There are many fun, family-friendly things to do in Colorado Springs. But every once in a while, it’s nice to get out of town and take a day trip! Whether it’s visiting a national park or a natural landmark, there is never a shortage of things to do within a day’s drive. Here are our suggestions for some fabulous day trips from Schriever Air Force Base.
National Parks and Monuments
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (2 hrs 10 min drive)
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post. It was located along the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together for trade. Living historians offer guided tours and demonstrations as well as special events. Visitors can walk the fort’s ramparts or visit the blacksmith shop, trading post or the trapper’s quarters.
Curecanti National Recreation Area (3 hrs 50 min drive)
Curecanti National Recreation Area is made up of three reservoirs along the once wild Gunnison River. The recreation area is a destination for water-based recreation and is best known for salmon and trout fishing; The Curecanti area offers many opportunities for hiking, boating, camping, and bird watching.
Exploring Colorado Towns
Cañon City (50 mins)
Cañon City is best known for the Royal Gorge Railroad and its proximity to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad starts in town and takes a 24-mile round trip train ride through the Royal Gorge. The railroad often offers special event train rides throughout the year. There are also many companies in the area that offer rafting and kayaking in one of the best areas for whitewater in the state. Located in town are the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, several art galleries and antique shops, and several restaurants. The Fremont Center for the Arts hosts exhibits and events exploring local arts and history. For something on the quirky side, visit the Museum of Colorado Prisons, appropriate because Cañon City is home to several state and federal penitentiaries.
Evergreen (1 hr 30 min drive)
Evergreen is a picturesque town located west of Denver. It features an alpine lake where you can paddleboard, kayak and ice skate. There are also many hiking trails located within Alderfer/Three Sisters Park and Flying J Ranch Park where you can enjoy meadows, forests, and wetlands. The historic downtown boasts a number of art galleries, shops, and eateries. You can also spend the day golfing, touring the local museums, relaxing at a day spa or catching a local theater performance.
Golden (1 hr 40 min drive)
Golden is a historic town located west of Denver and home to the Colorado School of Mines and the Coors Brewery. There are many outdoor recreational activities to enjoy, including white water kayaking on Clear Creek and biking and hiking along the town’s trails. The Colorado Railroad Museum is located nearby, and you can also take a drive up Lookout Mountain and visit Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum. Be sure to visit the Coors Brewery, the largest single-site brewery in the world which offers free tours daily with free samples of beer! The downtown has many restaurants and shops, and be sure to get your picture taken in front of the famous Golden sign.
Buena Vista (1 hr 50 min drive)
Buena Vista is located along the Arkansas River and has magnificent views of the Collegiate Peaks. The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway runs along Hwy. 24 right through town and is named for mounts Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia which are located directly west of town. A mountain town with an interesting history, Buena Vista and the surrounding area have many outdoor adventures to enjoy to include hiking and ATV trails, and the Arkansas River for fishing, rafting, and kayaking. There are also many local shops, restaurants, and the Eddyline Brewery to enjoy. Don’t forget to visit nearby Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, the ghost town of St. Elmo and skiing at Monarch Mountain.
Salida (2 hrs)
Salida is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains along the Arkansas River. It boasts a historic downtown with tree-lined streets and red brick buildings that offers many art galleries and restaurants from cafes to fine dining. You can also enjoy great biking, hiking and rock climbing in the surrounding areas. An Aerial Adventure Park is a new addition to the town’s attractions. Every year in June, the town hosts a festival called FIBArk or “First In Boating the Arkansas.” The festival focuses on whitewater boat races, and paddlers from around the nation and world come to compete.
Out of the Ordinary Outside of Denver
Dinosaur Ridge (1 hr 30 min drive)
Dinosaur Ridge is a National Natural Landmark located just to the west of Denver. It has been ranked as the top dinosaur track site in the United States. It features Jurassic dinosaur bones, such as Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus, and Cretaceous dinosaur footprints. Guided tours can be arranged through the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge. A guidebook is available for use on self-guided tours.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre (1 hr 40 min drive)
Recently designated a National Historic Landmark, Red Rocks Park, and Amphitheatre is a must visit destination in Colorado. It is well known for its picture perfect setting with flawless natural acoustics where outdoor concerts are held all summer. Not only can you catch a concert but you can also view a movie, do yoga, run the steps or take a hike along the trails in the park. Red Rock’s Ship Rock Grill features Colorado-themed dishes which can be enjoyed on the patio with views of the surrounding area.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary (2 hrs)
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a 720-acre rescue and educational facility located 30 miles east of Denver. It is the largest sanctuary in the world for rescued lions, tigers, and bears. The sanctuary is unique because you can view lion prides and groups of other carnivores living in natural habitats from the ”Mile Into the Wild” elevated walkway. There are almost 20 species of animals on site. The facility also includes a new a gift shop, cafeteria-style restaurant and ice cream shop.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Colorado is ‘THE’ destination for skiing and snowboarding in the country. With its blue-bird skies and abundant fresh, dry powder, it is a destination for not only families but also adventurous skiers and boarders looking for expert only terrain. Colorado has not only some of the largest resorts in the nation but also smaller, family-friendly slopes. Colorado’s 25 ski resorts open earlier and stay open later (October to late April) than any others in the nation. Many are within a few hours of Colorado Springs. Here is a list of a few of the ski resorts within a few hours of Colorado Springs. Weather and if the resort is located along I-70, traffic on weekends can add substantially to the drive time.
- Loveland (2 hrs)
- Eldora Mountain Resort (2 hrs 15 min)
- Breckenridge (2 hrs 15 min)
- Keystone (2 hrs 25 mins)
- Monarch Mountain (2 hrs 20 min)
- Vail (2 hrs 40 min)
- Ski Cooper (2 hrs 40 min)
Pay it Forward
There are so many places to see and things to do within a few hours of the Schriever AFB. Pack the kids in that car and hit the road and explore the great state of Colorado! And consider helping out your fellow military families by leaving a Schriever housing, neighborhood, REALTOR®, or moving company review on PCSgrades.com.
PCSgrades Author: Paige Keyser is a proud Air Force spouse who lives in northern Virginia with her husband and their two boys. She has spent the last 20 years exploring the world and United States courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. She has lived in Japan and nine different states on this crazy journey. Paige says wouldn’t give up the experiences she’s had, friends she’s made or memories of the places she’s visited for anything. She enjoys drinking coffee, wine, and good beer, loves flowers and plants, and spends way too much time surfing the web ‘researching’ topics she finds interesting.