Colorado Springs might not be the first city you think of visiting in Colorado. But there’s good reason to give it a fair shake. Not only is it poised to become larger than Denver, it’s also officially dubbed “Olympic City USA,” which means health and fitness are top of mind here. And that wellness focus has made it easy to be vegan here, too. Colorado Springs is home to five all-vegan restaurants and a vibrant vegan community that hosts a vegan restaurant week and two vegan markets annually. Need a little more enticing to book that trip to Colorado Springs? Mull over these six reasons.
1. If the altitude doesn’t knock the wind out of you, the views will.
One of the best views in Colorado Springs is from the Garden of the Gods Resort and Club, which is why it makes sense to stay here. From your room, you’ll have views of the red rock sandstone formations in the Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak as the backdrop. The view changes frequently, depending on the sun and clouds, so step out onto your balcony frequently to check. Then take advantage of fitness classes or book a spa treatment at the Strata Integrated Wellness Spa. Tell them you’re vegan so your therapist can pick the appropriate products for your treatments, and make sure you allow ample time for the spa’s salt room. Once you’ve nourished your soul, nourish your body with clearly designated vegan options on the resort’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; if you prefer a more casual setting with similarly stunning scenery, hit the Rocks Bar. No matter where on the property you are, keep your eyes peeled for the mule deer who make regular appearances on the resort’s grounds.
2. You don’t have to wait until the next Olympics to get in the spirit.
Colorado Springs is the headquarters of the United States Olympic Committee and home of over 20 national Olympic government bodies, the Olympic Training Center (it’s one of three in the country), and the future US Olympic Museum, slated to open in 2020. Right now, though, you can tour the Olympic Training Center, which takes you behind the scenes to see athletes in action. Over 100 athletes reside here full-time, anywhere from six months to 10 years, including recent high-profile names such as Amy Van Dyken, Apollo Ohno, and Rulon Gardner. And because studies show that caffeine can enhance fitness performance, why not take a coffee break after—or before if the time is right—your tour at Switchback Coffee Roasters, which is just down the street? It also serves food, and the majority of its dishes can be made vegan.
3. You can cash in on a free visit to a national landmark.
National landmarks are rarely free, but Garden of the Gods with its 1,320 acres was given to the city in 1909 as a public park designated to remain free forever. Today, you can hike 15 miles of trails that run through this stunning park with its garden rock formations and views of Pikes Peak, North America’s tallest “fourteener” at 14,115 feet. Don’t feel like exploring on foot? Join a bike, trolley, or Segway tour, or if you prefer rock climbing, that’s an option, too. The park is pet-friendly but just make sure you keep your pet on a leash.
4. Up for a challenge? Train like an Olympian on the most breathtaking climb.
You don’t have to be an athlete to train like one. Just visiting a city that sits at 6,035 feet will make that heart pump harder, making you test your fitness level with every step you take. But if you’re up for the challenge, head to the Manitou Incline (it’s free) where Olympians and professional athletes such as speed skater Ohno and pro triathlete Mark Fretta have trained. Although people of all fitness levels attempt this hike—there is a bail-out point about three-quarters of the way up—it’s a seriously advanced climb. In less than a mile, you’ll gain 2,000 feet of elevation with some sections of the trail as steep as 68 percent. By the time you reach the top, you’ll have climbed 2,744 steps, which signs warn is no walk in the park. Once you hit the top, you can continue hiking onto connecting trails or you can make your way down to the starting point by descending on the Barr Trail. Plan accordingly, though, as you’ll be traversing four miles before you hit the starting point. Fuel up beforehand by stopping by Adam’s Mountain Café, which features numerous vegan dishes such as Huevos Rancheros, Avocado Toast, and a Vegan Breakfast Bowl with beans and rice.
5. You can get your funk on in Manitou Springs.
Manitou Springs is one of the most characteristic mountain towns you’ll visit. Just as Austin, TX wants to keep itself weird, Manitou Springs is all about keeping its funky, hipster style. If you’re heading to the Incline, you’ll drive through this little town on your way up so plan to stop on your way back. Grab lunch at Good Karma Cafe—their vegan Pueblo Green Chili is legendary—and then meander the eclectic art galleries and boutique shops, even stopping at Manitou’s famous mineral springs. If you’re so inclined for a beer, the Manitou Brewing Company boasts a lively atmosphere with a patio for well-behaved dogs.
6. You’ll have your pick of vegan-friendly breweries.
It’s no secret that Colorado is a beer lover’s state. In Colorado Springs, there’s no shortage of breweries with 20 on tap. Two that should hit your radar? Trinity Brewing Company and Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. At Trinity, you’ll find a library-themed interior and a surprising amount of vegan pub fare, such as a Vegan Corn Dog, Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Trinity Seitan Wings with a ranch dipping sauce. Meanwhile, Phantom Canyon in the historic Cheyenne Building is the perfect haunt when you’re exploring downtown. Numerous items are designated as vegan on the menu, but the one you shouldn’t miss is the Vegan Shepherd’s Pie, complete with a vegetable beer gravy and, according to one of the brewery’s non-vegan bartenders, is the best vegan meal he’s ever had. While you’re downtown, be sure to check out other vegan eateries such as Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery for vegan sweet treats and the artistically decorated Streetcar520, which offers dishes (that change seasonally) such as Mulligatawny Soup, a Bodhi Bowl, and Avocado Chocolate Mousse.
Karen Asp is the author of Anti-Aging Hacks, and award-winning journalist, as well as a fitness pro certified in plant-based nutrition, world record-holding athlete (in Nordic walking), and a vegan mentor with PETA.