would recommend Breckenridge Brewery & Pub for their delicious brews and small bites. We loved the cheese curds, soft pretzel with beer cheese, and wings! Another good option is Ollie’s Pub & Grub, a low-key spot with classic American fare. This restaurant is located on the river and they also sell fish food for you to throw right off the bridge!

From there, I would recommend resting up at your hotel or Airbnb before taking on Breckenridge at night. If you’re not feeling totally tired yet, it’s also fun to just drive through town and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. There are beautiful mountain views everywhere you go, and there are some pretty spectacular multi-million dollar homes in the area. Another fun option is the Breckenridge Gondola, a series of free gondola rides that offer a unique perspective of the town from above! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to rest your tired feet.

There are dinner options galore in Breckenridge, varying from barbecue to Italian, and everything in between. For a drink and some live music, check out the Gold Pan Saloon, a longtime establishment with a fun western theme. Both times we visited we happened to get Asian for dinner, so I’d recommend Pho on Main or Bangkok Happy Bowl. There are lots of other options though for pretty much any craving you could have! If you’re craving something sweet afterwards, check out Higgles Ice Cream for some deliciously unique flavors.

Day 2: Shop Til You Drop

Before beginning your day of adventuring through town, you of course have to enjoy some breakfast. Cool River Coffee House offers some delicious breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, as well as some fun and unique flavors to spice up your latte or iced coffee. If you don’t mind venturing a little further out, Frisco, a town about 15 minutes from Breckenridge, also has some great restaurants. We thoroughly enjoyed Bread + Salt, a breakfast spot that offered scrambles, hashes, and some delicious challah French toast. Frisco is another great town for walking around if you somehow manage to exhaust your options in Breckenridge!

There are so many shops throughout Breckenridge that you’re sure to find some you love. We always end up at Limber Grove, a spot that features local artists and brands. They have lots of cool stickers, hats, shirts, and other beautiful, high-quality souvenirs. We love just strolling up and down the streets and popping into any shops that catch our eye. Whether you’re in the mood to purchase a new bike or some fly-fishing gear, indulge in some handmade fudge, or pick up a fun souvenir for family back home, there are endless options for everything you could think of.

And there you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed this guide to Breckenridge and have the opportunity to explore this beautiful town for yourself.