Florissant Fossil Beds: 5 Reasons To Check It Out!

We had been on the road for more than two months. We were eager to get home and anxious to be on the road when we found ourselves in Colorado with our “check engine” light on. Thankfully, family loaned us a car so we could set off on some day trips! Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is less an hour drive from Colorado Springs. It was one place that we had yet to explore.

Here are 6 reasons that we are glad we did!

1. Hands-on Activities

The variety and depth of hands-on experiences were more than expected. We joined the kids for one lap around the visitor’s center and nearby yurt before they settled into their activities of choice. From digging for fossils, to sorting rocks, we spent much more time here than planned.

We loved looking at fossils and rocks also.
Fossil sites are fun for digging also!

2. Hiking

I was glad to find more than 10 miles of trails to hike! In addition to meadows, you can find pine forests and boulder fields. The views are much different than those just a short drive east.

Not just fun hiking, the views are great too!

3. Self Guided Walking Tours

The walking tours are easy to follow and full of fun facts also.

Check out the tour, its worth it!

4. A Petrified Redwood Forest at the Fossil Beds

I expected to see fossils but I didn’t expect an ancient lake and forest!

This may be the best old forest of all time. We all agreed, by the way.
This “big stump” didn’t fit in the scene where it was stood but we thought it was cool.
Also, an old forest was there. The kids liked it too, however!

5. Get your stamps here: National Park Passport stamps and Junior Ranger Badges

Why not?!

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Manitou Incline: All Your Questions Answered.

The Manitou Incline is well known among Colorado Springs locals. It is the remains of a narrow gauge railway that was built in 1907 and destroyed by a rock slide in 1990. The rails were removed and the rail road ties remain.

Until 2013 locals and fitness enthusiasts would walk past “no trespassing” signs to hike up the remains. CD and I were among the people that made this trek and did so without injury.

It has since been repaired and officially opened to the public. Thanks to this restoration, the trail is much more safe which still being sufficiently challenging.

Manitou Incline Stats:

  • Altitude at the base: 6600 ft
  • Ascent: 2011 ft
  • Distance: 0.88 miles
  • Steps: 2744
  • Grade: up to 68%

Getting There:

  • By car: Manitou Springs is a 20 minute drive from Colorado Springs
  • By bus: Check the schedule here

Parking:

  • The base of the incline offers paid parking.
  • The town of Manitou Springs offers various parking options. A free shuttle bus runs to the incline every twenty minutes year round. I have also walked the approximately 1.5 miles to and from town but I thinking that the shuttle bus looked like a nicer option!
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Packing List:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Trekking poles
    • 2 poles. Seriously – you will thank me later!
  • Water
    • To drink and to pour on yourself if are still there when the sun hits!
  • Snacks
    • I recommend a piece of fruit for a picnic at the top!
  • Camera
  • A friendly smile and a social attitude
    • Everyone is in this together! You will find that people are chit chatting and encouraging each other the whole way. It is the best!

Trip Planning And Other Tips:

  • Start early if you can
    • I usually don’t start early enough and end up mid incline in the hot sun. Be aware that there isn’t any shade. You can duck off to the side in the trees a bit but it won’t offer much relief.
  • Embrace the community! Talk to people. Give encouragement. Accept encouragement. Smile. Laugh, sweat, and cheer together!
  • Going down will take longer than going up. They don’t allow walking down the incline so be ready to hike the Barr Trail down.
  • Know that there is a bail out spot half way up. It connects back to the Barr Trail and heads down. If you can make it, keep going slow and steady. The view from the top is impressive.
  • Be aware of the false summit. Just like most mountain hikes, the incline offers false hope. For this hike you are pretty much always “almost there”.
  • Don’t be afraid to be slow and steady. I have climbed it fast and climbed it slow. Both have been great. In terms of the actual time, slow and fast aren’t really that different. Enjoy!

Please follow our blog for other adventures!

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Colorado Winter Hut Trip 101.

