Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods

Eco Travelers Guide to Colorado Springs, Colorado

Whether you’re staying a while or just passing through, this list of over 20 places to eat, play, and stay in Colorado Springs is sure to make your trip memorable. The nice variety of activities in Colorado Springs makes it easy to have a fun, eco-friendly adventure.

Things to See

Garden of the Gods

Website | Open Daily 5am-6pm | Free

When I think of Colorado, I picture granite cliffs and alpine peaks; however, there is a red rock treasure in Colorado Springs: Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark and, unlike many parks, it is free to the public. The land was donated to the city of Colorado Springs with the conditions that it be free to the public and that no structures be built on it except those required to maintain the park. The park has a visitor center, but other than that it is primarily rocks and trails.

Garden of the Gods is home to several large red rock fins and other formations. It’s a very walkable park, with both paved and natural trails to enjoy. We arrived mid-morning and were able to get some hiking in before the sun got too high over the rocks, but by mid-day it was pretty hot.

Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods
Central Garden Trail

The park is very popular, so it’s a good idea to get there early in the day if possible to beat the heat and the crowds. There is plenty of parking and overflow parking at the visitor center, and a shuttle passes by every 15 minutes to take visitors down to the main trailhead. It’s a quick ride, maybe 5 minutes or so. If you want to try your luck, there are also several small pull-offs at trailheads along the driving route with 3-5 parking spots each.

Recommended Activities

  • Hike the Central Garden Trail (main trail through the park)
  • Check out the visitor center; support by seeing the film, eating at the café, or buying something in the gift shop
  • Drive Juniper Way Loop and see Balanced Rock
  • High Point Overlook
Interior of Central Garden Trail
Interior of Central Garden Trail
Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock
High Point Overlook
High Point Overlook

Drive to the Summit of Pikes Peak

Website | 7:30am-7pm | $15 for adults, $5 for children, $2 timed entry permit

At an elevation of 14,115ft (~4,300m), Pikes Peak will literally take your breath away. Colorado Springs sits at about 6,000ft, so you will gain more than 8,000ft of altitude on the hour-long drive from town to the top of the mountain.

When you arrive at the base of the mountain, you pay your entry fee and receive a short safety lesson. The safety lesson is quick but important:

Summit of Pikes Peak
  • Don’t run your AC on the way up the mountain because your car will overheat. The temperature drops 20 degrees as you climb, so you can roll the windows down and enjoy the mountain air.
  • Use your lowest gear on the way down so you don’t burn out your brakes. Don’t worry – they stop you on the way down and check your brake temperature to make sure you’re safe.
  • If you feel dizzy or have a headache as you gain elevation, that is altitude sickness. It will only get worse the longer you stay up there, so come back down the mountain.

We followed the instructions and didn’t have any problems. There are definitely some tight turns with steep drop-offs, but if you stay focused and take it slow, you’ll be just fine. The drive was spectacular. It was amazing to see how the ecosystems changed as we climbed. We loved the variety of wildflowers at the base of the mountain and the straight, tall Englemann Spruce trees that grow in the subalpine zone just below the timberline. The air is very thin at the top of the mountain – we felt winded just walking up the sidewalk to take our picture by the marker!

Switchbacks to Pikes Peak
View of Pikes Peak 'Switchbacks'
Summit Overlook at Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Summit Overlook
Summit Viewing Deck at Pikes Peak
Summit Viewing Deck

If you aren’t feeling up to driving all the way to the summit, there are several pull-offs along the way to picnic, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the mountain.

As far as history goes, Pikes Peak has some great stories to tell. It became famous in the mid-1800s when gold was discovered on the mountain, and it also served as one of the inspirations for the song “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates.

Boulder Park at Pikes Peak
Boulder Park Overlook

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Website | $12 for adults | 9am-5pm

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings tell the story of the Native Americans who inhabited the area for thousands of years and includes both a museum and cliff dwellings that you can walk through to get a feel for what life might have been like. 

We enjoyed the museum and dwellings; however, the material in the museum exhibits is rather dated, calling the people “Indians” instead of the more common “Native Americans” and saying they were from the “Anasazi” tribe, a name which the Puebloans did not choose and never called themselves (learn more here). Also, the property owners are not native, so it’s worth remembering that this is the story of Native Americans being told by non-native people. We hope that some of the revenue revenue goes towards related causes, and overall we still enjoyed the museum and dwellings. 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Website | Open Daily 5am-9pm | Free

A great park right across from Garden of the Gods where you can hike, bike and enjoy the area.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Website | Open Daily Dawn to Dusk | Free

Paint Mines is located 1 hour northeast of Colorado Springs and is a beautiful park to explore. Historically, Native Americans used the colorful clays to make paint. I loved the vibrant pink, gold, and white formations. It’s pretty easy to explore on your own, but guided hikes are offered on some days for $3. There is also a park ranger available to ask questions and learn about the area. 

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Website | Open Daily 5am-10pm | $9

A beautiful state park with hiking, fishing, an archery range, and RV & tent camping.

SunWater Spa

Website | Tues-Sun 8am-10pm  | $40 per person

90 min soaking reservations with water sourced from 7 Minute Spring.

Glen Eyrie Castle

Website | $12 tours | $36 afternoon tea

Public Castle tours twice each day, except Sunday. Also offers Afternoon Tea at the Castle $36 per person plus tax Tea is Wed-Sunday 11am-3pm. They also have tours almost daily at 12pm and 2pm for $12 per person. Not necessarily eco friendly, but a fun thing to see and do if you have extra time. 

