Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods – FREEThis place should be a National Monument, but there's a reason why it's not. The land was donated to the city with the contractual understanding that it would be designated as a city park and an entrance fee would never be charged. You can drive around the loop and choose to hike as many trails as you wish, if you can find a parking space. It is free, that is true, but if you go to the visitor center, you will be charged to watch their 15-minute film, eat at their café, or buy something from the gift shop. I'm just waiting for them to start charging for parking.
The Grand Palace
Now when we arrived in Brussels we immediately decided to go out and explore the town. Generally I have a great sense of direction but Brussels is the only city so far that I cannot figure out. I have no idea why but I just do not understand the way the city is laid out. So we immediately start off in what I believe is the right direction and we promptly get lost (and this happens for the rest of the weekend). So after getting ridiculously lost and wandering around the Red Light District at 11am (interesting comparison to the woman on display at 11am and 11pm) we finally end up where we wanted to be, Grand Place. Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and is surrounded by ornate medieval buildings. It is a great starting point to see the city and it is also where my “spidey senses” aka my sense of direction kicked back in and I was able to find a bar that I went to when I was studying abroad.
Marshall Pass Road
Sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, this pass is situated on the Continental Divide between the Sawatch Range to the north and the Cochetopa Hills to the south. It is a steady climb for the first half and gets narrower as you go upwards. The whole route is scenic and beautiful to ride along.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
I arrived in Chama late afternoon and stopped by the train station to pick up my tickets for the next days’ 10am departure en route to Antonito, CO. When I arrived at the Cumbres/Toltec station, I could immediately see why my buddy was so enthralled by this railroad. For starters, there is a lot of moving (and non-moving) stock on various lines for visitors and train enthusiasts to enjoy. Secondly, this authentic, narrow gauge, steam-operated railroad is one of the last remaining remnants that showcases just how the west was won. Built in 1880, the Cumbres/Toltec was part of the San Juan extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Today, it offers visitors a spectacular scenic journey through the San Juan Mountains and Toltec Gorge. The entire 64-mile journey from Chama to Antonito will take you through a remarkably diverse landscape that consists of majestic canyons, dense forest, rolling hills, plateaus, pastures, expansive plains and arid vistas. After getting my train ticket, I made my way directly across the street to check in at the Parlor Car Bed and Breakfast. This B&B is owned/run by Bonsall and Wendy, a lovely couple who enjoy the train as much as they do the various visitors who stay with them. As a matter of fact, Bonsall is a volunteer docent and rides the train one or two times per week providing passengers with an interpretive background on the railroad’s history. As we left the Osier Depot, we soon entered a tunnel bore out of the rock-face cliffs…one of two tunnels the train would go through during its journey. The second tunnel was long enough, with just enough bend to create a few moments of complete darkness—I even tested it by putting my hand in front of my face. Sure enough, no light reflected in order for me to see my five fingers waving back at myself. The second half of the journey to Antonito offered some dramatic curves in the track that allowed us all to take pictures of the engine and steam car. It’s quite a sight, and, an engineering marvel of the day to have steam powered by coal pull the heavy loads up and over this dramatic set of passes. As a matter of fact, one section of the track has a 4% grade, which for an automobile is no problem, but for a train…it’s quite a big deal. After we crossed the New Mexico and Colorado borders eleven times, and passed by Whiplash Curve and Lava Loop, we were on the home stretch to the station in Antonito. From a peak elevation of just over 10,000 feet at Cumbres pass, to 7,888 feet at the Antonito station, the terrain changes dramatically. Instead of tall Pine and Aspen trees, the flat vista in front of us was arid, or high plains desert. As I learned the next day from the drive back to Chama, just a few miles away the terrain turns back to forest.
River's Inn & Swiss Cottage
The most refined place in Antonito’s has to be Ursula’s “River’s Inn.” This 1907 home was restored to its glory back in 1999, showcasing beautiful hardwood floors, wonderful craftsmanship and a porch beckoning its use. There are four rooms to choose from, each with a distinct look and feel. Ursula hails from Switzerland, and in an attempt to share some of her heritage with guests breakfast is prepared more European style.
Ward is essentially a village along the Peak to Peak Highway. The Millsite Inn, however, is an institution among the communities of the foothills. Popular with locals, bikers, travelers and sports fans, the Millsite is one of those wonderful downhome places that feels like a long cabin with beer, a pool table and bar food. The calzones and stromboli, however, are uncommonly delicious and during a Bronco game the whole place comes to life.
Pikes Peak, looking over Colorado Springs from an elevation of 14,115 feet, has the reputation of being one the United States' most famous landmarks for the spectacular views from its summit. This attraction offers trails of varying experience levels and is open year-round depending on weather conditions. Barr Trail (at 13 miles) long, that begins in Manitou Springs and ends at the summit, is the longest trail in the Colorado. This landmark has gained additional recognition as being known as the inspiration for the song "America the Beautiful," written by Katherine Lee Bates.The view is beyond incredible--it's like being in an airplane. You can see the hundreds of miles of the continental divide as well as the towns of Colorado Springs and Denver, which appear miniature from that far up.
Spreading through 500 miles, this journey is a great adventure and any hikers dream Trail. It is exhausting, exhilarating, and thrilling. Starting at Denver and ending at Durango, this trail passes through the rugged Rocky Mountains, some of the most beautiful rivers and canyons and some historic mining towns.
Olympic Training Center
US Olympic Training Center - FREETake a free guided tour and see where Olympians train. There are Olympic-hopeful residents here as well as training camps. This center focuses on the summer Olympics and you may catch a glimpse of them working out, practicing, or even competing.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Take a trip to a national park that has some of the tallest sand dunes on the continent. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado is not your average desert climate. It boasts much cooler summer temperatures which are perfect for climbing the dunes. If you are not much of a climber, look at the areas of black sand or enjoy the forests and lakes. The preserve with more than 41,000 acres is worth a visit. If you feel creative, build a sand castle at Medano Creek.
Kenosha Pass, situated at the height of 10,000 ft is absolutely beautiful with views of the Rocky mountains and the South Park Valley area. There are many peaks visible on the way. There are also wildflowers and butterflies in the area and the open trail along the side of the hill allows you to see views overlooking the massive plains and valley below. This road adds colour to you trail.
This is rated as one of the difficult trails in Colorado. Navigating through this one can be a little tough, but it is one of the most memorable part of my journey. Situated at a height of 12,000 ft. this pass is located on the continental divide between the Gore range and the Rocky Mountains.
The last mountain pass of the trail (our trail) this one is no less than the others. Situated near the Lake city, this pass is furnished with a proper road. It has wonderful colours (flowers and trees) surrounding the path and marks a nice, yet sad end to your journey. It is a part of the Alpine Loop, with the Engineer Pass on the other side. Yet this pass is more used than the latter.
Seven Falls – Reopens Spring 2015This is a very popular hike in the area, but it was partially destroyed in the fall of 2013 from flooding. We tried to go but there is no access until the road is rebuilt and it reopens, which is scheduled for Spring of 2015.Trip first published on Life Riding Shotgun