Not all hut trips are created equal.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a hut.

How will I get there?

Skis with climbing skins are the most popular choice. They are effective on the uphill, practical for mid-day adventures, and super fun and efficient on the way back to the car.

Snowshoes are slower but easy enough for even the must novice winter hut goer.

Nordic skis and I have had some crazy times in back country down hills. I have full respect for the back country Nordic skier!

A snowmobile may seem like the best choice but most huts don’t allow snowmobile access. However, a few allow you to get within a mile from the hut. This is handy if you are planning to bring a 30 pack of beer, a guitar, and a couple of pineapples, for instance.

How far am I willing to walk/ski/ride to get there?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to carry the heaviest back pack to the closest hut or the lightest backpack to the furthest hut?
  • Am I interested in Fitbit goals and selfie pics or making it to the hut in time for an early happy hour?

What amenities am I hoping to enjoy?

Running water?

Am I planning on flush toilets, a hot shower, and a sink full of clean dishwater? If so, check out Shrine Mountain Huts.

Am I hoping to study the science of melting snow for water? If so, pretty much any hut will do. Please know that the time input to water output ratio is considerable.

Feel free to check the amenities page on https://www.huts.org/Reservations/Hut_Amenities.php.

You will find headings such as “outhouse with covered walkway” and “outhouse without covered walkway”. The details are all there. Take your pick.

Sauna?

The obvious answer is “yes, please”. Even if you don’t use it much, simple maintenance of the sauna brings people together. From shoveling the snow away from the door to splitting wood and keeping the fire stoked, there is something for everyone.

Shrine Mountain huts share a wood burning sauna. A few other huts have sauna’s as well. Amenities can be found at https://www.huts.org/Reservations/Hut_Amenities.php.

What else should I know?

Dogs are not allowed.

Many huts are rented as single bed units. Some are rented as full hut rentals only. Single bed rentals are nice for last minute get a ways and making new friends. Ideally, we try to get enough people to fill up whichever cabin we chose.

Pack light but bring fun extras. Don’t be in a hurry. Go outside during the day and night. Pack sunscreen.

Have fun.

Steamboat Springs: Top 5

Are you in Colorado and looking for a winter get-away? Why not Steamboat?

To really appreciate the culture, consider staying downtown rather than on the mountain. You won’t regret it.

Here are 5 things to check out in Steamboat Springs:

5. Fish Creek Falls.

A short hike with rewarding views. Five dollars to park but avoid parking by walking from any where in town. Snow shoes or Yak tracks may help if slippery. Keep an eye out for ice climbers. Warm up afterwards with a drink at the Old Town Pub.

4. Rabbit Ears Pass.

Snowshoeing options are endless on Rabbit Ears pass. Skis and skins are a great option too. West Summit Loop is popular but there are tons of other options. You will likely see and hear snowmobiles. There are snowmobile rental options if that is more your speed.

3. Winter Carnival.

If you are interested in amateur ski jumping or skijouring and don’t mind crowds, this is the carnival for you. Don’t plan on driving down main street during this event as it will be closed and snow covered. Luckily, you can get everywhere you need to go by foot.

2. Howelsen Hill.

Billed as North America’s oldest operating ski area, Howelsen Hill is not to be missed. It sits unassumingly in town and has a long history of training Olympic athletes. While ski jump may be its most unique feature, I recommend skate skiing. Throw on some skate skis and hit the trail during a full moon.

1. Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Of all the hot springs, this one is still my favorite. I have been there with my grandma in the afternoon and with my friends during a drum circle at night. The road is muddy and parking is limited. You may consider planning ahead and booking a cabin (or a caboose if you want to be more “Aspen Extreme”). While the lodging is convenient and fun, please realize that the cabins aren’t exactly like a five star hotel. Whether day or night, Strawberry Park Hot Springs is the right balance of accessible, clean, and downright beautiful hot springs.

Please follow our blog for other adventures!

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