Travel

Why Colorado should be on your travel destination list

Majestic mountains, stunning landscapes and the buzz of Denver makes Colorado a great introduction to the American West.

Colorado is the most American of landscapes, connected via a parade of show-stopping natural wonders at a Rocky Mountain altitude. 

Standing atop Colorado Springs’ most splendid natural marvel, Pikes Peak, I recall, “On a clear day, you can see forever”. However, instead of forever, I see a sea – a sea of powder puff clouds where the endless views should be. Pikes Peak’s cloudy spectacle doesn’t fit Barbra Streisand’s lyrics or how I envisioned the view. On clear days, climbers, drivers, and train trippers can see New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Oklahoma from North America’s most visited mountain. Even so, it feels heavenly. 

Pikes Peak inspired America the Beautiful, the United States’ unofficial national anthem. Since 1891, the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has transported millions to the mountain-top Summit Visitor Center and its warming, cinnamon doughnuts

Train in Colorado, USA
Historic Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Colorado, USA.

Our train is sleek, Swiss-built and fire engine red. Climbing from the naturally pine-scented Manitou Springs village takes an hour through romantically named granite outcrops, rising through autumn’s glowing, golden aspen groves. Before reaching the snowy summit dotted with marmot tracks, we spot moose, bighorn sheep and yellow-bellied marmots. Our conductor says summer brings black bears and sun-baking mountain lions to ‘Lion Rock’. 

Back down to earth and a short drive from Pikes Peak, we walk through the impressive Garden of the Gods park. The state-of-the-art Visitor and Nature Centre details the geological history from before the dinosaurs via interactive exhibits and fascinating displays. 

Silhouetted against the warming deep blue sky, red and orange sandstone outcrops continue the evangelic theme with names like Tower of Babel and Pulpit Rock. We take our time along the family-friendly Perkins Central Garden Trail and watch rappelling climbers take on the sandstone giants. 

Grand Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, USA.
Grand Sand Dunes National Park.

Glamorous gateway to the West 

Shrewd mining tycoon Spencer Penrose transformed Colorado Springs with unbridled hedonism. He opened his showpiece, The Broadmoor resort, in 1918, on the shores of Cheyenne Lake and in the shadows of Cheyenne Mountain. I’m dazzled by Penrose’s bravado and the sprawling resort’s elegant opulence. 

Here, day-trippers and guests alike eat fish and chips at the transplanted 19th-century English pub, rejuvenate at The Spa and marvel at the USA’s most significant private American Western art collection featuring heroic Frederic Remington bronzes. 

Heading south, the Arkansas River Scenic Highway hugs its sparkling silver-blue namesake. Autumn-gilded trees light up the mountains while wader-clad fishermen catch trophy trout below. 

Sky capsule in Colorado, USA
Aerial gondolas at Royal Gorge, Colorado, USA.

Over an hour from Colorado Springs, the nation’s highest suspension bridge spans the Arkansas at Royal Gorge. Built in 1929 to take in the gorge’s staggering views, ‘America’s Bridge’ is strollable and perfect for watching those with a need for speed aboard the Cloudscraper Zip Line. We opt for the spectacle from the Aerial Gondola. 

Heading further south, we make our way to the 604-squarekm Great Sand Dunes National Park outside Alamosa and its particularly surreal ‘high desert’ landscape. Barely changed in millennia, North America’s tallest dunes feel out of place against the alpine backdrop.

Discover Denver, Colorado

At the edge of the epic Rocky Mountains, Denver is the perfect jumping-off point for nature lovers, hikers, skiers and climbers. But the city’s clear mountain air and cultural offerings also make it an ideal urban escape. Denver’s heart is the palatial Beaux-arts masterpiece Union Station in the revitalised Lower Downtown – home to many of Denver’s best attractions, food, museums and hotels. Music lovers follow their favourite bands to the atmospheric, man-made Red Rocks Amphitheatre just west of the city. 

Downtown Denver, Colorado, USA.

WHAT TO SEE 

· With interactive, mind-bending exhibits, Meow Wolf takes you into outer space with rooms that challenge your brain’s perception of reality. 

· Denver Art Museum is an architectural masterpiece with 70,000+ works and extensive indigenous collections. 

· The grand Colorado State Capitol commemorates the gold rush from its magnificent gold dome to its resplendent pink onyx pillars. 

WHERE TO STAY 

· The city’s oldest hotel, The Oxford, for classic charm. 

· The Maven Hotel for chic, contemporary and boutique. 

· The Crawford Hotel for magnificent opulence and its prime Union Station location. 

WHERE TO EAT 

· Mercantile Dining and Provision at Union Station, where marketplace meets innovative, contemporary food. 

· Guard and Grace – from martinis to prime rib; it’s what every steakhouse wants to be. 

· Ash’Kara is a 2023 Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant with a modern Middle-Eastern menu.

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