Day 1: If you do only one thing in Colorado Springs, make it a visit to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. With exhibits devoted to the history of rodeo, the Hall of Champions, and an entire gallery currently showcasing Chris LeDoux, the Hall of Fame is a must for any cowboy or rodeo fan. Next, head to the Garden of the Gods, home of incredible red rock formations born of a geological upheaval millions of years ago. During summer months, take a Van Tour through the park or saddle up with Academy Riding Stables to see the natural wonder from horseback (trailer-ins welcome). If you elect to stay on foot, take the one-mile Perkins Central Garden Trail to see the park’s largest rock formations, or choose to walk along any of the 15 miles of foot-trails, varying in difficulty from mild to intense. Stop in at the Visitor and Nature Center to learn more about the park’s history and the geological region itself, and grab a late lunch or early dinner on the outdoor patio of the Marigold Café and Bakery.
Day 2: The view from Pikes Peak is an unbeatable experience, but the grueling 12.6-mile hike covers a 7,500-foot elevation change and requires a 2 a.m. departure to reach the summit before afternoon storms. The trek is much easier from inside a car along The Cog Railway, the highest train in the northern hemisphere, which departs daily from Manitou Springs and travels the 8.9 miles of track to the top of this Colorado fourteener. Ward off altitude sickness with a cake donut from the café at the Summit House, and if you’re feel inspired, take the strenuous hike down the Barr Trail back to Manitou Springs. Recover with a hearty meal and home-brewed beer at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co, located in the historic 1907 Cheyenne Hotel.
Day 3: Enjoy a homestyle breakfast at Mountain Shadows Restaurant, where they feature all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy once a week, then head south to your pre-arranged adventure at the Chico Basin Ranch, a working guest ranch that features horseback riding, concerts, hunting, and fishing. If you’re a western music buff, call ahead to the Western Jubilee Recording Company for a tour or a copy of one of their artists’ CDs, including albums from Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, and Michael Martin Murphey. Meet back at Rudy’s Country Store and Barbeque to pick up any last minute gifts while enjoying quality barbeque.