Mueller State Park:
We bounced back from a not-so-pleasant stay at Lake Pueblo State Park with an awesome visit to Mueller State Park, just west of Colorado Springs. We stayed for two nights nestled up the mountains and tackled about 12 of the 55 miles of hiking trails. The trails system was beautifully intertwined, making it easy to hop between trails and see a variety of terrain. Steep climbs led to scenic overlooks with views of Pikes Peak and green mountain ranges, while switchbacks descended into groves of aspen trees and traveled through grand meadows with reflective ponds.
The trails and campground were green and pristine. I don’t think I saw one piece of trash on the trails or at our campsite. Pets are not allowed on any trails, so Gaius enjoyed the view of the forest from the trailer.
Accessibility Notes: The 1/2 mile Dragonfly Nature Trail is Mueller State Park’s only trail designated as wheelchair accessible. However, several other trails are smooth and wide and could be accessible for some (see image below). There is accessible parking at each trailhead and restrooms include wide doorways and grab bars. There are also a few large, fully paved campsites reserved for visitors with disabilities.
The Visitor Center has accessible parking, including a few long parking spaces for RVs. Just outside the Visitor Center, sits a scenic overlook with an accessible shaded gazebo. Inside the Visitor Center there are nature exhibits with wide aisles and accessible drinking fountains and restrooms.
After our glorious but short trip to Muller State Park we headed to Colorado Springs for a visit with my long-time friend Patti and her family. I hadn’t seen Patti in seven years, but she was just as I remembered her- FUN, funny, bubbly, and so sweet she would give you the shirt off of her back. She and her husband invited us over for dinner and we spent the night chatting and catching up. Mitch’s sister Elee happened to be passing through Colorado Springs with her two pups and Patti invited her to stop by and join the fun.
The next morning we ventured out to explore Garden of the Gods and historic Manitou Springs.
Garden of the Gods:
We took Gaius to the very pet-friendly Garden of the Gods for what was supposed to be some light hiking. Even with maps in-hand and posted every 50 yards we still ended up getting lost on the paved trails and found ourselves endlessly circling around the same rock formations. Gaius was a little trooper and carried on through the crowds receiving lots of attention and praise from kids and other visitors.
The park was beautiful- but for whatever reason I didn’t snap many photos.
Accessibility Notes: Several of the parking areas, including the high Point Overlook, include accessible parking. The large North Main Parking Lot includes accessible parking and restrooms. There’s also a small parking lot designated as “handicap only” with easy access to the paved Perkins Central Garden Trail.
The Perkins Central Garden Trail is wide and flat, located in the heart of the park, and guides visitors to 10 of the 19 notable rock formations. By far, the coolest thing I spotted in the park was an accessible parking space with sign labeled, “Think of Me, Keep it Free.”
What a brilliant idea! Of course I had to know more, so I did some research and learned the signs can be found statewide and are an initiative of the Colorado Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities. The Council identified that people who have disabilities face challenges parking due to able-bodied drivers occupying designated accessible parking spaces. The signs help remind drivers that by occupying an accessible parking space, they have denied a person with disabilities their civil right to access. “Think of Me, Keep it Free” signage can be downloaded from the Council’s website for free and posted along with ADA signage in front of accessible parking spaces. The Council has worked on other public awareness initiatives to improve access for people with disabilities, including their creative Excuses vs. Reasons campaign that uses real excuses able-bodied people have given to justify parking in accessible parking spaces. The takeaway- No plates. No Placard. No parking.
I have never seen signs like these before and will keep an eye out for more of them as we travel around Colorado. I also hope to see other states being creative or following suit (ahem, Texas). Keep up the excellent work, Colorado Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities!
We dropped off our tired pup back at home base and then met Patti and her kiddos in historic Manitou Springs for more adventuring. We set out on a mission to sample all eight of the public mineral springs scattered throughout the town. It felt almost like a scavenger hunt trying to find dribbling springs that were sometimes quaintly hidden behind shops or tucked away down ordinary streets. We picked up a handy brochure which revealed the mineral content of the springs- bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, copper, fluoride, iron, lithium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, silica, sodium, sulfate, and zinc. Yum! We saw lots of folks filling empty jugs with spring water and others taking small sips from their hands. A few of the springs had a strong chalky or metallic taste, especially those with the highest mineral content. However, most of the springs were mild with a natural carbonation. Think Topo Chico on tap! We bottled up some of our favorite water to go.
Unfortunately, I became wildly ill that night after indulging my palate with the healing mineral waters. I’ll spare you the details but assure you it wasn’t pretty. But, before the long night I spent in our tiny RV bathroom we made happy memories playing games at the Penny Arcade.
We also took a trip to the cascading, not-for-the-faint-of-heart Seven Falls.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I learned the falls can only be viewed after taking a shuttle to the trailhead and purchasing admission. Can you say “tourist trap?” However, I have to admit the falls and surrounding grounds were beautiful and I had a lot of fun.
As the name implies, Seven Falls consists of seven cascading waterfalls. After taking a quick (and free) shuttle ride up into the mountain, visitors hike about one mile to reach the base of the falls. A tram to the falls is also available for $2 roundtrip. The Eagle’s Nest viewing platform provides a full view of the falls and can be accessed by taking two flights of stairs or hopping in the elevator.
Reaching the top of the falls requires climbing the two very steep flights of stairs seen in the photo above.
Accessibility Notes: Accessible parking is available in the parking area for the shuttle. The shuttles are all equipped with wheelchair lifts. The trail to the falls is a wide paved road with a few gradual climbs. Accessible restrooms are available. There is elevator access to the Eagle’s Nest viewing platform situated across the falls, but unfortunately stairs provide the only access to the top of the falls.
Overall, we had a great time visiting the Colorado Springs area and really enjoyed seeing family and spending time with friends. With fond memories and our RV in tow, we’re hitched up and headed towards our next destination: Denver.
Thanks for reading!