Travel expenses can add up very quickly. Between eating out, staying in hotels, and all the Activities You’ve Planned, sometimes a trip can definitely set you back a few bucks. So we’ve compiled a list of all the best free things to do in Colorado Springs. And there are quite a few epic things on this list. From natural wonders, to museums, these free things should definitely be on the top of your list when visiting the Colorado Springs area.
The best Free things to do in Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods
Over 1,000 square feet of one of the most incredible geological wonders of the world, and absolutely no admission fee required. The Garden of the Gods park is free today due to a generous gift from land owners son in 1907. They stipulated that the Garden would always be free to enjoy, so everyone could appreciate it like he did.
The park offers a variety of activities, including hiking, horse back riding, and even a Segway tour. You can also choose to visit by car, which can be the perfect amount of low impact and low stress after a day of rigorous adventures. You can grab a map at the visitor center, or download one from the website. A popular time to visit the park is early evening, just before sunset or golden hour, when the light is perfect for great photos.
The Manitou Incline
You will need to be in pretty good physical condition for this next activity, at least to make it all the way to the top. With over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, a total of 2,768 steps, all that altitude gain in less than a mile, this extremely strenuous activity comes with big pay off in the views department.
Currently utilizing a reservation system, you’ll have to make your plan in advance, but the online reservation is totally free. There is limited parking in the area, but you can utilize the free shuttle from Manitou Springs. You just might want to keep in mind there might be a small charge for parking.
The Incline has a unique history that ties it to a popular destination in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak. Originally built as a cable car to carry building supplies up to the mountain, and later turned into a tourist attraction, the Incline took on its current state after a rock slide in 1990. The track of the cable car was damaged beyond repair, and the tracks were removed, leaving the railroad ties like a staircase just challenging hiking extremists to climb it.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
To the east of Colorado Springs, you will find the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. This geological park is made up of formations of hoodoos, colored clay and sandstone-capped spires, and is open and totally free for visitors. Named for the multiple layers of clay that get their colors from oxidized iron, and were used by the Indigenous Peoples of the area, to create paints.
The park consists of multiple trails, with over 4 miles to explore. But, if you have mobility issues, don’t let that stop you from visiting. The park offers multiple overlook lots, with absolutely amazing views just steps away from the parking lot. If you choose to venture down into the mines trails, remember that these areas are very delicate and susceptible to erosion, so it is crucial to stay on the marked paths.
To the south of Colorado Springs, you’ll find Bishop Castle. This intricate and eccentric castle has become a road side attraction drawing visitors for years. Built exclusively by one man, Jim Bishop, it is clearly evident that he made this castle his life’s work. Originally acquiring the land in the 1960s for less than $500, he has continued building and decorating the castle to this day.
There is no admission to visit the castle, but donations are always appreciated. Bishop remembers when he was unable to visit local attractions due to high admission fees, so he wants to ensure his castle is accessible to everyone. The surrounding forest area and the ornate stone and glass work make a visit to the Bishop Castle a truly magical experience.
Peterson Air & Space Museum
A visit to the Peterson Air & Space Museum comes with no admission cost, but does require some pre-planning. Because the museum is on the base, there are heightened security procedures. If you carry a DoD ID, you are welcome to visit the museum anytime, and escort guests with you. If you do not carry a DoD ID, you will need to contact the museum at least 3 days before your visit to submit your request.
But a little bit of pre-planning is definitely with the hassle to visit this museum. You can get up close and personal to the aircraft in the airpark, and tour the Medal of Honor memorial. Venture out past the museum on your way out and see a ballistic missile, a Warhawk and a Starfighter, if only just to marvel at their impressive size.
Helen Hunt Waterfalls
Not named after the actress, but rather a famous author from the area, the Helen Hunt Falls is a great easy, a very low strenuous hike. The Falls themselves can be seen from the parking lot, making that view accessible to anyone who visits. The drive on the way up through North Cheyenne Cañon Park is also quite enjoyable, especially for someone from the flattest state in the East.
If you are up for a little more uphill adventure, you can follow the path up and behind the waterfall. Only .3 miles, and you will reach the top of the mountain, where the waterfall originates. It may be a short walk, but it is steep. The parking and hike are both free, but consider picking up a bottle of water at the visitor center to help keep hydrated on your hike, and support the staff that help keep this waterfall beautiful.
You are going to have to spend a little bit of gas to get to this one, which we know is not cheap right now! But The Skyline Drive scenic roadway is worth filling up the tank for. Located near Canon City, the driving is not for new drivers, or those who are afraid of heights. There are drop-offs on either side, but if you can brave it, the pay off is worth it.
The one-way drive takes you 3 miles up the ridge of a mountain. You’ll enjoy views of Canon City, and the Arkansas River Valley. Canon City keeps this drive free for visitors as a way to thank them for visiting its unique city and learning about all the things it has to offer.
Colorado Springs is so full of adventures, its hard to pack everything in to just one visit. But with all of these free amazing activities, it is easy to see why it is a top destination in the state. We will definitely be back some day.