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.


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; Or if you’re advanced enough in the saddle to DIY, tackle the rigorous Barr Trail (


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 (


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; 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; In town, try the Holden House 1902 Bed & Breakfast Inn, a restored Victorian home and carriage house (