Dreaming of that beach vacation in Hawaii? Or maybe spring skiing in the Alps?If your budget is lacking or the boss won’t let you have that much time off, there are plenty of things to do right here in your own backyard. The possibilities are endless. Besides world-class skiing, check out other options for a Colorado vacation during spring break or anytime at all.Of course, the Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy, Seven Falls and the Pikes Peak train are just a few miles away, but here are a couple that don’t often get their due.
- Paint Mines Interpretative Park: Explore the rock formations, prairie grasses, sandstone hoodoos, and perennial wetlands along the two-plus mile trails. Kids will also enjoy the wildlife, such as short-horned lizards dashing through the rocks, hawks soaring overhead and the crooning of the meadowlarks. The Paint Mines are located south of Calhan and open every day from dawn to dusk.
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument: Did you know that Colorado used to be home to redwood trees? OK, it was 35 million years ago but you can still view the remainder of these giants in their petrified form just 30 miles west of the Springs off Highway 24. Stop at the visitor’s center and look at the prehistoric fossils of plants and insects. There are 12 miles of hiking trails, and rangers give tours hourly. Hornbeck Homestead also is on the site and reveals the life of early pioneers in the area.
- Mesa Verde National Park: Spanish for “Green Table,” Mesa Verde is located 35 miles west of Durango; the park is an archeological time machine. Step back and view the lives of the Anasazi peoples that inhabited the area for more than 700 years. Explore the cliff dwellings and mesa top villages on self-guided tours or sign up for a ranger tour. You can also drive around the park and view the canyons, as well as numerous scenic pullouts. Beware that to really see all of the archeological sites and the beautiful landscape, you will need two days!
- Estes Park: The Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the town of Estes Park is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. There is no shortage of things to do during any season. Take the kids to Hidden Valley inside Rocky Mt. National Park for a day of sledding. Even if it is snow free and warm in town, there’s sure to be some great sledding in the former ski resort. And there are plentiful hiking opportunities. The town itself is full of restaurants, stores and boutiques that are sure to delight all ages.
- Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: This historic coal-fired, steam- powered train runs daily during the summer from Durango to Silverton through the San Juan Mountains. Through May 5, the train turns around at Cascade Canyon. It’s worth the trip. The winter landscapes are breathtaking and the comfy old fashioned coach cars are fully enclosed. There also is an open-air gondola that provides unobstructed views. Food and restrooms are available on board. Reservations required.
- Glenwood Springs: Centered between Aspen and Vail, Glenwood Springs is a winter wonderland. Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool and Sunlight Mountain Resort have teamed up to offer a winter package that combines the best of both. Ski during the day and receive unlimited admission to the pool. For the adventurous, try the snowmobile tour at the Sunlight Mountain Resort. The two-hour tour, with 360 degree views, takes you through the majestic White River National Forest. The 30-mile trip also includes a visit to Baylor Park, where you can ride without the tour across huge meadows.
- Buena Vista: Have you heard of the “Banana Belt?” If not, then you really must visit Buena Vista! Ninety miles from Colorado Springs in the middle of “Fourteener Country,” Buena Vista offers the best of all seasons. Head a bit north and you will find skiing, sledding, snowmobiling. Or stay closer to town and bask in the relatively warm sunshine. The mountains protect the valley and provide it with a mild and dry climate. Whether it’s hiking trails with scenery that will leave you breathless, observing wildlife from your vehicle (safer for you and the animals) or a trip to Salida to soak in Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, be sure to bring the camera to capture all the memories.