Colorado Springs is an excellent choice for travelers on a budget, because so many things are free and because there are so many quintessential Colorado experiences in and around the Pikes Peak region! Want a 14,000 foot mountain? Pikes Peak dominates the landscape. Red rock spires? Garden of the Gods is beautiful and has great hiking trails. Water falls? Helen Hunt Falls is right up North Cheyenne Canyon. Spelunking? Not free like the first three (Pikes Peak is free if you hike up it), but Cave of the Winds is here. Olympic athletes ride the roads and run the trails (the Olympic Training Center is here) and almost all the parks are free. For white-water rafting (paid unless you have your own raft or kayak), the Arkansas River is about an hour south.

Accomodations are going to be the most expensive part of any trip, and there are many mom-and-pop places on the west side of Colorado Springs or in Manitou Springs that fit nicely into a budget. Just make sure you check out the room before you commit. Try the Manitou Chamber of Commerce for a listing and price sheet.

Probably the #1 attraction is Pikes Peak and it is free (if you are in top-notch condition) when you walk the 13-mile Barr trail to the top. Easier ways are the Highway ($10 a person/$35 a car) or hop online and see if the Cog Railway as a coupon (they usually do on the last train of the day). Another option is to get a one-way ticket on the Cog halfway up the Peak to Mountain View ($10) and walk down. Unfortunately, the first four miles of hiking on the Barr Trail are straight up, so if you want a shorter, less-strenuous hike try something else close by like.....

.......the #2 attraction in Colorado Springs....Garden of the Gods. There are excellent hiking trails for everyone here. Got Grandpa in a wheelchair? Try the paved paths through the center of the Garden. Want the "picture-perfect postcard" scene of Pikes Peak through a keyhole in the red rocks? Hike east up the Spring Canyon Trail. Want an invigorating run or walk? Do the perimeter trail starting at the incredily beautiful overlook on the south side of the Park (up Ridge Road from Highway 24) go east across the old dam and along the ridge up to the northern edge, back down to the western edge and wander back to where you started.

Another wonderful hiking/biking area nearby is the brand-new Red Rocks Canyon...kind of a little sister to Garden of the Gods, it is located right across Highway 24  (due south..you can see it from the Ridge Road overlook). Section 16 (up 26th St.) is also a beautiful hike.

How about some scenic drives? The best is up the old Gold Camp Road which follows a rail bed to Cripple Creek. Although a collapsed tunnel closed most of the road, you can still drive part of the way and the views are breathtaking. Go south on 26th Street off of Highway 24 and it turns into Gold Camp Road. You'll see two of the old tunnels and if you are here from May 1 through October 1, you can do the High Drive one-way loop. Make sure you return to the start of High Drive so you can go DOWN into another great free attraction.......

 ...........Helen Hunt Falls. Named after a famous poet from about 1900, these falls are right off the road just below the start of High Drive (where Gold Camp is closed). There is a nice little trail to some smaller falls, but be careful of loose gravel. The drive back down Cheyenne Canyon is spectacular and at the bottom is another great free place, the Starsmore Center. They have good displays about the flora and fauna in the area and usually have a good hummingbird display. For hummingbirds, the Cog Railway depot usually has the largest concentration of these amazing little birds in the area. In July, you will see broadtails, rufous, black-chinned and caliopes at their feeders! The train isn't free, but you can walk around the depot.

On the opposite side of town is the U.S. Air Force Academy. It is free to drive through the grounds, and marvel at the beautiful displays of war planes scattered amongst the pines. The chapel is the signature building on Academy grounds.

Manitou Springs has free concerts on Tuesday nights in the summer (check the Chamber of Commerce) as does downtown Colorado Springs during the week.

For food, try one of the many little delis or specialty cafes that are found in Manitou, old Colorado City or downtown Colorado Springs.

A traveler on a budget can experience Colorado without spending a lot of cash or filling the gas tank too often by taking advantage of all Colorado Springs has to offer.