El Paso County, Colorado: Attractions and Activities


Home to Colorado Springs and several other charming communities, El Paso County, Colorado, has emerged as a popular year-round destination within the United States.


  • El Paso County is best known for attractions like the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
  • Cultural highlights include the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Old Colorado City historic district, and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy sites like Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Seven Falls, and the U.S. Air Force Academy grounds.

Captivating Natural Landscapes

Much of El Paso County, Colorado’s appeal stems from its diversity of natural landscapes, ranging from red rock formations and cascading waterfalls to alpine forests and open meadows. Several protected parks and open spaces in the region showcase the area’s raw natural beauty.

Garden of the Gods

This National Natural Landmark features dramatic 300-foot red sandstone rock formations set against the backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and the Front Range. Visitors can hike and bike among the iconic towers with names like the Three Graces and Kissing Camels. The park also offers opportunities for rock climbing, horseback riding, and nature programs.

Pikes Peak

As one of Colorado’s famed 14,000-foot peaks, Pikes Peak dominates the landscape in El Paso County. Adventurous travelers can drive or hike up the 14,115-foot summit for panoramic views. The Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile toll road with scenic overlooks along the way. Many opt to descend on the historic Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Offering convenient access to nature near Colorado Springs, this open space contains striking geological formations and landscapes. The park has over 15 miles of multi-use trails that wind through grasslands, canyons dotted with hoodoos, and sandstone outcroppings tinted red by iron oxide.

Seven Falls

At this privately owned attraction in South Cheyenne Canon, visitors can view an 181-foot cascade of waterfalls that plunge down a sheer cliff into a rugged canyon. A series of 224 stairs, known as the Eagle’s Way, leads to overlooks and vantage points above and below the falls. The site also features hiking trails, gift shops, and a restaurant.

Thrills and Adventure

Beyond sightseeing, El Paso County also delivers plenty of high-adrenaline activities to get visitors’ hearts pumping. From family-friendly parks to extreme outdoor challenges, boredom is never an issue here.

Cave of the Winds Mountain Park

Tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this park contains subterranean caves and caverns to explore on guided walking tours. Guests can also enjoy thrilling rides and activities like the Terror-Dactyl ride, a Via Ferrata climbing course, and ziplining over Williams Canyon.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Unlike most zoos confined within city limits, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo spans 140 acres on the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain. Visitors can see over 750 animals in naturalistic habitats with Rocky Mountain backdrops. Exhibits range from an African Rift Valley with gorillas to an Australian Outback with koalas and kangaroos.

U.S. Air Force Academy

The campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy allows visitors to immerse themselves in military culture and history. Guests can tour the Cadet Chapel, one of Colorado’s most recognizable buildings, watch a parachute team demonstration, or hike along the scenic trails around the grounds.

Arts and Culture Scene

Beyond the outdoors, El Paso County also hosts an impressive arts and culture scene rooted in Old West history and modern creativity. Several sites illuminate the area’s heritage and highlight its contemporary artistic talent.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

This multidisciplinary arts complex houses a professional theatre company, art galleries showcasing over 5,000 works, and an art museum with rotating exhibits. Visitors can view paintings, sculptures, photography, and other visual arts. The center also offers arts education programs for all ages. Be sure to check out their website for a list of upcoming events.

Old Colorado City

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, Old Colorado City transports visitors back to Colorado’s frontier era. The district contains over 100 shops, galleries, and restaurants housed within historic buildings from the late 1800s. Street performers and special events like territory days enhance the old-timey ambiance.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Occupying the old El Paso County Courthouse, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum safeguards over 100,000 artifacts related to regional history. Displays illustrate topics like Native American culture, the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, the founding of Colorado Springs, and the development of air and space technology.

Cuisine and Local Flavor

From casual eateries to upscale dining establishments, El Paso County offers plenty of places to refuel and sample the local flavors. Several restaurants in the region have become destinations in their own right.

The Broadmoor’s Penrose Room

As the flagship restaurant of Colorado Springs’ storied Broadmoor Resort, the Penrose Room has earned acclaim for its elegant ambiance and refined New American cuisine made with seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s wine cellar contains over 20,000 bottles from around the world.

The Rabbit Hole

Embodying Colorado Springs’ creative spirit, The Rabbit Hole offers playful takes on classic dishes in an intimate underground setting. Patrons enter the restaurant through a whimsical Alice in Wonderland-themed courtyard before sampling inventive plates and cocktails in the eclectic dining room.

The Famous Steak House

Open since 1944, this beloved local steakhouse serves premium Black Angus beef grilled over open flames in a casual, welcoming atmosphere. Beyond the steaks, patrons also enjoy the restaurant’s signature cheese fries, bread pudding, and cocktails like the bourbon-based Pikes Peak.

