Despite the June wild fires in a small section of the state, tourism remains a thriving segment of the Colorado economy. The fires are out – the skies are clear and the welcome mat is out. It’s a good time to visit one of the most beautiful states in the Union.

When you think of Colorado the usual comes to mind; cowboys and Indians, horses and cattle, mountains, gunslingers, wranglers, Stetsons and chaps. But how about championship golf courses nestled in a mountain range, superb resort spas, hiking and walking through areas resplendent in glorious colour and texture?

There is nothing usual about Colorado. It has, over the years, been used for films and television shows, due to its stunning vistas and ever changing landscapes.

We started the trip in Colorado Springs where the landscape itself varies from mile to mile, from large chunks of rock jutting up from the ground at odd angles, to huge, rolling, or pointed mountains, some topped with snow, others covered in evergreen and golden aspen (in the fall).

It took a bit over an hour from Denver to Colorado Springs along a highway that sported no billboards – just splendid views of mountains. And then…The Broadmoor Hotel.

How does one describe this glorious lady of 1918? Built by Spencer Penrose, it has undergone some restorations and the result is simply stunning. Penrose so loved his Hotel Spa, that he built a tomb on the mountain overlooking it which was to be named for himself. He was persuaded otherwise and named it “Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun,” honoring his good friend who died in a plane crash during its construction. Penrose is now buried there, in good company with his wife, lawyer and accountant.

Pictures simply can’t do The Broadmoor justice. Set at the base of a mountain range, it has everything one’s heart could desire. Enjoy golf, do you? This is a golfer’s paradise. There are three 18-hole golf courses; the East Course has hosted numerous USGA championships, in 2008 U.S. Senior Open. The resort sits at an elevation of 6230 feet above sea level, so the golf balls get better loft and distance. There’s a world-class spa, tennis courts rated #3 by Tennis Magazine, an infinity pool, glowing fires inside and outside at night. It has a diverse selection of restaurants; cafés, a tavern, an outstanding Sunday Brunch; then there’s The Penrose Room: the only Five Star and Five Diamond restaurant in Colorado. Dinner my first night was at The Summit, an American Brasserie with an innovative wine and cocktail program. It has been recognized in the Robb Report for “Best of the Best”, and Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants”. There is something to please every palate. And, for those who dread leaving the family pet at home, The Broadmoor is pet friendly. There’s even a pet boutique for Fluffy and Fido.

The first jaunt taken in Colorado Springs was in a jeep with a crusty cowboy named ‘Dusty’, who says his real name is Billy Joe Bob. (No relation to The Waltons!) He came to us via Adventures Out West. They also offer hot air balloon rides, segway tours and horseback riding, even rafting. I settled on the right side of the jeep and off we went up the North Cheyenne Canon.

What a trip it was! (Not good for people suffering from Acrophobia.) Dusty is a cornucopia of visuals and sounds with an imagination that can carry you back to a time where miners lived and worked in Cripple Creek. The Cripple Creek Short Line Railroad was hand built. (You might recall the Short Line from your old Monopoly Game.) He took us along the stagecoach road to the old railway trestle where we bumped along in the jeep, alongside some of Mother Nature’s best art work, sometimes through tunnels, also painstakingly carved out by hand. The times were tough. Especially having to live with the fluctuating moods of Mother Nature. Not easy. Dusty said, “If you lined up 100 of them miners, you’d probably get one set of teeth out of them”. It’s hard to conjure up pain and suffering when surrounded by this stunning picture.

The views from atop the mountain are exquisite, so don’t forget the camera. And the walks – everything from an easy stroll to an experienced, tough uphill push.

Those first paths were footprints of the animals, then the natives followed them, packing them down and finally the white man came in and turned them into roads. We passed Wild Iris, Lupen, Mountain Geraniums and Aspen Daisies. This is a nature lover’s haven for botanist and photographer – with biking, hiking, walking, and horseback riding. (Even skateboarding for those with a death wish!)

On that first day, we also drove through The Garden of the Gods – a free park donated to the city of Colorado Springs by Charles Eliot Perkins, with his express wish that people were not to be charged for entrance. Massive golden/orange formations of rock thrust up through the ground, some balanced precariously on top of each other, some creating visuals that encourage a touch of imagination. The locals clearly have a well-exercised imagination: Rocks the locals have named, The Mushrooms, The Ugly Frenchman in a Beret, The Praying Hands (Also called The Torch, The Howling Wolves and a few other creative monikers) and The Crying Indian, to name but a few.

