The Denver Zoo is offering a special deal on hot days in August: when the 10 PM forecast on Denver channel 7 is for over 90º, the Denver Zoo will offer $1 off admission for every degree the forecast is above 90º! So if the forecast is for 96º, they’ll take $6 off regular admission. They’ll also offer membership discounts and food deals on those days – check out the full details on Denver7’s website.
Things To Do & See
The Fine Arts Center at Colorado College has a “Passport to the Arts” program that grants fourth graders a free membership for their family, one free children’s theater ticket to the fall and spring Music Room productions, and half-off select art classes plus more special events and benefits!
Registration for those entering fourth grade in the 2018-2019 school year just opened, so you can now register your incoming fourth graders and get that free family membership and use it during the summer.
Another Free Membership for 4th Graders
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum will be having special events for families this summer: a “Sensing History” self-guided tour that uses your five senses, story times, and other fun experiences on select days in June and July! See the full schedule here.
Located on the northeast corner of Milam and Shoup, this 385-acre park has not just trails, but a playground, tennis courts/basketball court, horseshoe pits, and picnic pavilions. There’s also a large playfield that’s sometimes used for youth sports events but more often than not is open to everyone.
Much of this park was burned in the Black Forest fire, but the areas around the parking lots on the south end were mostly unscathed so there are still lots of towering Ponderosa Pines. The trails in the burned area of this park have recently been rebuilt, at least in part.
While hiking or biking through a burned area may not sound exciting to some, I actually like it as over time, you can see how the landscape recovers. Obviously the pine trees will take awhile to grow back, but the aspens and scrub oak are shooting up and I really think it’s a beautiful process to watch over time.
If you take the trails to the north end of the park, you’ll meet up with the Pikes Peak Loop, a 4.5-mile loop that circles the perimeter of the Cathedral Pines neighborhood. Ridden counter-clockwise, it’s a fun bike ride, particularly a fast downhill stretch on the north side that’s known as “Roller Coaster in the Pines”. You’ll want to watch out for the barbed wire fence all along the outside, though. (One of these days I’d like to know why barbed wire was necessary!)
You can also park at the parking lot at Milam and Vessey to access Pikes Peak Loop if you don’t want to ride up through Black Forest Regional Park. I believe there’s also an access point at the end of Piedra Vista St.
Back to the park’s trails: if you would like a short hike in the trees, there are trails that connect the south entrance with the north entrance.
This park has two entrances with three parking areas – one right at the corner of Milam and Shoup and one just a little way north on Milam, so if you’re meeting up with someone, be sure to clarify which part of the park you’re meeting at. The second parking lot – the one north of the first entrance at Milam and Shoup – is the one with the amenities such as the playground, pavilions, tennis courts, etc.
I hope you’re able to get out and experience this gem in Black Forest! For official information on Black Forest Regional Park, visit its page on the El Paso County Parks website
Children aged 15 and younger can gain free admission to the History Colorado Center in Denver this summer: just wear a baseball jersey! This is valid from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and it is valid for up to two child admissions per adult admission purchase.
History Colorado’s community museums (such as El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo or the Healy House Museum in Leadville) are also offering free admission to children under 18.
Image Credit: Frank Ooms via HCC
CityPASS now has an option for Denver! I heard about this program last year and it sounded like a great deal, but it wasn’t available in Denver until May 2nd of this year. Now you can choose a discounted pass to visit three, four, or five of these Denver-area attractions:
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Denver Art Museum
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
History Colorado Center
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
An adult pass to see three of these attractions is $39 and a child’s pass is $29, with slightly more of a discount for the four-attraction pass and the five-attraction pass. You must use the CityPASS within one year from date of purchase. Particularly for the Denver Zoo, Museum of Nature and Science, and Downtown Aquarium this looks like a pretty great deal!
The St. Peter’s Dome hike is off the beaten path but is quite short (less than two miles round trip) and offers great views and some rock scrambling (if you desire to get to the very top). Our family did this hike way back in 2009 when our oldest was four (he’s now almost thirteen!) and we did it again this spring so I wanted to update the blog post I’d written about it and add some new photos.
The trailhead is on Gold Camp Road about a mile past the intersection of Old Stage and Gold Camp (see below for detailed directions). You’ll be driving up about eight miles up Old Stage Road to get there, and be forewarned that the road is curvy with lots of washboarding and potholes, though it’s totally passable by most vehicles.
