Photo: People rafting in Colorado

The Royal Gorge, accessible from Colorado Springs, offers the best continuous whitewater rafting in Colorado.

Photograph by VisitCOS

Pop. 414, 658
GPS: 38°51'N 104°45'W

Apparently Pike National Forest—a 1.1-million-acre (445,154-hectare) spread of sky-piercing peaks and mythic fly-fishing waters—wasn’t enough green space for Colorado Springers. So in 1997 the city created a conservation program that has preserved 6,000 more acres (2,428 more hectares) nearby. The newest tract is rugged Red Rock Canyon—already a local climbing favorite.

PLAY

Great hiking and biking are just west of town on Pikes Peak. Sign on for a novice-friendly a.m. trailride ($115 per person, including meals, bike and helmet rental, and permit fees; www.bikithikit.com/pikes-peak-biking.htm). Or if you’re advanced enough in the saddle to DIY, tackle the rigorous Barr Trail (www.pikes-peak.com).

EAT

Phantom Canyon Brewing Company makes the best of beer—Screamin’ Adam’s Scottish Ale, Phantom I.P.A.—and good, old fashioned bar food fried calamari, wings, artichoke dip (www.phantomcanyon.com).

SLEEP

The Chico Basin Ranch, about 35 minutes southeast of town, is an 87,000-acre (35,208-hectare) spread of sprawling sand sage prairie, lakes, and streams, home to coyote, badgers, and prairie dogs. For a week, you can live on the working cattle ranch, owned by the state of Colorado, and learn traditional, sustainable ranching practices first-hand (from $1,695 per person for six days; www.chicobasinranch.com). You can also spend the night at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, where you can swim, boat or fish on their 35-acre (14-hectare) lake (doubles from $99; www.ccofcolorado.com). In town, try the Holden House 1902 Bed & Breakfast Inn, a restored Victorian home and carriage house (www.holdenhouse.com).

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