Colorado Springs: The Perfect Mother-Son Adventure! Learn the Top Activities and Adventures in Colorado Springs that your son will find amazing!
Every year, Lt. Dan and I each like to take one of our kids on a special getaway. This relaxed one-on-one time provides opportunities for reconnection, tough adolescent talks, tons of laughs, and memory making.
This year was my chance to take Carson on a mommy-son adventure. Planning our vacation took a little more effort than planning my girls’ trip with Ava last year.
Although Carson and I have a strong bond, we do not always enjoy the same activities. He’s into all the standard 13 year old boy stuff and, well… I’m not.
However, we both love music and the great outdoors, so an idea began to form.
It started with the thought of taking Carson to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver, Colorado. At first we planned our trip around seeing one of his favorite bands live, Imagine Dragons.
Yet I wanted him to also experience the Rockies, and make unforgettable memories in nature, as I did when I was young. So the day after the concert we headed south to one of my very favorite places, Colorado Springs.
There are so many wonderful towns in Colorado. The whole state is a wealth of natural beauty, with little wonders around every turn.
Yet when planning a trip to Colorado, there is one place that offers an abundance of things to see and do, all in close proximity… Meaning less driving!
This one place, Colorado Springs, is a must for all Colorado vacationers.
Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and the Royal Gorge are just three of the most well-known attractions in the area. Yet, Colorado Springs offers unique activities for every personality, interest, and age.
Colorado Springs: The Perfect Mother-Son Adventure
Carson and I had a packed three days in Colorado Springs! Here’s what we did…
Manitou Springs Incline
Our adventure started at the bottom of the infamous Manitou Springs Incline, a steep uphill staircase originally built along a tramline in the early 1900’s.
The tramline was developed to aid in the construction of waterlines. Yet when it was no longer needed for building, it was immediately turned into a cable tram ride for tourists, which brought recognition to the little town of Manitou Springs, right outside Colorado Springs.
After decades of operating as a tourist attraction, the tram was closed down due to rockslide damage. Since then, the wooden steps once used to repair the tramline, have been expanded and reinforced for the many hikers and athletes that dare to take on The Incline on foot!
The Manitiou Springs Incline rises 2000 feet in elevation, in just under 1 mile, with an astounding 2768 wooden steps.
Carson and I thought, “We’re in pretty good shape… What’s 1 mile?” A mindset I’m sure we shared with many people who take on The Incline for the first time.
But friends, the Incline is a real challenge. Especially if you do not normally live at high altitudes. After the first 500 steps we started needing water breaks every 15-20 steps. This continued for an hour until we finally reached the top.
Was it frustrating? Yes. Was it exhausting? Yes. Did we think we might die? Yes.
Was it worth it? YES!
Taking on The Incline is a bucket list check-off for anyone with an adventurous spirit and a good pair of lungs.
The views at every level of the journey are utterly astounding, with the added satisfaction of skipping past step markers and saying, “Take THAT step 1100!”
At the top of The Incline you will find a beautiful park with hiking trails and lookouts all around.
You can walk/run down The Incline, but it is not recommended. (You will be quite fatigued at the top.) Instead, follow the smooth rambling Bar Trail that leads back down to Manitou Springs.
Carson and I struggled to the top, then delighted at our achievement. Yet what we found even more amazing was that once we headed down Bar Trail, we got our second wind and jogged the rest of the way down. #GoTeamCollier
If you plan to take on the Manitiou Springs Incline make sure to take sunscreen, good hiking shoes, and a whole lot of water. One little water bottle will not cut it.
The altitude, sun, dry climate, and exercise suck the moisture out of you quickly, putting you in danger of altitude sickness. Carson and I both took our Hydration Backpacks and still found ourselves conversing a little for the way down.
Climbing The Incline is a serious workout, offering a love-hate experience, and a huge sense of accomplishment at the end!
Years ago Lt. Dan and I hiked Pikes Peak, a daunting 13.5 mile uphill battle to reach over 14, 100 feet in elevation. This climb takes you above the timberline, where trees cannot grow and the world looks like a foreign barren place. We started at dawn, knowing if we didn’t reach the top in time for the last shuttle down the mountain, we would be in some deep trouble.
It was an intimidating, yet rewarding day.
However, this was not something I wanted to do again 20+ years later, with my 13 year old son and questionable knees.
I wanted him to experience the wonders of Pikes Peak… The lush Aspen-lined trails, the seemingly endless views, and the feeling of taking in deep breaths of cold scanty air. Yet without the need for days of acclimating to the elevation and training. After all, our mommy-son was meant to be fun!
We discovered Bike Peaks Peak, a company that leads bike rides down the mountain, and felt this was the perfect fit for our trip.
Carson and I boarded a shuttle bus first thing in the morning with our two guides. They spent the next 40 minutes or so sharing colorful history about the mountain, as we puttered up the winding slopes.
At the top the air was thin and cold. So cold in fact, that we needed gloves and hats in July. Yet the views from the top were just as astounding as I remembered them!
Once we started down the mountain the temperature warmed and we found ourselves shedding layers every time we stopped to take photos.
We zipped down the mountain’s main road with a guide in the front and one behind to keep us safe. Although I am not an avid biker, like Carson, I felt secure the entire time, which allowed me to take in the majesty without care or concern.
The speed, views, and fresh cool air were exhilarating. What a way to experience Pikes Peak!
