by Lisa Truesdale
Pikes Peak isn’t the tallest mountain in Colorado, but it’s certainly one of the most majestic, providing a stunning backdrop to the state’s second-largest city, Colorado Springs, along with the other towns in the Pikes Peak Region, made up of Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek, Cañon City and Woodland Park. I spent three days there recently, and it wasn’t even close to being enough time to enjoy the area’s abundant wellness options—and I definitely couldn’t get my fill of the breathtaking views.
My personalized wellness retreat began when I arrived at SunMountain Center, nestled up against the foothills in Manitou Springs. The center’s two sprawling, historic homes, built in the early 1900s, now serve as a venue for organized yoga, wellness and hiking retreats—there’s one scheduled nearly every weekend until October this year—and the bed-and-breakfast rooms are available to others when there’s no retreat on the calendar. Guests begin each morning with a vegetarian, gluten-free breakfast served in the cozy dining room or out on the sunny flagstone patio. Much of the produce is picked fresh from the onsite organic garden. The spacious yoga/meditation room features yoga mats and meditation bolsters for everyone to use, plus a small but well-stocked bookshelf of wellness-related reads. Wander around the property and you’ll find hiking and meditation paths, an outdoor hot tub, and friendly farm animals including goats and pigs.
Just down the road is SunWater Spa, offering an extensive menu of traditional spa treatments; daily classes in yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, dance and more; and eight al fresco cedar soaking pools filled with the healing mineral waters of the nearby Seven Minute Spring. Guests of SunMountain receive a complimentary two-hour soaking pass. I highly recommend taking full advantage of the entire two hours. I enjoyed soaking in multiple pools—each with varying temperatures ranging from about 100 to 104 degrees, and each with a different view on one of three outdoor levels—and relaxing between soaks on one of the cushy lounge chairs.
Just a few miles from SunMountain Center is Garden of the Gods Park, a registered National Natural Landmark featuring dramatic, towering, 300-foot sandstone rock formations like The Kissing Camels and Balanced Rock; many of these geological wonders are believed to be over 300 million years old. You can tour the park (free!) on your own by car or on the numerous walking trails—grab a free trail map at the Visitor Center, which also has educational exhibits and a healthy café. There’s also free guided walks, rock climbing sessions, Jeep, Segway and trolley tours, bike and electric bike rentals, and a jam-packed schedule of free or low-cost classes, demonstrations and speaker presentations. Every Thursday from 4-6 p.m., a 5k fun run (or walk) called Gallop in the Garden is open to all ages. Dogs and strollers are also welcome.
The park’s rock formations provide a dramatic vista out every window at the nearby Garden of the Gods Collection, a luxury resort, golf club and comprehensive wellness community. The International Health & Wellness Center boasts an impressive team of physicians and clinicians who work in collaboration to offer each guest a comprehensive wellness program tailored to their specific needs. The team includes chiropractors, a naturopathic doctor, a dietician and a Reiki master. I first experienced a 45-minute Biofield Energy Therapy session, a healing process to strengthen the chakras, balance the energy fields, and remove energetic blockages. I was then ushered up to the Spa & Salon for their popular Aypa Energy Body Treatment, which harnesses the power of organic indigenous plants from Peru, like a purple corn exfoliant, Lucuma Warming Body Mask, Sacha Inchi Oil, and a luxurious cream made from organic quinoa. If you want to stay on the property, lodging includes guest rooms, suites, cottages and casitas.
The next day at the Mining Exchange, a historic hotel in downtown Colorado Springs, I found another relaxing retreat at the onsite MX Spa. I began with a few minutes inside the eucalyptus-scented steam room, then sipped on a Mimosa as I relaxed before my Signature Massage. My therapist expertly customized the massage to my requests—more on the feet, less on the neck—as she slathered on the gently warmed organic shea butter. The spa also offers facials, waxing, body treatments, hair and nail services, and a variety of pampering day packages.
I was surprisingly full of energy following my massage, so I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling through Old Colorado City, a charming historic district between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. I ducked into a number of unique shops, galleries and artists’ studios before discovering the ideal place for an early dinner—TAPAteria, a Spanish tapas and wine bar that happens to be completely gluten-free. Those who can’t have gluten will appreciate the fact that there’s no chance of cross-contamination (and they don’t have to ask questions about the menu), but those who can have gluten won’t even know it’s missing.
If you’re up for thrilling adventures, invigorating workouts and cultural attractions, the Pikes Peak Region is home to dozens of popular activities, indoors or out. The Colorado Springs CVB’s website gives you all the info you need about the region, including hiking to the summit of Pikes Peak or kayaking down the Arkansas River, or visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the world’s highest suspension bridges. Check out the Itineraries section for carefully curated lists of trip ideas based on certain themes like Dog-Friendly, Outdoors, and Scenic Drives.
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Lisa Truesdale is a Colorado-based writer and regular contributor to Travel to Wellness.
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