The town of Manitou Springs is the closest one to Pike’s Peak. This modest town basically spreads up a canyon west of Colorado Springs. It is more than 100 years old and has a well-deserved and accurate reputation as the “Hippie Mayberry”. Its reputation goes back to Native Americans’ love for its springs that are partially fed by Pike’s Peak snow. Other popular attractions in this town are some cliff dwellings and the 9 springs that gush with abandon all over city central with free water from a deep aquifer and snowmelt. There is nothing else like this in Colorado. This water bounty is full of natural sodium bicarbonate. Visitors are encourage to sit in this water and drink it for its health benefits while there. Most of this town’s visitors, however, are strolling its main street looking for bargains in the many shops. Manitou Spring’s houses are generally modest, and its stores offer everything from junk to super finds.
The word most often used to describe Manitou Springs is eccentric, and most visitors find its penny arcade early on and spend time playing cheap arcade games before indulging in Patsy’s candy. Its shopping area reminded me of many others but it’s even more eclectic. The springs that have names like Shoshone and Cheyenne can’t be seen from the main shopping street, but Soda Springs Park can be. It’s near a bridge that is quite visible from Manitou Avenue. Reaching Soda Springs Park, the 9 springs, and all those shops involves traveling west on Highway 24 that connects visitors to Manitou Avenue and the Garden of the Gods. Parking in this town can be difficult.
Manitou Springs most recent improvement is a 100 million dollar investment in an upgrade to the tram to the top of Pike’s Peak. This tram leaves from the center of town for an 8.9 mile trip to the summit in 1 hour. It reopened in May of 2021 after a 3 year closure. ”Some call it expensive at close to $60 for an adult ticket, but it’s worth the travel investment if you plan to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak anyway. The road is two-lane narrow and without guardrails all the way. Taking the tram eliminates the danger and lets you see the scenery you otherwise would miss. But parking at The Cog is expensive too and spaces are limited. It costs $15 to locate across the street from the Depot, and people are encouraged to use the overflow parking at Hiawatha Gardens or at Old Man’s Trail that is cheaper to avoid a potential problem.
The Cog Railway is a big attraction indeed, but it’s not Tripadvisor’s #1 choice of what to do in Manitou Springs. That would be The Incline, a challenging hike that many accept. The Incline means an ascent that takes those who attempt it upward for 2,000 feet in one mile. This is best done in the summer because Manitou Springs gets 28 inches of snow in a typical year despite 300 days of sunshine. Manitou Springs is basically a town of 5,000 at the bottom of the closest canyon below Pike’s Peak. There are said to be 2,700 steps going up The Incline, which stops no one from doing it. The #4 Tripadvisor attraction in Manitou Springs is Miramont Castle. I enjoyed seeing this attraction at 9 Capitol Hill Avenue, but if I had to do it again I’d opt for tea and treats at its tearoom on the premises in the Queen’s Parlor instead. This wildly popular tearoom is available by pre-arranged seating only.