Biking down Pikes Peak was a huge highlight of our trip. I highly recommend Bike Pikes Peak Tours!
Not only did it provide great mommy-son bonding moments, and incredible photo opts, I also gained a few “cool mom” points after we discovered our group was the second fastest tour Bike Pikes Peak had ever led down the mountain.
The tour ended with a lovely lunch in Old Colorado City.
Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center
Carson and I both love animals. So when we heard there was an education center dedicated to the preservation of American wolves, we were all in!
A short drive outside of Colorado Springs, you will find the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, a place you can learn about, interact with, and howl with wolves.
All the stunning creatures living at the center have been rescued from various situations, and can no longer live in the wild. These animals are well cared for, and participate in programs that help create awareness for wolf species that have come the the brink of extinction.
Carson and I went on the Wolf Feeding Tour where we learned about many varieties are American wolves, and the benefit of repopulating their packs in the wild. Oh, and we got to watch huge wolves chow down on massive chunks of raw meat. Win-win!
The highlight of the tour was the traditional howling ceremony at the end.
Our guide taught us how to howl in a way that would resonate with the wolves. After one long group howl, the wolves chimed in with a symphony of echoing replies.
Garden Of The Gods
Garden of the Gods is the #1 attraction in Colorado Springs for good reason. It’s free to visit, easy to access, and stunning to behold.
You can hike or bike around the giant slabs of jagged red stone, impaling the earth. You can also take a Jeep or Segway tour for a little added adventure and information.
However, Carson and I decided to climb the rocks, for a LOT of added adventure!
It’s been years since I have rock climbed, and this was Carson’s first time. Therefore we went on a beginners day trip with Front Range Climbing.
Having our own guide to train us, encourage us, and keep us safe was definitely the way to go.
We gained so much confidence in the first hour, we were able to take on more challenging rock faces, climbing higher than we thought was possible.
Feeling intense pride mingled with fear, watching my baby scale the rocks, was a special moment I will never forget.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
Our last adventure in Colorado Springs was a trip to Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. Over a century ago, two boys stumbled upon the cave, and it’s been an attraction for daring travelers ever since!
This amazing land mark and fun park offers family activities for every age.
There are several types of caves tours to experience, including a lantern tour to encounter the cave as the first visitor did.
At Cave of the Winds Mountain Park you will also find:
- Gem Mining
- Ropes Course
- Simulated Rides
- The Bat-A-Pult zipline ride
- The Terror-Dactyl ride, in which you and a friend plunge face-first into a canyon
- And Via Ferrata
Carson and I had so much fun wondering through the cave, and testing our courage on various rides. The combination of entertainment and natural beauty make Cave of the Winds Mountain Park perfect activity for mother-son vacations.
For those not familiar with Via Ferrata, this method of using cables and ladders to scale rock walls is fun and safe, because you are attached to a safety line the entire time. First created in WWI, soldiers used Via Ferrata to navigate through rock terrain in Europe.
However, it’s a great first-step into the world of rock climbing! If you’ve always wanted climb, but keep chickening out, give Via Ferrata a try.
More Adventures In Or Near Colorado Springs
These excursions filled three glorious days of fun. However, if you plan to stay longer in Colorado Springs consider adding these adventures and tours to your itinerary…
- Whitewater Rafting In The Royal Gorge
- Horseback Riding On Rambling Trails
- Take A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over The Mountains
- Visit The United States Air Force Academy
- Go To Fly Fishing Camp At The Broadmoor
- Hike in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
- Cruise Through An ATV Tour
- Check Out Historical And Quirky Museums
- Stroll The Charming Streets Of Downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, And Manitou Springs
Where To Eat In Colorado Springs
Some of our travel experiences are all about the local cuisine. However, on this trip Carson and I spent more time playing, than hunting down delicious delicacies. Even so, we had several notable meals worth adding to your city checklist.
- The Omelette Parlor – Massive portions, retro favorites, and uniquely Colorado breakfast offerings.
- Phantom Canyon Brewing Company – Local beer and pub grub in the heart of Downtown Colorado Springs.
- The Mason Jar – Classic comfort food in a rustic lodge setting.
- Front Range BBQ – Colorado BBQ at its finest! Be sure to order the Brisket Sandwich.
- Eim Thai – A casual diner with unique spins on traditional Thai cuisine.
- Pikes Peak Lemonade – Not so much a restaurant, as a fun stop for nostalgic refreshment. Try the ginger lemonade!
Colorado Springs Packing List
If you are headed to The Springs in the winter, it’s important to have many warm layers for the cold mountain climate. Yet even though the daytime hours can be very warm spring through fall, Colorado evenings tend to be cool.
It’s also important to factor in your activities and the altitude you plan to reach during your trip. If mountain climbing is in the game plan, layers are necessary, even in the summer.
- Layers: Long and short sleeve shirts, shorts, and pants for evenings
- Jacket, hat, and gloves (in all seasons if heading for high altitudes)
- Hiking or tennis shoes
- Lip Balm
- Water bottle (It’s very important to stay hydrated at high altitudes.)
- Swimsuit (for hotel pools and hot springs)
Learn more about planning a vacation in Colorado Springs at the Colorado Springs Visitors Bureau. There you will find addition activities, hotels, dining tips, plus the seasonal festival and events calendar!
Disclosure: We were hosted by Visit Colorado Springs. All opinions and travel tips are our own.