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At the base of Pikes Peak sits the quirky mountain town of Manitou Springs! And it’s right in our backyard in Colorado.
Manitou Springs is a little town 6 miles east of Colorado Springs.
It sits at 6,414 feet in elevation at the foothills of the Rockies, and has lots of history and fun attractions.
When you visit, you’ll notice the historic, Old West feel of the town. Not unlike some of Colorado’s most famous ghost towns.
And many of the old 1900s buildings and homes in Manitou Springs are still standing.
In the 1960s, Manitou Springs was known as a “hippie haven,” so there is a very spiritual and artsy feel to the town as well.
Listen in to our podcast, or read this post for your guide to visiting Manitou Springs, Colorado!
How to find Manitou Springs
Getting to Manitou Springs is pretty easy, especially if you’re coming from downtown Colorado Springs.
Head west on Colorado Avenue for about 16 miles, which takes about 5-6 minutes depending on traffic.
Or if you’re driving from Denver, head south of I-25 and get off on the Highway 24 exit.
Then just follow the signs for Manitou Springs.
Best known for its small mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, pubs, and parks, Manitou Springs offers plenty to do in a relatively small area.
Once you arrive in Manitou Springs, leave your car behind and enjoy this quirky town on foot, starting on Manitou Avenue.
While the town has a booming tourist season from summer through Christmas, you won’t feel crammed.
And it’s a great place to visit all year round!
The natural springs in Manitou Springs
Long before the town was founded the Ute Indians, who once inhabited much of Colorado, would visit the Manitou Springs area to rest and heal by the natural springs.
Fun fact: Manitou is an Algonquin Indian word meaning “spirit.” The city of Manitou Springs was founded in 1871 as a scenic health resort, to attract those seeking “The Cure” for diseases like tuberculosis, and other ailments.
These naturally occurring mineral water springs have been a popular tourist attraction for centuries.
Here’s a bit more about how a mineral spring actually works!
What makes the natural springs so special?
Groundwater sits in underwater caverns where it erodes the limestone. This creates carbonic acid (better known as CO2), which actually carbonates the water.
This makes the water bubbly!
The bubbles force the water up through the earth and out through cracks in the ground.
And along the way, the water absorbs all the healthy minerals that make springs so special for healing.
This whole process takes thousands of years, so the water is actually very free of any modern contaminates.
You can drink this water fresh from the spring. And yes, it is naturally bubbly.
How many natural springs are in the area?
There are a total of 8 different natural springs in the Manitou Springs area, and can be found by walking around and throughout the city.
Each of them have a different taste and smell due to the fact that they are filled with different kinds of minerals.
Here is a complete list of all 8 springs:
- 7 Minute Spring
- Cheyenne Spring
- Iron Spring Geyser
- Navajo Spring
- Shoshone Spring
- Twin Spring
- Wheeler Spring
Now, let’s talk about the best things to do in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Check out the top attractions that we enjoy seeing when visiting this quirky town.
There is something for everyone, no matter if you are a Colorado native or newcomer!
1. Mineral Springs Walking Tour
Check out all of the 8 natural springs on this mineral spring walking map.
These springs are NOT hot (unlike some of the other hot springs in Colorado).
Grab your map and take a stroll — and a sip! — at every spring in Manitou.
Each spring has a different mineral content and natural carbonation, so each has a slightly different taste.
Fun fact: Due to their various different mineral contents, doctors in the area once prescribed spring waters to their patience for ailments.
These included ailments like liver and kidney disease, and digestive disorders.
2. Garden of the Gods
The town sits in a canyon at the foot of the mountains making it an amazing scenic place.
It’s an awesome gateway to explore nature and the rugged Rocky Mountains.
Plus, it is right around the corner from the Garden of the Gods, which is a must-visit place here in the state!
Garden of the Gods is completely free to visit anytime of year. Check out the Visitor’s Center that is home to a quirky museum, gift shop and cafe.
3. Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum
Visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum to explore realistic cliff dwellings like those found in Cortez, Colorado.
This authentic replica archaeological site was shipped to Manitou Springs in the early 1900s.
It was made to accurately reassemble the same likeness and style as the original in southwest Colorado.
Visitors can walk through the cliff dwellings and learn more about the native history of Colorado.
4. The Manitou Incline
This super steep hike ascends 2,000 feet in less than a mile. Whew!
If you’re up for more than just a stroll around town, grab your hiking boots and get ready for an epic climb.
The base of the incline is a short walk from the free shuttle drop off and pick up location.
Check out our guide to hiking the Manitou Incline to learn more about this epic trail and the funicular!
What’s a funicular? It’s a double railcar system that uses two cars (one going up, and one coming down) to pull riders up the mountainside by cable.