Eco-Friendly Places to Eat

Adam’s Mountain Cafe

Website | Wed-Sat 8am-3pm; 5-9pm | Sun-Mon 8am-3pm | Closed Tuesdays 

Adam’s Mountain Cafe has a cute, rustic vibe and has some amazing food choices. We got the Senegalese vegetables and the Harvest Crepes – both were delicious! Adam’s Cafe prepares their dishes from scratch and they make almost everything in house. They buy organic and local first and partner with a local farm to compost their organic waste. They avoid micro packaging like ketchup packets, and their to-go packaging is biodegradable. They recycle as much as possible and switch to digital for much of their administrative work. 

Exterior photo of Adam's Mountain Cafe
Interior Photo of Adam's Mountain Cafe
Photo of food at Adam's Mountain Cafe

Pizzeria Rustica

Website | Mon-Thurs 5-9pm Dinner Only | Fri-Sun 12-10pm | Lunch & Dinner

Pizzeria Rustica is an amazing restaurant that hand stretches their dough and bakes it in a pecan wood fired oven. They support local farmers and are a 4 star Certified Green Restaurant. We tried their Fonduta Flatbread and a special of the day pizza with peaches, thin-sliced meat, and a balsamic glaze. Learn more about their sustainability practices on their website.

Exterior photo of Pizzeria Rustica
Photo of Fonduta Flatbread at Pizzeria Rustica
Photo of Special Pizza of the Day with Peaches, and a Balsamic Glaze

Skirted Heifer

Website | Open Daily | 11am-9pm | Lunch & Dinner

This is one of the best hamburgers I’ve had! Skirted Heifer sources their beef locally from Colorado, is free range, and 100% grass-fed/grass finished. Their take out boxes are recycled paper and they even recycle their frying oil for biodiesel fuel. The “skirt” refers to the cheese around the patty & bun. Hidden underneath the “skirt” is a generous portion of lettuce, tomato and sauteed purple onions. 

Photo of Skirted Burger

Homa in Kinship Landing

Website | Open Daily 7am-10pm | Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

We loved the environment at Homa! The decor had a natural feel and I loved all the indoor plants.  The food and service were also amazing. They use fresh, locally sourced ingredients. We ate two of their savory handpies – the Wild and the Momo both of which were delicious, as well as their Polenta Cake with honey, olive oil and lavender whipped cream – we definitely recommend eating here. The cake was the best!

Interior of Homa
Photo of Handpies and Polenta Cake from Homa
Sign that says "Believe there is good in the world"
Seating area at Homa

Provisions Market at SCP Hotel

Website | Open Daily | Mon-Tues 7-10:30am | Wed-Sun 7am-9pm 

Provisions Market is inside the SCP Hotel. They have both made to order food, as well as a market that has grab and go items, snacks, and coffee. They pride themselves on having healthy, plant-forward food that is locally sourced. We loved the vibe in this hotel – there were games, cool decor, and so many plants!

Interior of Provisions Market

Sasquatch Cookies

Website | Mon-Sat 10am-8pm | Closed Sunday | Dessert

Sasquatch Cookies is a community and eco-friendly focused company. With their fresh gourmet cookies, they give 10% of their profits to the local Springs Rescue Mission and all their day-old cookies to a local soup kitchen. Now that is sweet! 

Sasquatch Cookies

Sweet Elizabeth’s Organics

Website | Tues-Sat 9am-4pm | Closed Sun & Mon | Dessert

Their mission is to provide a healthier, gluten free version of baked goods that are just as tasty. 

Goat Patch Brewing Company

Website | Mon-Thurs 12-10pm | Fri 12-11pm | Sat 11am-11pm | Sun 11am-9pm | Drinks only

This award-winning brewery is focused on balanced brews, community engagement, and adventure. Each year, they choose two non-profits to host for their “It Takes a Tribe” initiative, and every Tuesday they host a local organization that is making Colorado Springs better.  

Eco-Friendly Hotels

Kinship Landing

Kinship Landing is a newer hotel with both private rooms and hostel style shared rooms. Homa, their craft cafe on the first floor, uses locally sourced ingredients. I loved this hotel and would absolutely recommend staying here!

Exterior photo of Kinship Landing

Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort

Run by cyclists, this hotel is located right on a popular bike route that connects Manitou Springs with Colorado Springs. They are less than a mile from Garden of the Gods and close to many other popular hiking and biking trails in the area. Supporting a bike culture is inherently eco-friendly because more bike transportation means less car pollution! You don’t have to be a total bike enthusiast to stay here; they have bike rental resources and tours available too! 

Exterior photo of Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort

SCP Colorado Springs

SCP (Soul Community Planet) is an eco hotel with a relaxed and sustainable design. They have vegan forward food, yoga classes, and they donate to One Tree Planted for every stay! Their core values focus on health, sustainability, and clean accommodations at a fair price. This is a great place to support, stay, and eat while visiting Colorado Springs!

Eco-Friendly Shopping

Mountain Mama Natural Foods

Website | Open Daily 8am-8pm

Mountain Mama is a grocery store that includes a good amount of bulk items to reduce plastic waste. They source organic and local produce whenever they can, and also have a small grab and go deli & bakery section. 

Bulk Section of Mountain Mama Natural Foods

Conscious Living

Website | Mon-Sat 10am-5pm | Sun 12-5pm

Conscious Living is a bulk refill store with local kombucha and a wide variety of low- or zero-waste household goods, including toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, dishwasher soap, razors, lotion, dryer balls, candles, cutlery, and even crayons!

Along with being a refillery, you can also drop off several different kinds of things for recycling (read more here).

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