The Rocky Mountains are the birthplace of the Arkansas River, the most popular river in the United States. It is also perfect for white water rafting, whether you want to go for a half day, or turn it into a multi-day trip extravaganza. There are many different rafting routes depending on your level of expertise, from family-friendly to expert Class IV.
Mesa Verde (green table in Spanish) is located in southwest Colorado. The area was deemed a national park in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. It is a gorgeous national park and World Heritage site that preserves ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings, and is an ideal destination for history and nature lovers alike. Grab your walking shoes and bring your camera when you visit Mesa Verde.
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Cliff Palace and Balcony House are ancient cliff dwellings that the ancestral Pueblo Indians inhabited in the 12th and 13th centuries. Located in Mesa Verde National Park, both are World Heritage Sites and National Monuments. Balcony House had forty-five rooms and two kivas (ovens), and it can only be accessed on ranger-guided tours. Tour participants must climb a thirty-two foot ladder and then crawl through a twelve-foot tunnel to access Balcony House.
Today, the museum is a center for education, research, and tourism. It is centered on family experiences and holds permanent collections and rotating exhibits. Displays of and about dinosaurs, robots, space, weather, and expert docents give every visitor a memorable trip, and the planetarium and the IMAX theater have revolving shows and delight all ages. An innovative children’s center is perfect for visits with young children.
Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A designated National Natural Landmark, the park draws in visitors from all over the country and many international travelers. These gorgeous sandstone formations were discovered by surveyors out from Denver; upon seeing the rocks merged with the Great Plains’ grasslands that meet the woodlands of the Southwest and mountain forests of Pike Peak, they declared it looked like a garden fit for the gods.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is dedicated to conservation, captive breeding of endangered species, and comprehensive animal care. It aims to give every visitor an experience that will last them a lifetime. Founded in 1926, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is, as the name implies, on the slope of a mountain, affording both visitors and animals fabulous views, though it requires stout walking shoes and a degree of physical fitness.
Coloradans are outdoor enthusiasts, and one of their beloved hiking spots is Hanging Lake. The Hanging Lake Trail sits off Interstate 70, just 10mi (16km) east of the town of Glenwood Springs. The trail itself is short, just a little over a mile, but it can be a challenging hike because it’s steep and rocky. However, reaching the end is worth it. Hanging Lake is a unique geological feature, complete with a stunning hanging garden.
The National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs focuses on education, primarily in helping visitors and K-12 students understand the role of aviation in the Second World War and how it shaped our world. The museum has twenty-two flyable aircraft in a hangar adjacent to both the Colorado Springs airport and Peterson AFB. In a second hangar visitors can watch volunteers restore World War II planes.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science began with one man, Edwin Carter, who in 1868 moved to a one-room cabin high in the Rocky Mountains and singlehandedly amassed the largest collection of Colorado fauna in existence. In 1908, the museum in Denver formally opened, and it made world headlines when in 1926 museum researchers found fossil proof that North America was inhabited over 10,000 years ago.
While its Denver counterpart might be more popular, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is the most interesting Colorado zoo experience you’ll find. It sits about 6,800ft (2,073m) above sea level and features exhibits built into the mountainside. You can also feed the giraffes, ride an open chairlift over the zoo, walk through an aviary of free-flying birds and expect plenty of animal encounters.
Cross the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and see the many lakes, creeks and mountain ranges – there are 8 ranges in total. Climb Coney Summit, it’s 13,334 feet above sea level. Take a load off your feet and take a horseback ride, or grab a mountain bike. Explore the old mining towns and ancient Indian trails, and you can even treat yourself to a night or two at a ski resort while you’re there.