Manitou Springs lies northwest of Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak. The town offers the relaxed vibe of a mountain resort town with easy proximity to a major metropolitan area’s services. Escape summer’s heat at 6,000 feet. Manitou enjoys a milder climate than destinations to its west. Even so, some of its attractions are closed for the season.
Manitou Springs derives its name from natural mineral water springs. Indigenous peoples used the springs for medicinal purposes. In the 1880s, a railroad spur from Colorado Springs brought people seeking tuberculosis (TB) cures. Many TB patients lived in TB huts, designed like a tipi to maximize ventilation.
In Downtown Manitou Springs, Totally Nuts and Company combined two TB huts to house their business. Stop by and enjoy their cinnamon-toasted almonds.
Note: This trip was partially hosted. All the opinions in this piece are my own, based on my experiences.
Things To Do In Manitou Springs
The mountains and rocks that surround Manitou define its activities. Hike or ride to the top of Pikes Peak, wander through rock formations, relax at a waterfall, and test the mineral waters. Fill up your bottle at the eight free mineral water fountains. Each one’s water tastes slightly different. Or lose yourself in the world of arcade games.
Find Out The Latest News At Manitou Visitor Center
Stop first at the Manitou Springs Visitor Center, where a large question mark greets you. The staff will have all the answers to any tourist questions that arise. Make sure to pick up the Manitou map brochure. It has coupons inside.
Pro Tip: Watch for deer at Fountain Creek behind the center. Sit in the Adirondack chairs built from skis. If you like the chairs, head to Colorado Ski Furniture nearby. They ship their repurposed ski, snowboard, and golf equipment everywhere in the United States.
Summit Pikes Peak The Easy Way On The Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Since 1891, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has climbed to the top of Pikes Peak. After a major remodel, the revamped railway is set to open in May 2021. You’ll ascend 14,115 feet in 9 miles while riding in comfort. Allow 3.5 hours for the round trip journey. Watch for wildlife, such as elk, deer, and bighorn sheep. When you reach the summit, you’ll immediately understand Katherine Lee Bates’ inspiration for “America the Beautiful.” Buy some donuts at the summit. Eat them at the top because they’ll lose their fluffiness quickly as the train loses altitude.
Pro Tip: The cog railway does not turn, which means you will see the same view on both legs of the trip. For the best experience, sit on the side closest to the mountain. Purchase tickets and reserve a parking spot in advance. Until high summer, snow may block the railway from the summit. The railway will prorate ticket prices accordingly. The summit’s temperature generally will be about 30 degrees lower than the depot’s temperature. Dress in layers.
Arrive about 30 minutes ahead of your boarding time. The train does not offer bathrooms; use the restrooms in the depot before you board. Bring food and drinks. Staying hydrated fends off altitude sickness. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Ascend Pikes Peak The Hard Way On The Manitou Incline
Do you go to hiking extremes? Then reserve a free time slot for climbing the Manitou Incline. From Manitou Springs, the former railroad bed looks like an arrow straight up the mountain. A closer look reveals 2,744 uneven steps. The mile-long trail gains 2,000 feet in elevation. The trail’s average grade is 45 percent, with some sections hitting a 68 percent grade. Most hikers should plan for an hour’s hike uphill.
Beware: This trail is extreme! If you can’t climb stairs at home, don’t try to climb the Incline.
Return on the Barr Trail. Wondering why? Imagine tripping and falling down the Incline.
Pro Tip: Some Manitou Springs businesses offer discounts for hikers wearing an Incline wristband. Win rewards for completing the hike with the Incline App.
Stroll Through The Garden of the Gods, A Rock Garden Like No Other
Every day is a good day to visit the Garden of the Gods. The fantastical red rock formations conjure up visions of ancient, eroded castles; gigantic dorsal fins of lost subterranean sea creatures; and eccentric carvings by mystic sculptors. Snow accentuates the fine details of the sharply eroded rocks.
Paved accessible walks wind through the free park while hiking trails surround the formations.
Rock climbing is both outdoor recreation and fine spectator sport. Rock climbers must register for a free permit.
Pro Tip: The park is free. To help underwrite its expenses, shop at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. Follow the park rules. Cyclists, horseback riders, and leashed dogs are all welcome in the park. Book trolley, Jeep, and Segway tours.