The sign at the trailhead for St. Peter’s Dome indicates it’s a 0.7 mile hike. The first part of the trail is relatively flat, and then it begins climbing and the switchbacks begin. As you near the top, the trail becomes pretty narrow and there is a lot of loose rock which can be challenging for kids.
When you get near the top, you might realize that you’re content to check out the view from near the top – if you want to go all the way to the top of the dome, you’ll need to use a knotted rope to get up the next boulder. (The rope seems sturdy, but who knows how long it’s been up there!)
When we were here most recently in spring 2018, we had a harder time locating the rope than we remembered previously, but finally found it – and ultimately opted not to go up to the top mostly because no one was excited about having to come back down the same way. There have been staircases to get the top in the past, apparently, but nothing other than the remnants of an old metal staircase remains.
There are some large boulders that you can climb on to get a view over the ridge into the valley, though Jeremy told me that it was somewhat ironic that the place where you park has as good as or better views than the top of the hike. ;)
Still, it’s a fun hike that’s quite short but still feels like you actually went on a hike!
How to get to the St. Peter’s Dome trailhead: since part of Gold Camp Road is closed because of a tunnel collapse years ago, you’ll need to take Old Stage Road to Gold Camp Road. Once you reach the point where Old Stage merges into Gold Camp, drive about a mile to reach the St. Peter’s Dome trailhead. It’s easy to find, on the northeast side of the road there will be a small parking area and some large boulders. There’s also a small sign that indicates where the trail is.
Here’s a Google map. Note that the St. Peter’s Dome trailhead starts on the part of the map where it says “Eagle’s Nest”.
Castlewood Canyon State Park is that breathtaking canyon you’ve probably passed many times on your way to Denver on Highway 83 and gasped at its beauty and then just like that, it was gone. (Well, the beauty isn’t completely gone, but the picturesque canyon is in view on second and gone the next!)
Well, you should stop next time! Castlewood Canyon truly is a beautiful park with quite a variety of features: old homestead ruins, a waterfall, the remains of a dam that burst in 1933, and of course miles of hiking trails and beautiful views.
On our first visit, which took place last summer, we parked at the main parking lot off Highway 83 and did a few miles of hiking to the dam and waterfall.
The Castlewood Dam
The Castlewood Dam was built in 1890 and collapsed in 1933, sending a “fifteen-foot wall of water” into Denver. (The Denver Public Library has some of that history here.)
The Lucas Homestead Ruins
On the west side of the park there are the remains of the old homestead of Patrick and Margaret Lucas. It was fun to explore this and imagine how the house must have been put together originally and what the various walls must have been.
It took until our third trip to the park to finally get to the homestead. The first time, we intended to hike from the main park entrance to the homestead, which is on the other end of the park – about 3.5 miles one-way, which was more ambitious than I realized! On a future trip we parked at the Falls Lot and did about a .7-mile hike to get to the homestead. Once we got to the homestead I realized that there is a parking lot right in front of it, but hey, we wanted to hike. (Obviously, my map-interpreting skills are lacking.) The Falls Lot is a nice mid-way point between the homestead, the falls, and the dam.
We visited once in winter and enjoyed seeing the waterfall frozen over.
This is the Highway 83 bridge that you’ve probably driven on. The little pavilion you can see from Highway 83 is the Bridge Canyon Overlook, which somehow I didn’t get a picture of that day. (It was cold!)
When we were there in April, we observed many raptors soaring above the canyon, which was really fun to watch! Certain trails and climbing areas at Castlewood Canyon are closed during part of the year to protect the raptors during their nesting season – be sure to check the website for closure information.
A sign for Cave Trail caught my eye last time we were there, but we didn’t have time to take it. It looks like it’s a short hike that might be worth it, because of course it’s a cave!
Note that there are two entrances to the park: the main entrance off 83 and then the west entrance off Castlewood Canyon Rd., which can be access off Lake Gulch Rd. if you’re coming from the Springs. I probably would recommend the west entrance if you are interested in the homestead, falls, and dam but don’t want a long hike. The main entrance has the visitor center and quite a bit of paved trail if you need wheelchair- or stroller-accessible.
A state park pass is required to visit Castlewood Canyon – you can purchase a day pass for $7. Bring cash, especially during the off-season, as there may not be a ranger at the visitor center. (There are self-pay stations at both entrances to the park.)
Be sure to check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife site for official information on Castlewood Canyon State Park. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of our state parks!