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Nature lovers: Colorado's most romantic outdoor spots
So it’s Valentine’s Day — but who says you have to celebrate over a $300 dinner?
It’s cheaper, prettier and let’s face it, if you love the outdoors, odds are your spouse or significant other does, too. Or at least pretends to.
We offer some suggestions for finding a magical moment outside with your valentine.
Don’t worry, singles. We haven’t forgotten you. Read on for some suggestions on meeting that future Mr. or Mrs. Outdoors Lover.
See the camels kissing
Is there a greater symbol of romantic love in the region than the Kissing Camels?
One of the more distinctive rock formations in the Garden of the Gods, the massive wall in the central area of the park looks like two humped camels smooching. It’s only a short stroll from the main parking lot, so you won’t be too tired to emulate the sandstone lovers. Consult one of the interpretive signs along the paved paths if you can’t identify the camels.
Enjoy a scenic overlook
Some cities have a “make-out point.” In Colorado Springs, we have too many to point out just one.
Not that yoU need to be a lip-locked teenager to appreciate the views from these majestic overlooks.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Few places can equal the ease of access or great views of the sun setting over the city and the mountains than Palmer Park. You can drive right up to the Grandview Overlook.
For more privacy, take a short stroll from the Yucca Flats trailhead and find one of many benches and picnic tables.
• Maybe you’re an early riser. Watch the sun rise over the city and the Great Plains from the top of Mount Cutler. It’s little more than a jaunt at only one mile to the summit.
Park on the left in North Cheyenne Cañon, about 1.5 miles from the park gate.
• If you’re not up for the rigors of a long climb, take a hike at Helen Hunt Falls. You won’t find the summer crowds in February, and there are benches along the way where you can stop, rest and whisper sweet nothings.
Park at the Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center in North Cheyenne Cañon.
• Many other lesser-known overlooks abound and are easily accessible in winter. Try the high point of Pulpit Rock Open Space or the rocky outcropping above the Manitou Incline.
If you and your valentine have company at one of these spots, respect others and keep the PDA to a minimum.
Take a scenic drive
Throw some Barry White in the stereo and explore Colorado’s beauty from the warmth of your car. Here are a few suggested drives.
• Drive to 14,115 feet on the Pikes Peak Highway. Crews do their best to keep the toll road open all year, though wind and snow can close upper portions. Huddle together for warmth at the top, or if the road is closed above Glen Cove, stroll hand-in-hand through the snow-draped pines just off the parking lot.
• Take U.S. Highway 24 west for about an hour to Wilkerson Pass, where you can walk without snowshoes on a small trail network and gaze at the white wall of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges swallowing the horizon. The drive to the pass isn’t too shabby, either.
• For a shorter drive close to home, take a cruise on Gold Camp Road. This former railroad route between Colorado Springs and the gold fields of Victor is closed to vehicles from North Cheyenne Cañon south, but you can drive the dirt road north to 26th Street, a beautiful route with long views of the city and a taste of the mountains. It is fine for passenger cars.
The geologic forces that shaped Colorado left behind subterranean faults, which allow hot water to well up from deep below the surface in dozens of spots around the state. And few things are as romantic as an intimate soak in one of them.
While some hot springs are more like crowded public pools, many offer quieter settings more suitable to couples. Here are a few.
• Pagosa Hot Springs
Yes, they have a swimming pool. But this resort about 4 hours’ drive from Colorado Springs has 23 other soaking pools along the San Juan River, ranging from tepid to almost unbearably hot, in a setting of rocks and waterfalls that feels like a theme park. In winter, you’ll feel alone even if it’s crowded, as thick steam fills the air. More information: pagosa hotsprings.com
• Mount Princeton Hot Springs
The hot springs in Chaffee County are crowded in summer, but in winter you’ll find peace and quiet in the three main pools, including one open only to overnight guests, and numerous smaller ponds along Chalk Creek. More information: mtprinceton.com
• Valley View Hot Springs
Perhaps the most intimate place in Colorado. Clothing is optional at this rustic resort in the San Luis Valley, where you’ll find plenty of quiet time in the many natural, hike-to pools that dot the hillside. More information: olt.org
• Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Seven miles north of ski town Steamboat Springs, these pools in a natural setting will tug at your heart strings and rest your weary bones after a day of skiing. You’ll need to drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle or utilize the shuttle service in winter because of snow, and it’s clothing-optional and adults-only after dark. More information: strawberryhot springs.com
Get married ... on skis
If “love” is in the name of your ski area, you know Feb. 14 will be special. Loveland Ski Area holds an on-mountain wedding ceremony each Valentine’s Day, for couples who want to tie the knot on skis or renew their vows. The newlyweds and guests then ski down the mountain for a reception. More information: skiloveland.com/events/wedding.aspx
For the singles
No need to drown your sorrows, single folks. OK, maybe you can, but here are a couple of options to get out and meet some people before you do.
• The Thunder and Buttons Westside Runners Club meets at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the bar, 2415 W. Colorado Ave., for a run/walk followed by drink specials and karaoke.
• The Old Chicago on Commerce Center Drive has a club that runs a 5K on the Santa Fe Trail on Thursdays, followed by $2 pints. Meet at the restaurant at 6 p.m. More information: thursdaynightrun.ning.com
• You always could hike the now-legal Manitou Incline. Even in winter you’re bound to have plenty of company. Or wait until Tuesday and take part in the Jack Quinn’s Running Club, where many happy relationships have been launched.