In 1893, on a summer break from her professorship at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Katharine Lee Bates picked up her pen and traveled west to Colorado Springs. From atop purple Pikes Peak, a Front Range mountain six miles west of town, the writer looked east to the rolling plains. Thrilled by the panorama, Bates returned to her hotel room in Colorado Springs and wrote the legendary song, “America the Beautiful.”
Nestled between the Rockies to the west and the plains to the east, and just an hour south of the Denver capital, the second-largest city in Colorado enjoys year-round sunshine and a mild climate. In Downtown, a cultural art scene thrives at the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and, just minutes north, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, with its sweeping views of Pikes Peak.
One of the top Colorado Springs attractions lies about 12 miles north of the city at the U.S. Air Force Academy, established in 1954 on 18,000 verdant acres. Outdoor enthusiasts who head minutes west to the Garden of the Gods can explore 1,300 acres of spectacular red sandstone formations, molded by wind and rain for more than 300 million years. Twisted columns and abstract monoliths are framed by Pikes Peak, and hiking, biking and horseback riding trails weave past 1,000-year-old juniper trees.
One of the most spectacular views in Colorado also lies six miles west of the city, atop the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak. By private vehicle, cog railway or plain-old hiking boots, visitors can ascend to the top and take in the 360-degree view that so moved Katharine Lee Bates.