The next day it was good-bye to The Broadmoor and off for a scenic drive on Route 50 along the Arkansas River, where rafters were enjoying the morning heat, along with a cool spray of frothy water, to another experience that I had been highly anticipating – a night at Zapata Ranch in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Wow! I was not disappointed. I had always wanted to stay on a Dude Ranch and this ranch tops all. Unlike other ranches that are somewhat commercial with an abundance of visitors, Zapata, although a working ranch, is very personal, with rooms in the main lodge along with separate bunk houses. A new exclusive ‘bunk’ has just been built for those wishing special attention such as champagne with their evening ride to watch the sunset. Dinner that night was bison chops, roast potatoes and salad for others and an Asian stir-fry for this vegetarian, ending with strawberry shortcake and coffee. The staff always leaves pots of coffee on the ready, along with raspberry lemonade and iced-tea, bowls of pretzels, cookies, m&ms and fruit for the taking to nibble on throughout the day.

The horses were incredibly well trained and a great ride. Experienced riders will not be held back by those less experienced. The owners’ daughters, Julie and Tess, take you out and separate those who have not ridden before from those who want to gallop off into the sunset. It was an extraordinary ride across sagebrush and tiny cacti with the huge stretch of sand dunes actually dwarfed by the mountains. You also come across large herds of bison from time to time. And the range was resplendent with Wild Iris.

None of us wanted to leave Zapata Ranch but…on to Leadville, a small mining town that once had a population of 50,000.00, now about 3,000.00. This is a charm of a city that should not be missed on any tour of Colorado. We stayed in The Delaware Hotel that has housed the likes of Doc Holliday (I actually stayed in his room.), President Grant and other ghosts of the past. Margaret Brown met, married and lived with J.J. Brown here. Who’s Margaret Brown, you ask? Molly Brown of the unsinkable kind. The Delaware has no elevator, but there are people to take your luggage upstairs. The floors in the rooms are slightly slanted and the rooms are decorated in a style of the Old West with huge four poster beds. The lobby and upper floors are a virtual museum to the times of cowboys, gun molls, miners and bankers. Sometimes you’ll even find the hotel staff in costume.

The Delaware also has decent rates (much more so than nearby Aspen) which makes for some economical planning. Stay in the noncommercial little Leadville and visit the ski hills during the day. Or for golfers…Leadville has Mount Massive Golf Course. Built in 1939, at 9,680 feet, it is the highest golf course in North America with rates much lower than the neighbouring courses. Thirty-eight dollars for 18 holes!

Leaving Leadville behind (I quite fell in love with the city), and on to Denver, with its street arts and culture, museums and restaurants and great shopping. Our arrival happened to fall on the Memorial Day Weekend, so the city was alive with Rock Concerts at night off the 16th avenue mall, with art displays and boutiques during the day.

Before taking all that in we headed to the The Molly Brown House Museum to find out more about the lady who gave so much to the needy, the miners, women’s rights and the battle for a better life for children. Do not miss this museum if you are in Denver – it was one of the highlights of my visit. Then to the newly opened History of Colorado Museum. Kids and adults will love this interactive museum where you learn about native life, ranchers and miners hardships and everything pertaining to the bygone days.

What a trip! It was educational, historical and a close-up look at one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. For those who particularly hanker after a time when horses were the main transportation, when men strolled with jangling spurs on boots, and women wore long dresses and broad feathered plumed hats, when life seemed easy but wasn’t, a trip to Colorado is a must do.

If there is one thought that I left Colorado with, it is the diversity of the state. While many tend to head off to the well-known, commercial venues like Vail and Aspen, there appears to me to be a tremendous loss when the nooks, crannies, little towns and cities are overlooked. They are the true backbone of the Old West, they are where you will find the history of the miners who cut tunnels through the hills, the gunslingers who brought law and order and the women who were the homemakers and the teachers in the small one room school houses.

Colorado. The Great Spirit of The West.
And now is the time to book the trip. The Colorado Tourism Office has launched a “Share the Love” initiative. Summer attractions and great deals are in full swing following the wildfires earlier this summer. For more information:

Travel Planner

Air Canada has daily flights from Montreal to Denver.
Website – The Broadmoor
Website – Zapata Ranch
Website –
Website – Adventures Out West
Website – Tourism Colorado

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