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Fun Things to Do at Your Duty Station: Colorado Springs 

With Ft. Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, the Air Force Academy, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), U.S. Northern Command, and possibly Space Force, a lot of lucky military families get to call Colorado Springs home, at least for a little while—and many choose to stay forever.  

Surprisingly mild winters, ridiculously perfect summers, and a neverending array of outdoor activities are just some of the reasons the city just an hour south of Denver is so popular with military families.  

But what, exactly, is there to do, you ask?


Though Colorado Springs has most every amenity you might want in a mid-sized city, big-city entertainment and culture are just up the road in Denver. Take in a concert at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater, visit one of the city’s well-regarded museums, or delight in the kitsch of Casa Bonita, a Mexican restaurant so unusual that the television show South Park wrote a whole episode about it. (Live indoor cliff divers…need we say more?)  

But enough about indoor diversions, Colorado is all about the outdoors, and you’ll never be lacking for ways to have fun in the sun. Seriously. At about 300 days of sunshine per year, Colorado gets more rays than Florida. Worldclass skiing and snowboarding are obvious winter options, and resorts like Breckenridge are just two hours’ drive away from “the Springs”. But there’s plenty to do in the months with no snow, too.  

Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

The author’s nephew (front) and children (background) sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo submitted by Rebekah Sanderlin.

A few hours south of the Springs is a National Park that must be seen to be believed. Great Sand Dunes National Park is so named because the sand dunes are the tallest ones in North America. You can camp at the campground, splash around in Medano Creek, or jump right in and play on the dunes. Sandboards and sand sleds can be rented at the Oasis Store near the park’s entrance. (Don’t bother bringing your own sleds or saucers. They won’t work on the sand.) 

Climb (or drive!) to the top of Pike’s Peak

The view from the top of Pike’s Peak is spectacular. The author, pausing for a photo during her ascent. Photo submitted by Rebekah Sanderlin.

From just about anywhere in Colorado Springs you can see Pike’s Peak. It’s the tallest mountain around and is snow-capped for much of the year. It’s also one of the most famous mountains in the U.S. Story has it, Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write the poem that became the song “America the Beautiful” while taking in the view from atop this purple mountain’s majesty.

It’s also the only “14er” in the Springs—and climbing 14ers, that is, 14,000-foot mountains—is definitely a thing in Colorado. At the top, you’ll find more than just a great view. A gift shop sells souvenirs and a restaurant sells legendary donuts. If you’re interested in the donuts and the views but not-so-much-the-climb, you’re in luck. You can also drive to the top of Pike’s Peak. It’s a lovely drive, with lots of beautiful places to stop and hike, fly fish, or have a picnic. And be on the lookout for Bigfoot. There have been enough Sasquatch sightings on and around the Peak that there are Bigfoot crossing signs all along the drive.  

Hit the trails


The author’s daughter, Rudy Sanderlin, riding the trails at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, which is across the street from Ft. Carson. Photo submitted by Rebekah Sanderlin.

Whether you prefer hiking or mountain biking—or you’re equally partial to both—you’ll be happy in Colorado Springs. There are more than 220 known trails, covering more than one thousand miles, in and around town, which means you’re never more than a few minutes’ drive away from truly phenomenal hiking and mountain biking. Download the AllTrails app to your phone to read trail difficulty ratings and reviews and get directions to the trailhead, grab your water bottle (Colorado Springs is a high mountain desert and it’s easy to get dehydrated) and go! A gorgeous outdoor world awaits.  

The old saying is that people come to Colorado for the winters but stay for the summers. With so much to do all year long, it’s easy to believe.  

Let us know in the comments what you love to do at your current duty station, or somewhere you used to live!

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