Manitou Springs, Colorado is a small, historically-rich community located at the foot of the world-famous Pikes Peak. Originally named La Font, the town is known as Colorado’s first resort destination because people flocked to the area from all over the state to experience the health-giving, naturally carbonated, effervescent mineral water springs found there. It wasn’t until 1881, when a railroad spur was built, that the town began to thrive. Famous folks from history have come here including Daniel Boone’s grandson, John C. Fremont, and Rufus Sage, the famous frontier trailblazer. Manitou Springs became the new name of this town when an investor named William Blackmore suggested the designation which is found in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.”
The “Small Blue Cloud” Known as Pikes Peak
Manitou Springs is located at the foot of the majestic mountain known today as Pikes Peak. The peak was originally thought to be a “small blue cloud” when spotted in the distance by Zebulon Pike and his expedition approaching from the Colorado plains back in 1806. If you drive into Colorado from the east on Interstate 70 on a clear day, you can still experience this seemingly small blue cloud. Many historians claim Pike said that no man would ever reach the summit of the massive mountain. In 1820, members of Major Steven Long’s expedition logged the first recorded ascent of Pikes Peak. Today, it’s a relatively easy thing to summit this majestic peak in your own car. However, you may want to take a jaunt down to Manitou Springs and traverse the peak in another, more exciting manner.
Do Not Miss The Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway
If you’re in Manitou Springs, you will definitely want to take a ride up the mountain on the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. With steep grades of 25-percent, the first cog railroad steam locomotives actually slanted forward when resting on a level track. The first cog-wheel passenger train went up the steep grades of Pikes Peak in 1891. I have to say that this is a unique experience that you will remember for many years, and will be especially enjoyed by kids. Do yourself a favor and bone-up on the history of this amazing railway line and what it took to build it back in the 1890’s. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is indeed an engineering marvel. Remember to plan for the altitude of just over 14,000 feet above sea level.
Arts Scene in Manitou Springs Better Than Most Big Cities
Having been a fine art painter for a number of years now, I was first attracted to Manitou Springs by an invitation to paint in a plein air competition held each summer. One of the first things I noticed about this beautiful area was the large number of picturesque locations where I could paint. There are twenty fine art galleries in this small town. It seems that the town caters to artists of all types and styles.
Tourists who paint when they travel will want to make Manitou Springs a definite destination. Art collectors will find more original art than can be found in most big city art galleries. The Manitou Springs Arts Council contends that the “spirit of the town… it’s history and deep connection to nature finds expression in the rich array of art here.” Manitou Springs has a long-standing reputation as an artist’s colony with many of the residents participating in producing much of the artwork.
Manitou Springs is just a short one-hour drive south from Denver on Interstate 25. It’s best not to travel I-25 during rush hour if you can at all avoid it. In the summer, there are many art fairs and art-related events going on in the town. The area around Manitou Springs is full of camping and hiking trails, lots of nature to experience, and that one-of-a-kind beautiful Colorado scenery. Live music, theater, poetry, and dance events are scheduled for just about every night of the year. Manitou Springs seems to have something that will please just about everyone in your family.
Historic Manitou Springs
Colorado Vacation Directory
Pikes Peak History
Cog Railway History
Manitou Springs Art Council