The cars counterbalance each other along the ride up and down.
The funicular was officially closed in 1958, and the railways were washed out by a 1990 rock slide.
The incredible incline remains one of the most challenging athletic hikes in Colorado.
5. Manitou Penny Arcade
Play hundreds of old arcade games at the Manitou Penny Arcade! This arcade features rides, prizes, new and old games, pinball, skeeball, pool, and air hockey.
This is a bit of Manitou Springs nostalgia for long-time residents of Colorado, and anyone who still loves to hear those pinball flappers clacking!
6. Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a hidden gem that locals enjoy for hiking, biking, and rock climbing all year round.
The park is totally free and offers gorgeous views of large sandstone rock formations. You can explore architecture from exploration and mines years ago.
The trails are perfect for kids and adults as most of the trails are an easy to moderate level of difficulty.
Dogs can also enjoy the off leash space at the dog park and cyclists will enjoy the numerous biking trails.
Rock climbing is also a popular activity here, but you must request a permit before climbing.
Individuals in a wheelchair can enjoy the ADA-accessible trail called Red Rock Canyon Trail.
7. Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Since the first train reached the top of Pikes Peak from Manitou Springs in 1891, the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been a popular tourist destination.
Though it has been closed for repairs since late 2017, the railway will reopen in June 2021 with all new equipment.
As you drive into Manitou Springs, you can see one of the original steam engines on display, just east of the downtown area.
Manitou Springs is a wonderful place to shop, eat, and hunt ghosts (yes really!).
SALUS is a natural bath and body care company that specializes in bath and shower bombs, and lots of other amazing, all-organic products for your skin.
If you have sensitive skin, or just love supporting a local family company with amazing products, you’ll enjoy creating your own custom bath products at SALUS.
This store is their first retail location right here in Manitou Springs.
9. The Loop
Built in 1903, The Loop became popular as a place to barbeque the wild game that patrons harvested from the surrounding mountains!
Hunters would bring their elk, deer, and other kinds of game to be barbequed out back and served right back to them.
While the barbeque remains behind the restaurant, today you’ll see why The Loop won the Gold award in 2014 and 2015 for the best Margarita in the Pikes Peak area!
Fact: The Loop was coined because the trolley from Colorado Springs to Manitou Springs looped around the building.
10. Patsy’s Chocolates and Gift Shop
This open air concession stand is the only permanent open air stand in all of Colorado!
Famous since 1903, you’ll love the gourmet popcorn and the best salt-water taffy you’ll find anywhere.
Find lots of old fashioned candies and gifts at Patsy’s Chocolates and Gift Shop.
11. Colorado Custard Company
The Colorado Custard Company is the perfect stop on a hot summer day!
Only open when the weather is above 40 degrees, this frozen custard shop serves up cones, cups, sundaes, and avalanches — a frozen custard with your favorite toppings mixed in!
How is frozen custard different from ice cream? Frozen custard contains more egg yolk than regular ice cream, which gives it that signature creaminess.
There is much less air in custard because it is churned much more slowly. It’s smooth, dense, and not as cold as regular ice cream, so it tastes much better!
Try a Front Range split, a Volcano avalanche, or keep it simple with a classic sundae.
12. Miramont Castle and Cliff House
Since Manitou Springs is a historical town, it has its fair share of ghost stories and haunted houses!
These incredible castles were built in the 1890s and have collected plenty of spooky stories over the years.
13. The Emma Crawford Coffin Races
It’s exactly what you think it is!
The story goes that Emma was a musical prodigy that lived in Manitou Springs. Before she died, she requested to be buried on top of a nearby mountain.
For some reason, she was not placed at the top of the mountain, but on the slope. And over time, due to erosion, poor old Emma came loose and slid down into the canyon in her coffin.
Nowadays, around Halloween, you too can race around in your coffin!
At the Emma Crawford Festival each October, 1 Emma and 4 mourners prepare their costumes and their coffins for a race to the finish line.
Winners can also take home prizes for “Best Entourage,” “Best Emma” and “Best Coffin!”
14. First Friday Art Walk
On the first Friday of each month Manitou Springs features virtual and in-person Art Walks.
Visitors can check out local galleries and experience live music throughout the Creative Circuit.
This organization features art on the streets from downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.
Take the free First Friday Shuttle Bus that connects the Avenue Creative Circuit to each city to enjoy your custom art walk.
We hope you enjoy your next visit to this historic, off-beat little town surrounded by gorgeous mountain views.
Have you visited Manitou Springs? What did you like about it? We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Instagram @hashtagcoloradolife.
Check out our new book, Moving to Colorado: A Guide for What it Costs and Where to Live on the Front Range, which is available on Amazon.
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