This region, which encompasses the south central section of Colorado, stretches from a collection of the state's 14,000-foot-high mountains in the heart of the Rockies eastward to Kansas, and from Colorado Springs south to the New Mexico state line. Pikes Peak, one of the most famous of Colorado's Fourteeners, forms the backdrop for Colorado Springs. Farther west, the Arkansas River towns of Buena Vista and Salida are within view of the Fourteeners of the Collegiate Peaks. Farther south, the Rio Grande runs through the flat San Luis Valley, which is lined by the Sangre de Cristo range. Cuchara Valley, just north of New Mexico, is framed by the Spanish Peaks.
Colorado Springs. About 70 miles south of Denver, Colorado Springs is a comfortable base camp for travelers headed for high altitude and high adventure. Colorado's second-largest city has natural attractions like Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, and man-made additions like the Broadmoor luxury hotel and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Side Trips from Colorado Springs. You could gamble or visit a gold mine and learn more about the gold rush in Cripple Creek. If you prefer outdoor adventures, take a walk among petrified tree trunks in Florissant Fossil Beds or go river rafting through the Royal Gorge near Cañon City.
The Collegiate Peaks. Buena Vista and Salida provide easy access to the largest collection of 14,000-foot-or-higher peaks in Colorado, perfect for hiking, boating, river rafting, horseback riding, and mountain biking in wilderness areas.
Southeast Colorado. If you're looking for a mountain drive with spectacular and diverse scenery, take the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway. Tiny towns along the way are in Cuchara Valley; Pueblo and Trinidad are larger hubs.
The San Luis Valley. You can play like a child rolling around the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Leave time for a drive through the tiny nearby towns or a ride on one of the two scenic railroads.