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On Day 2, we made the drive from Palo Duro Canyon to Colorado Springs via the Raton Pass outside Raton, NM. Once you get outside Clayton, NM, you start seeing some nice terrain. You even pass the Capulin Volcano National Monument and what appears to be volcanic rock strewn about, I'm assuming from when the volcano was active.
The Raton Pass climbs to nearly 8,000 feet before dropping back down to 5,000 feet heading to Pueblo, CO and into Colorado Springs which is at 6,000 feet. Upon arriving into Colorado Springs, we first visited the famed Garden of the Gods. In the Garden of the Gods, you can climb all over and around large and extremely interesting rock formations. Kids can crawl under and atop the giant sandstone features. There are also many trails that can be hiked. You could spend days wandering around the park, which is free to all visitors.
We unfortunately only had a short time in the park, but we look forward to going back. I would highly recommend spending a full day exploring this park, having a picnic and seeing all there is to see in this beautiful place.
We left Garden of the Gods, and after a delicious Mexican dinner, we ventured up to Seven Falls. Unfortunately, I don't have a good camera for taking night photos, but you can check the pictures out for yourself on their website. I do have one decent picture of me and the 3 kids who chose to make the climb.
While I'm sure it is impressive during the day to see, it is best seen at night when they have the falls lit up with various lighting effects. There are two sets of stairs which can be climbed, one is 188 feet right next to the falls and the other is 224 feet set back about 100 yards or so which gives you a full appreciation of the entire fall. The stairs are very steep, but have great handrails and are extremely sturdy. If you aren't looking forward to the 224 foot climb, you can take an elevator which has been built into the mountainside taking you to the top where there is an observation deck.
The next morning, we went to Manitou Springs to catch the Pike's Peak Cog Railway. I'm sure everyone has heard of the 14,115 foot Pike's Peak, and that there is a road which takes you to the top. For those who are not as adventurous in the driving department, or who have family members who don't like driving along a road with no shoulder which can plummet you 1,000 feet down a hill, I suggest you check in to the Cog Railway. It's a Swiss Train which takes you up a fairly straight path to the top of Pike's Peak. At points, the train will ascend/descend at a 25% grade. A steep road is considered to be 10% grade. The train takes about 1.5 hours to go from the base at around 9,000 feet to the peak at 14,115 feet. I suggest booking your reservations at least 5 days in advance to ensure you get on a train at the time you want. Otherwise, you will be like us and hope you get lucky (as we did) and get on as a walk-up. It apparently doesn't cost anything to make a reservation, so book early.
Atop Pike's Peak, it is going to be cold no matter what time of year you go. Our trip was in June and there was still quite a bit of snow on top. If you do take the train, know that you will only have 30 minutes or so at the Summit. That goes pretty quick. So if you and your family want to spend more time at the top, you might consider driving it. The drive takes about an hour to drive up and about 45 minutes to get back down. You should also know that staying too long at 14,115 feet can cause flatlanders to have symptons of altitude sickness.
All in all, Colorado Springs is a great place for a family trip and I highly recommend spending at least 2-3 days there.