“We live in a vacation destination that attracts 23 million people each year. Why not rediscover all the reasons so many people choose this place to spend their hard-earned free time?” said Amy Long, the organization’s chief innovation officer. While Long and the rest of the team have had to pivot to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, the new adjustments have allowed them to begin supporting responsible tourism to safely experience attractions and outdoor recreation activities— and they have lots of ideas to share.
One suggestion Long offers is to take scenic drives through some of the region’s most beautiful areas: Cañon City, Phantom Canyon Road and Highway 24 through Woodland Park are just a few suggested routes people can travel while practicing safe social distancing. Of course, there are exciting stops to make along every scenic drive. Explorers can snag a take-out picnic lunch, visit famous parks as well as try something new. Activities like Play Dirty ATV Tours, a veteran-owned adventure business west of Colorado Springs, are always ready to help people step just a bit out of their comfort zone and boost their adrenaline.
Another option is to do a bit of nostalgic traveling.
“When was the last time you walked across the Royal Gorge Bridge and took a picture of the view or traveled up the Pikes Peak Highway?” asked Long, adding, “the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is open once again, including the rides.”
She notes that the old Summit House on Pikes Peak has also reopened for a time and yes, they will be offering their signature hot, fresh donuts — nostalgia indeed. The Pikes Peak Highway is running a promotion on Father’s Day that will waive the entry fee for dads. The North Slope Recreation Area at the base of the mountain is also open with pristine reservoirs that are great for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
Long points out that the projected reduction in tourism this summer will mean that locals won’t have to worry as much about crowding or lines — and that local attractions will surely appreciate the much-needed support.
However, limited crowds won’t be the case everywhere, so it's important to plan ahead to ensure plenty of elbow room. Long suggests that people look to alternatives like whitewater rafting. South of Colorado Springs, businesses like Echo Canyon River Expeditions and other outfitters will take adventurers out on trips that range from relaxing family floats to exciting, rapid-filled adventures through Royal Gorge. For folks who prefer to keep their water interaction more low-key,they canpractice yoga on a stand-up paddleboard with Dragonfly Paddle Yoga.
Some trails in the Pikes Peak region are sure to crowd even more than they have since the pandemic began, particularly as summer days grow warmer and longer. Visit Colorado Springs has built an interactive trail map that hikers can use to find alternatives to the more popular paths.
One of the most important points that Long and the rest of the team at Visit Colorado Springs stress is to practice safe, responsible tourism. Travelers should follow recommended social distancing guidelines when hiking on the trails, dining on the patio of a local restaurant and strolling along the city streets. Colorado state guidelines also recommend frequent hand-washing and the use of a mask in public spaces. Since many shops and restaurants require them, it’s good to always have one available.
There are also the standard Colorado tourism recommendations to follow, too: Always carry water, dress in layers, wear appropriate footwear and leave no trace. And most importantly, have fun.
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