Warping Through Time At Rock Ledge Ranch
Turn left at the Garden of the Gods gate. Maybe a shimmer in the air will warn you of a time portal. The portal transports you to periods between 1775 to 1907. The 230-acre Rock Ledge Ranch, where the Utes made their headquarters, homesteaders settled, and communities grew, showcases Western heritage.
Soothe Your Pac-Man Fever At Arcade Amusements
If Pac-Man’s waka-waka-waka is the soundtrack of your life, Arcade Amusements is your ticket to paradise. Also known as the Penny Arcade, it offers more than 400 coin-operated games from the 1930s to the present day. A menagerie of rides is ready to ride in the passages between the five arcade buildings.
Pro Tip: Players can earn tickets at some games, like skeeball, and redeem them for prizes. Feed your tickets into machines in the skeeball building and take the receipt to the prize counter. After you play, enjoy an ice cream cone or taffy at Patsy’s Original next door.
Experience Anasazi Cliff Dwellings That You Can Touch
Visiting Mesa Verde National Park can be a frustrating experience. So much is off-limits. Manitou Cliff Dwellings encourages visitors to enter the dwellings and to touch them. The cliff dwellings aren’t native to Manitou. Instead, enthusiasts removed them from southwestern Colorado and reassembled them in Cliff Canyon above Manitou Springs. Explore a pueblo and shop at the gift store.
Pro Tip: Download maps and a self-guided tour app.
Miramont Castle Offers Diverse Architecture
Numerous architectural styles blend into a harmonious whole at Miramont Castle. From the Gothic front door and throughout the house, seek examples of nine different architectural forms. Exhibits show the mansion’s history and local history. A firefighters’ museum is in the basement. An original TB hut stands in the upper parking lot.
A staff member said that the house is “inhabited,” not haunted. She lived near the mansion as a child and sometimes saw children playing in the garden. She envied them because she had to go to school and they didn’t. Ah, the advantages of being a specter.
Pro Tip: Miramont means a place with a mountain view. In the glass-surrounded Queen’s Parlour Tea Room, soak in those views. Borrow a fancy hat to complete your high tea experience.
Shop In Downtown Manitou Springs
The hours will disappear when you walk through Downtown Manitou Springs, where numerous destination shopping opportunities abound. These are three of our favorites.
Camino Real Imports
Awash in vibrant color, Camino Real offers pottery, metal art, jewelry, and more.
The Glass Blowers
Glorious handblown glass creations fill the store at the Glass Blowers of Manitou.
The Olive Tap
Sample a vast selection of gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegars at The Olive Tap.
Best Restaurants In Manitou Springs
Manitou’s restaurant scene is full of varied cuisines. We recommend these options.
Good Karma Cafe
Stop and drink the coffee at Good Karma Cafe. Try the smoked trout benedict and the Colorado River omelet. The cafe offers gluten-free and vegan options.
Start with the sage tea at Sahara Cafe. Continue with the kabob sampler. They’re delicious. The hummus is top-notch.
Manitou Brewing Company
Manitou Brewing offers the best pork green chili we’ve eaten, and the pretzel bites were divine. Barr Trail Pale Ale was our favorite of their beers.
The beef vindaloo from Babu’s was tender, juicy, and tasty. After ordering takeout, we paired the vindaloo with Manitou Brewing’s Counting Stars Coconut Chocolate Stout for a superb experience.
Best Hotels In Manitou Springs
In Manitou, stay in luxury accommodation, vintage motels, or RV parks. We recommend the following.
The Cliff House At Pikes Peak
Live in luxury’s lap at the award-winning Cliff House. See their special offers.
Garden Of The Gods RV Resort
Cozy defined our stay in the RV resort’s extended-stay cabin. We loved sitting in front of the gas fireplace and the full kitchen.
The Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort
Buffalo Lodge caters to cyclists and hikers. Join the Resort Ride every Saturday.
Many of Manitou Springs’ lodging options are open seasonally. Please check their status before booking. Parking is limited in Downtown Manitou Springs, but there is a free shuttle from outlying free parking lots. Pay for downtown public parking at kiosks scattered throughout downtown. Credit card authorization can be slow.
Check Manitou’s website for discounts, and know that some shops and attractions observe “Manitou Time,” which means they may not be open at the precise times they promise to be.
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