Celebrations and Events

Throughout the year, El Paso County hosts several lively events and festivals that immerse visitors in local culture and bring the community together. These annual traditions offer memorable ways to experience the region’s heritage and charm.

Colorado Springs Western Street Breakfast

Held every August before the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, this free public event transforms downtown Colorado Springs into an old Western town. Attendees enjoy a hearty pancake breakfast while listening to country music performers and watching cowboy-mounted shooting competitions.

Colorado Springs St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Celebrating Irish heritage, this annual parade marches through downtown Colorado Springs every March. Pipe bands, Irish dancers, and community groups join floats and classic cars to turn Tejon Street green for the day. The event culminates in a festival in Acacia Park.

Territory Days

Each May, the Old Colorado City historic district celebrates the founding of Colorado Springs with the family-friendly Territory Days. Historical reenactors, live entertainment, a chuckwagon cook-off, arts and crafts, and more evoke the area’s frontier past.

Engaging Local Communities

While taking in the top attractions, visitors should also make time to engage with El Paso County’s local communities. Exploring the region’s charming small-town natural resources and supporting small businesses creates opportunities for meaningful connections.

With a population exceeding 730,000 residents, El Paso County, Colorado, showcases a dynamic demographic landscape subject to fluctuations influenced by birth rates, migration trends, and administrative boundary adjustments. For precise information on current residents and population data, it is advisable to refer to authoritative sources like the U.S. Census Bureau or official local government records for the most reliable information.

El Paso County Government

El Paso County government offices oversee various departments to serve residents and handle public affairs. Key offices with elected officials include the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), which is responsible for policy decisions and budgeting; the Assessor’s Office for property value assessments; the Treasurer’s Office for property taxes and fund management; and the Clerk and Recorder’s Office for elections and official public records.

The Sheriff’s Office enforces laws and ensures public safety and emergency management. The District Attorney’s Office handles criminal prosecutions and departments like Public Works, Human Services, and Veterans Services. Planning and Community Development manage roads, infrastructure, social services, and land use planning, respectively.

Old Colorado City

This National Historic District invites visitors to meander among over 100 locally-owned boutiques, galleries, restaurants and cafes concentrated in just a few tree-lined blocks. Pop into shops, chat with owners and artists, and gain insight into what makes the tight-knit community special.

Manitou Springs

Soak in the quirky vibe of this funky mountain town located at the base of Pikes Peak along Colorado’s Front Range. Visitors can explore Manitou’s mineral springs and natural resources, ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, browse the eclectic shops along Manitou Avenue, or simply relax at a sidewalk cafe.

Downtown Colorado Springs

At the heart of Colorado’s second largest city, downtown offers pedestrian-friendly streets lined with independent shops, chef-owned restaurants, craft breweries, art galleries and creative businesses that reflect the community’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Palmer Lake

In El Paso County, Colorado, Palmer Lake is a quaint town situated at the northern edge, bordering Douglas County. Known for its beautiful natural scenery, including the tranquil Palmer Lake, it offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, and relaxing picnics. The town also features historic attractions like the Palmer Lake Reservoir and the festive Palmer Lake Star, adding to its charm for both residents and visitors.

From towering peaks that pierce the clouds to vibrant arts communities rooted in history, El Paso County promises visitors both outdoor adventures and cultural enrichment. Its mix of natural splendor and Old West spirit beckons travelers looking to understand what makes Colorado such an alluring destination. By engaging with local sites and communities, visitors are sure to find their own authentic connection to this Rocky Mountain hub.


What is the best time of year to visit El Paso County?

El Paso County offers plenty to do year-round, but late spring through early fall provides the most pleasant weather for enjoying the outdoors. Summer brings festivals and events, while fall showcases brilliant foliage.

What is there to do in El Paso County besides outdoor activities?

The region has a thriving arts and culture scene. Visitors can explore museums and galleries in Colorado Springs, shop and dine in historic districts like Old Colorado City, or take in performances at venues like the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

What is the easiest way to reach the summit of Pikes Peak?

For travelers who want to save their legs, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway provides a comfortable ride up the mountain. Visitors can also drive to the top along the Pikes Peak Highway toll road. Plan ahead since parking at the summit is limited.

Are there any budget-friendly attractions in El Paso County?

Yes, visitors can explore sites like Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, and the U.S. Air Force Academy grounds for free. Many museums offer discounts on certain days as well.

Where can I sample some of Colorado’s legal marijuana products?

Marijuana dispensaries are located throughout El Paso County, especially concentrated along the Highway 85/87 corridors near Colorado Springs. However, public consumption is still prohibited.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.