It’s not hard to understand the lifeblood of Manitou Springs. Just knowing the name gives it away. The Springs.
Coming right out of the fountains in the heart of town, naturally carbonated water spills to the surface. The man-made fountains connect to the natural springs and allow everyone to enjoy their life-giving force.
But that’s not the only thing going on here. Stroll down Manitou Avenue and stop at one of the many restaurants. Or grab some souvenirs and ice cream.
If you’d prefer taking the physical activity up a notch, no problem there either: head toward the famous Manitou Incline. Your heart will be racing in no time. And if you’re looking for a different type of adventure, cave exploration and thrill rides are just up the road at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
Manitou Springs is a great item to add to your agenda for exploring Colorado. Whether it’s a quick stop or a longer visit, everyone can find something memorable to do in Manitou Springs.
Our Journey into Manitou Springs, Colorado
We stopped in Manitou Springs at the very beginning of our overlanding expedition on a warm September day on our way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We had just camped slightly north of Manitou Springs near the town of Deckers. After a nice sunrise hike and a quick breakfast at the campsite, we drove south.
As we pulled off the highway and onto Manitou Avenue, we started to get that vibe you can only feel in small mountain towns. It’s a magical feeling where you know the people are laid-back and happy, full of adventure and life.
After doing a quick drive past the highlights of the city, we stopped the car. Then realized we were in a pay parking area. So we drove two blocks away, then parked the car, and walked back into town. (If you’re a fellow cheapskate, the paid parking area stops around D&D Liquor Store on the north side of town.)
Manitou Springs – Water Fountains
After passing by the Soda Springs Park, we came face to face with our first Manitou Springs water fountain: Cheyenne Spring. And to be honest, it was weird. The water was constantly flowing, which seemed almost wasteful. Mineral deposits cover the fountain, proof that there is more to this liquid than the eye can see.
The water in Manitou Springs comes from deep underground aquifers. As the water slowly erodes away limestone deposits in the aquifers, carbonic acid is created, filling the water with carbonation and pushing it up through various cracks and rocks – picking up trace amounts of minerals – until it reaches the surface. Since the water for each spring reaches the surface through different routes, the mineral composition and the taste at each fountain is unique.
It takes thousands of years for the water to make this journey, so it’s free of industrial and atmospheric contamination. The Ute people were known to pay homage to the springs, putting a lot of faith in their life-giving and medical powers. Many people still believe this water is special and healthy.
So we gave it a shot. Put the water bottle into the stream and tasted it. “It’s carbonated!” Kristina first exclaimed. Even though she knew it was full of gas before she tasted it, the feeling still surprised her after touching her lips. And it was delicious.
We kept walking down the street, stopping at all of the 8 springs we could fit into our day. They are all housed inside of custom fountains which are pieces of artwork themselves. But the water is undoubtedly the star of the show.
A map of the springs can be found on the Manitou Springs website and if you stop by the Chamber of Commerce (354 Manitou Ave), you can get a cup, a map, and a chart of the mineral makeup in each spring.
Where to Eat in Manitou Springs
After getting our fill of the amazing water, we decided it was time for a bite. And the options were plentiful. There are lots of restaurants in Manitou Springs and the nearby area.
Usually, we like to visit breweries to get a taste of the local drinks along with a bite. Manitou Brewing Company would have been our choice, but it was still early and they weren’t open yet. So we’ve had to bookmark this for a future date. But the reviews speak very highly of the beer and the food. Plus you can bring your dog on the patio! Hard to beat.
We spotted the Townhouse Sports Grill, which seemed to be the designated sports bar for Manitou Springs and had a nice outdoor patio. But there weren’t any games on and it was just opening up, so we kept looking.
That’s when we found Ruffrano’s Hell’s Kitchen Pizza. It looked great. Tons of different pizzas – slices and whole pies – good beer on tap, and generally friendly service. Great reputation for a nice pizza shop. But we just had pizza a couple days back.
Then we walked past Sahara Cafe, and we knew what our choice was. The wraps were affordable and the food was fresh. Plus, to no one’s surprise, the service was excellent. So we had some wraps on the sidewalk and took in the sights of town.
We opted to skip it, but the Colorado Custard Company was calling my name. Plenty of satisfied customers were munching down on their ice cream and custard in the street though.
Things to Do in Manitou Springs
So we had our fill of water and walked down Manitou Avenue a few times. Now we turn toward adventure and in Manitou Springs this usually means one thing.
The Manitou Incline is where 2,744 steps climb 2,000 feet in one mile (610 m over 1.6 km). It takes most people over 2 hours to complete the entire 4.5-mile round-trip journey. This is not a casual hike and if you are not in good shape, consider the other less strenuous trails around the area. Your heart will be racing on this intense climb.
The Incline is open from 6 AM to 6 PM. And the parking lot is not free, so it’s suggested to use the free Rt. 33 shuttle, which from downtown Manitou Springs to the base of the trail from 6 AM to 8 PM daily.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
Not up for that sort of hike? Then maybe the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is more up your alley. For more than a century, the Cave of the Winds has been entertaining visitors from all over.
The main attractions are the cave tours. You can do the family-friendly Discovery Tour, a more hands-on Lantern Tour, or an all-out Caving 101 tour. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll learn all about the history and geology of the cave while being inside of a natural wonder.
Once done with the cave, don’t leave just yet. There are adventure rides you have to conquer! Zip-lines are around, but there are a couple of rides that will fit the most adventurous appetites.
