Top 5 Travel Days of 2015, Hiking and Horseback Riding in the Colorado Rockies

In mid-October, I caught up with Dan Austin, owner of Austin Adventures, and his daughter, Kasey, as they were designing a new itinerary that took in all the mountain splendor and adventure found on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Their primary focus was to introduce guests to “The Broadmoor Wilderness Experience,” two historic sporting camps high up in the mountains that have been recently renovated by the legendary Broadmoor resort. Standing 9100 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain is the former private retreat of Broadmoor founder, Spencer Penrose, and, as of last summer, home to a mountain lodge called Cloud Camp. In 1923, Penrose acquired a bucolic slice of heaven, ringed by 11,000-foot peaks, which this summer has been transformed into The Ranch of Emerald Valley.

One glorious day on this trip, I rose with the sun at Cloud Camp and walked up to the two-story Fire Tower Suite, built with the honeymooner in mind, replete with hot tub and bedroom with 360-degree views. No one was staying in the suite so I grabbed a rocking chair on the deck and watched Pikes Peak bathe in the morning light. After breakfast, Dan and Kasey led us on the 5.5-mile McNeil Trail descending into a forest of ponderosa pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees. Past midpoint, we connect with an old stage road that went straight to The Ranch at Emerald Valley.
At lunch, the GM at Emerald Valley mentioned to me that the mayor of Colorado Springs spent a week here with his wife after retiring and did very little but read books on their cabin front porch. Indeed, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the vista of pasture, trout ponds, and towering peaks. Only a 30-minute drive outside of Colorado Springs, you feel lost in the Western wilderness. That afternoon, we took full advantage of the majestic scenery to take a horseback ride on a ridge close to the jagged peak of Mount Vigel. Then I soaked my weary body into a cedar-lined hot tub while snacking on a favorite dessert at the ranch, peach-filled donut holes. This is what I call a dream day.