Welcome to the enchanting town of Manitou Springs, nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado. With a rich history, thriving arts scene, and outdoor adventures galore, it’s a haven for all sorts of visitors. This post is your guide to experiencing the best this captivating town has to offer. Buckle up, and let’s explore!
1. Soak in the Manitou Mineral Springs
Manitou Springs is named for its mineral-rich springs, which have been lauded for their healing properties for centuries. The Ute, Cheyenne, and other Native American tribes considered Manitou Springs to be a sacred healing ground long before European settlers discovered the springs.
Now, you can take a self-guided tour of the town’s eight public springs, each one distinct in taste and mineral content.
The Springs of Manitou
Each spring in Manitou has its unique appeal and mineral composition, offering varied experiences and tastes.
- Cheyenne Spring is housed in a beautiful red sandstone spring house, making it a stunning sight to behold. The water here is naturally carbonated and filled with beneficial minerals.
- Shoshone Spring is known for its high calcium content. Don’t miss the chance to taste this unique spring water that once attracted wellness seekers from far and wide.
2. Visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Immerse yourself in the rich history of the Ancestral Puebloans at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. A short drive from downtown Manitou Springs, these dwellings offer a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the Four Corners region over 800 years ago.
The site also includes a museum with a wealth of artifacts from this time period.
Explore the Dwellings
The cliff dwellings are a sight to behold. The Puebloans sculpted these homes directly into the face of the cliffs, providing a unique architectural insight into the past.
Here, you’ll have the chance to walk through these well-preserved structures, which include everything from living quarters to ceremonial kivas.
The museum houses an impressive collection of pre-Columbian pottery, jewelry, and tools, offering a broader perspective of the Puebloan culture.
3. Hike the Barr Trail
Adventure awaits on the Barr Trail, a popular destination for hiking, running, and mountain biking. The Barr Trail is one of the most famous trails in the United States, ascending Pikes Peak from Manitou Springs.
The 13-mile trail offers a challenging trek with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for the hike.
The Barr Trail Experience
With a total elevation gain of 7,800 feet, the Barr Trail offers a rigorous but rewarding adventure.
- The first three miles of the trail are steep, winding through a gorgeous pine forest.
- The mid-section of the trail offers a bit of respite as it levels out before the final steep ascent to the summit.
- The trail culminates at Pikes Peak’s summit, where you can relish in your accomplishment while soaking in panoramic views.
4. Experience the Manitou Incline
For a different type of outdoor challenge, try the Manitou Incline, a famous trail known for its intense incline. Initially a cable car track, the Manitou Incline is now one of the most popular and challenging hikes in the Colorado Springs area.
The trail gains over 2,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile, making it a rigorous workout with rewarding views at the top.
Conquering the Manitou Incline
Climbing the Manitou Incline is an accomplishment worth boasting about. The trail consists of nearly 2,800 steps made out of railroad ties. Remember to take it slow and steady, as the high altitude can make the climb more challenging.
Once at the top, the descent via Barr Trail offers a relaxing return journey, with beautiful views of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.
5. Enjoy Shopping in Downtown Manitou Springs
Step away from the adrenaline-pumping adventures to enjoy a leisurely day of shopping in downtown Manitou Springs. Boasting unique, locally-owned boutiques, art galleries, and gift shops, downtown Manitou Springs offers a charming shopping experience.
Each store has its own unique flair, offering everything from handmade crafts to locally sourced foods.
The Best of Downtown Shopping
Here are a few spots that stand out in downtown Manitou Springs:
- Ruxton’s Trading Post features a vast selection of Western wear and collectibles, making it a must-visit for fans of Americana.
- The Olive Tap is an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting emporium, offering a range of flavorful gourmet products.
- Manitou Outpost & Gallery showcases an impressive collection of fine arts and crafts from local artists.
6. Savor the Local Cuisine
As a visitor, exploring local cuisine is a must. In Manitou Springs, you’ll find a range of culinary delights that cater to all palates.
Whether you’re seeking casual fare, gourmet cuisine, or gluten-free and vegan options, you’ll find it here. The town’s eateries offer everything from classic American dishes to international delicacies.
Delicious Eateries in Manitou Springs
- The Cliff House Dining Room offers fine dining with an emphasis on local ingredients. The menu boasts a range of dishes, including elk, bison, and trout.
- Adam’s Mountain Café is a local favorite, known for its organic, locally sourced fare. They have a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, ensuring everyone can find something to enjoy.
7. Visit the Garden of the Gods
Just a few miles from Manitou Springs, the Garden of the Gods is an awe-inspiring natural wonder that is not to be missed. Named a National Natural Landmark in 1971, the Garden of the Gods boasts 300-foot towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak. The park offers both paved and natural trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Exploring Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods provides various opportunities for exploration and recreation.
- The Perkins Central Garden Trail is a paved, wheelchair-accessible trail that takes you through the heart of the park’s most beautiful rock formations.
- If you’re up for a challenge, Siamese Twins Trail offers a moderate hike with a view of Pikes Peak through a natural window in the rocks.
8. Ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Experience Pikes Peak like never before on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest cog railway in the world. First opened in 1891, the Cog Railway takes you on a scenic 8.9-mile journey to the summit of Pikes Peak.
The trip offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including glimpses of the Continental Divide and Colorado’s stunning plains.
The Cog Railway Journey
The Cog Railway offers a unique and memorable experience. The journey begins at the Manitou Springs Depot and gradually ascends to the summit. Along the way, you’ll pass through a variety of landscapes, from lush forests to alpine tundra.
Once at the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views, explore the visitor center, and indulge in their famous high-altitude donuts.
9. Explore Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
Discover the underground marvels of Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, one of the oldest and most famous attractions in the Pikes Peak region. The Cave of the Winds offers a variety of tours that guide you through spectacular caverns filled with amazing formations.
Above ground, the park also offers thrilling attractions like the Terror-dactyl, a heart-pounding ride that launches you over a cliff.
Uncovering Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds offers various tours suitable for all ages and adventure levels.
- The Discovery Tour is a perfect choice for families, offering a guided walk through well-lit caverns filled with stunning formations.
- The Lantern Tour takes you deep into the Manitou Grand Caverns, guided only by hand-held lanterns. This tour is a thrilling adventure into the dark, less developed sections of the caves.
10. Visit Miramont Castle Museum
Step back in time and explore Manitou Springs’ history at the Miramont Castle Museum. This historic Victorian-era castle is filled with period furnishings, allowing you to glimpse life in Manitou Springs at the turn of the 20th century. The museum also includes a section dedicated to the history of firefighting in Manitou Springs.
Inside Miramont Castle Museum
The Miramont Castle Museum offers a unique look at Manitou Springs’ past.
- You’ll find 30 rooms beautifully decorated with authentic Victorian-era furnishings.
- The Fire Department Museum on the lower level displays an impressive collection of historic firefighting equipment and memorabilia.
11. Enjoy the Manitou Art Center
The Manitou Art Center is a hub for creativity and innovation, making it a must-visit for art lovers. Featuring galleries, studios, and workshops, the Manitou Art Center is a vibrant space where artists and community members come together to create, display, and appreciate art. Whether you’re an artist or simply an art lover, you’re sure to be inspired by this creative community.
Engage with Art at the Manitou Art Center
The Manitou Art Center offers diverse opportunities for artistic engagement.
- Explore the galleries, which feature a rotating selection of works by local artists.
- Participate in a workshop or class to learn a new skill or technique. Options range from painting and pottery to metalwork and printmaking.
12. Attend a Local Festival
Manitou Springs hosts a variety of annual festivals that bring the community together and offer fun for all ages. These festivals are a wonderful way to engage with the local community, enjoy live music, local cuisine, and arts and crafts.
Some of the most popular include the Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival, Emma Crawford Coffin Races, and the Manitou Springs Heritage Brew Festival.
Highlighted Manitou Springs Festivals
- The Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival is held every June, featuring the best of Colorado wines, live music, and delicious food.
- The Emma Crawford Coffin Races is a unique event held in October, celebrating a local legend with a parade, costume contest, and of course, coffin races.
- The Manitou Springs Heritage Brew Festival takes place every September, highlighting local craft beers alongside live music and food trucks.
What are some popular activities in Manitou Springs?
Manitou Springs offers a variety of activities for visitors. Some of the most popular activities include visiting the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, hiking, exploring the Miramont Castle Museum, and shopping at Ruxton’s Trading Post.
What outdoor activities are available in Manitou Springs?
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do here. Hiking trails like the Manitou Springs Incline and Barr Trail to Pikes Peak are popular. Other outdoor activities include the Colo-Rad Zipline Tour and visiting the Garden of the Gods.
Are there any historical sites to visit in Manitou Springs?
Yes, it is home to several historical sites. The Miramont Castle Museum is a large, 30-room castle secured to the mountainside. The Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Museum offers exhibits on local history.
What are some family-friendly activities in Manitou Springs?
Families can enjoy a variety of activities. The Cave of the Winds Mountain Park offers fun for all ages. The Heritage Center and Museum is also great place for families to learn about the area’s history.
Are there any unique shopping experiences in Manitou Springs?
Yes, Ruxton’s Trading Post is a unique shopping destination. It offers a variety of items, including hats of all types, odd items, and old-type Marshall badges.
What are some recommended tours in Manitou Springs?
There are several tours available. Some popular ones include the Small Group Tour of Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods from Denver, the Garden of the Gods, Old Stage Road Jeep Tour, and the Manitou Springs Colo-Rad Zipline Tour.
Are there any art galleries in Manitou Springs?
Yes. The Green Horse Gallery and Raye Images Art Gallery are two popular choices.
What are some day trips from Manitou Springs?
Day trips can include visiting Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and the city of Denver.
What is the best time to visit Manitou Springs?
It can be visited year-round, but the best time to visit is during the summer and fall when the weather is most favorable for outdoor activities. However, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before planning your trip.
From outdoor adventures to historical explorations, and creative pursuits to food and wine tasting, Manitou Springs truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation, you’re sure to leave with cherished memories and a longing to return to this enchanting Colorado town.