On day four my mom and brother had just arrived in Denver and were joining us on our adventure. On this day we decided to drive south of Denver. We had three main stops on our itinerary for the day and we mapped it out as a loop with the furthest point being about 2.5 hours way. We cut the trip in half by first stopping in Colorado Springs, then driving to the Royal Gorge, and we looped back via the Garden of the Gods.
Tip:Break up a long car ride by selecting small fun pit stops along the way. This can be as simple as a roadside attraction, a scenic lookout, somewhere to play and stretch your legs, or trecking off the beaten path
Stop #1: A Quick Roadie Breakfast
Before hitting the road we walked to a local coffee shop and bakery that was right down the street from our Airbnb. Metropolis Coffee was just what we needed, a quick and delicious breakfast on the go. We enjoyed a smorgasbord of local baked goods from handmade empanadas, scones, vegan cookies, muffins and some delicious coffee. The food and coffee were so good that we visited it again the next day. If you are close to the South Broadway location, check out their awesome mural.
Stop #2: Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel
With our bellies full we hit the road bright and early towards Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is approximately an hour south of Denver and home to the United States Air Force Academy. Why drive all that way to go see the USAFA, you may ask???
The United States Air Force Cadet Chapel is a piece of modern architecture that is on most architects bucket-list. I could not leave Colorado without seeing the 150ft aluminum spires and magnificent stained glass windows. We got there just as they opened the doors and we were the only people there. It was mesmerizing to be able to enjoy this space in quiet(ish) reflection, after all we were there with two kids.
Tip:If time allows, start by parking at the Visitors Center then hike up the natural 1/3 mile trail for a different view of the chapel.
Selfishly, this was a stop centered around me, we did make a stop at the visitors center, we checked out the jets and passed by the football stadium.
Stop #3: Royal Gorge Route Railroad
After peacefully enjoying the chapel we hopped back in the van and continued south towards the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. This leg of the trip was a suggestion made to us by my in-laws who had been on the train a few years before. We decided to take the lunchtime train to give us ample time to get to the train station from Denver which is about a 2.5 hour drive.
Arriving at the station in the small town of Canon City, we boarded the train and awaited our next adventure through the Gorge. We chose the Coach ticket option which was a standard fare in a nice air conditioned car. Each person got a seat near a large picture window and we had the option to go to one of their unique outdoor open-air cars.
Another reason for picking the lunchtime train was for the freshly prepared lunch, and you guessed it, cold local craft beer. There was a fairly expansive menu and a great selection for the “little engineers”. Truthfully, the prices were a little high, but you are eating lunch on a train going through a gorge, so totally worth it!!!
Tip:Strollers are not allowed. I suggest bringing a carrier for the younger ones.
The most incredible thing about this train is that there is an open air car where you can stand outside while the train is moving. This was such a unique experience. You are among the mountains, riding along the banks of the Arkansas River (make sure to wave to the rafters going by) with the sun shining down and the wind in your hair.
Stop #4: The Garden of the Gods
After the two hour round-trip train ride we loaded back up in the car and set our GPS for the Garden of the Gods.
We arrived at the Garden of the Gods at around 6:00 and it was the perfect time time of day. The crowds were at a minimal and the sun was just starting to set and cast a deep orange glow upon the rocks. The rocks looked like they were on fire, it was breath taking.
We had been on the go all day so we decided to take this leg of the trip really slow. We rolled our windows down and drove slowly through the park, stopping periodically to hike and climb the rocks. There are a few paths, hikes and climbs along the way and I definitely suggest dressing comfortable and appropriately.