The Bat-A-Pault and the Terror-Dactyl are two unique rides that will satisfy the adrenaline spike you’ve been craving. Or perhaps you want to walk around on wooden beams perched over a 600 foot (183 m) drop. There is plenty to do for everyone at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
Miramont Castle Museum
Looking to understand a bit more about the culture and history of Manitou Springs? Or perhaps enjoy lunchtime in a beautiful tea room? Then stop at the Miramont Castle Museum, which is owned and operated by the Manitou Springs Historical Society.
You can take a self-guided tour which costs $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 6-12, and free for those under 6. It usually takes an hour or less. There are stairs inside of the house.
The Queen’s Parlor Tea Room is a modern take on the Victorian Era multi-course teas. The tea packages start at $17 per person and go up to $35 per person. Reservations are required. You can also stop in for lunch, reservations recommended but not required for lunch.
Other Nearby Attractions: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods
Manitou Springs is located close to two other very popular attractions: Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods.
Pikes Peak is one of Colorado’s 14er’s (mountains over 14,000 feet or 4,267 m). Ever wanted to reach that height, but don’t like hiking at 3 AM? Pikes Peak is for you since you can drive to the summit! The entrance fee is $15 per adult, $5 for children 6-15, or $50 for a carload of up to 5 people.
The drive usually takes 2-3 hours and there are many pit stops along the way, perfect for letting your car cool down or for taking in the views. Make sure you have over a half tank of gas and your car is in good condition (brakes and tires high priority). For current road conditions, call 719-385-7325 and press 1 twice. You can find more information about Pikes Peak right here.
The Garden of the Gods is another Colorado treasure. Located 5 miles northeast of Manitou Springs, this incredible attraction will cause your jaw to drop. Giant, red sandstone rocks jet out from the ground and reach hundreds of feet overhead.
The magnificent sandstone attractions are full of walking and hiking trails, an excellent visitor’s center, and views all around. You can do adventure tours (jeeps, Segways, and other activities), explore the park on your bike or by foot, and even go mountain climbing.
The story behind the Garden of the Gods is one that fills you with optimism for humanity. A railroad magnate named Charles Perkins owned the land around Garden of the Gods. He opened it up for public use because he thought it was too beautiful of a space to keep private.
After his death, Perkins’ children conveyed the 480-acre property to the City of Colorado Springs to be used for public use for eternity. So take a moment to thank Perkins and his family for being awesome!
There are plenty of options to visit these places and explore the area in a group tour. One of the local favorites is a jeep tour of the foothills and Garden of the Gods. Check out more information and book your reservation now!
Want to do a private tour instead? Then look at this tour from Aspire Tours which includes Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and the Incline!
Where to Stay When Visiting Manitou Springs
There is no shortage of places to stay in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Stay in town or camp nearby, the options are almost limitless.
If you want to stay in comfort near the heart of Manitou Springs, one of the top choices is the Avenue Hotel Bed and Breakfast. Complete with a hot tub and all sort of creature comforts to make you feel at home, this is a great place to rest for a few nights.
The Cliff House is another excellent option for accommodations in Manitou Springs. A bit larger than Avenue Hotel, but still plenty of charm.
For more options on hotels, see the entire listings for hotels in Manitou Springs on Booking.com. If you still can’t find anything that fits your needs, check out the hotel options in Colorado Springs since it’s so close. You could even stay at the exclusive Broadmoor and still be close! (Insider tip: Sometimes The Broadmoor offers incredible discounts for Colorado residents.)
But if you know Off Path Travels, you know that we really love to camp. Some excellent camping near Manitou Springs is located just north of town. You can head toward Rampart Reservoir to find some great dispersed camping on BLM land or to camp in the Thunder Ridge Campground if you prefer more facilities and don’t mind paying a few bucks.
If you want to be close to town and you’re just looking for a spot to park your RV or overlanding rig, then check out the Pikes Peak RV Park in downtown Manitou Springs. It won’t be the most beautiful campground you’ve been to, but it has all of the amenities you need and is right in the heart of town.
Alternatively, keep going northwest toward Deckers and you can find an abundance of campsites. Most of them are free BLM land and you can find pit toilets in certain areas. The biggest problem with Deckers is that it is VERY popular as a dirt bike and ATV destination.
So if you’re looking for a bit less noise, try going to Buffalo Creek area, a bit north of Deckers. This is where we chose to go and we camped in a semi-dispersed area here (established campsites but no fee). There is a daytime use parking area with restrooms at the highway intersection. No trash or water facilities though.
Visit Manitou Springs Summary
This small town packs quite the punch. Enjoy hiking the Incline, go on adventures at Cave of the Winds, witness true beauty in the Garden of the Gods, or just enjoy a lovely Colorado mountain town.
In any case, make sure you wash it down with some incredible water from the town’s 8 fountains. You’ll never forget or replicate the taste.
Can you believe carbonated water flows out of the springs there? Have you seen this phenomenon anywhere else? Leave a comment below to share your knowledge!
Plan Your Trip to Manitou Springs
Don’t Forget Your Water Bottle
Klean Kanteen is our favorite brand of water bottles.
Book Your Stay
Check out the Booking.com listings for hotels in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
Pack Your Bags
Wondering what to pack? Read our Ultimate Guide to Packing Light for a list of travel essentials.
World Nomads is travel insurance designed by travelers. They cover medical and dental emergencies, trip cancellation, delayed bags, and more.
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