What should I know before I visit Colorado Springs?

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Answered by: Monique, An Expert in the Tips for Traveling Category
Colorado Springs, located an hour south of Denver, is a popular tourist destination because of such attractions as the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, and the Air Force Academy. However, many people are unprepared for the high desert climate and altitude, and as a result, they may not enjoy their experience here. When you plan to visit Colorado Springs, keep these tips in mind:

1. Drink water.

--Elevation in Colorado Springs is more than 6,000 feet above sea level. Give yourself a few days to acclimate, especially if you're traveling from a low altitude--if you live in Florida, don't plan on climbing Pikes Peak the day after you arrive. Also, drink plenty of water; this not only will help keep you hydrated in our very dry climate, but water can also ease altitude sickness.

2. Use common sense, and respect the weather.

--You might be surprised how quickly storms travel over the mountains during the summer. If you hear even a distant rumble of thunder, take cover. Avoid being the highest object around. If you're on a rock or mountain, climb down quickly. Don't take shelter under trees, particularly tall ones, which might be targets for lightning. And if you're on a golf course, return to the clubhouse or find a pavilion. Almost every summer, people die because they didn't take lightning seriously.

--Along with the sudden storms comes the danger of flash floods. If you're in a low-lying area, such as a canyon or stream bed, find higher ground as soon as you feel the first raindrops.

--Listen to weather forecasts, and keep an eye on the sky. If the meteorologists say a blizzard is on the way, don't go hiking. If clouds look ominous, stay inside.

--Wind in Colorado Springs can be severe, especially during the spring.

--Dress in layers, because temperatures can change rapidly. Even during the summer, nights tend to be quite cool because of the desert climate, so bring a sweatshirt or light jacket even if you're planning to visit Colorado Springs in Juiy.

--Nearly every May and June, wildfires sweep through the Colorado mountains. To avoid contributing to the problem, follow all regulations regarding campfires, cigarettes, fireworks, and other flames.

3. Respect the local wildlife. You may think the mule deer are cute, and they may seem (or even be) tame enough to pet. But they're still wild animals, and for your safety and theirs, you should maintain a safe distance. We also have bears and mountain lions in the area, so pay attention to posted warnings, especially in or near the foothills. Pets may not be allowed in some open spaces and parks because of danger from lions. Finally, rattlesnakes do live in some parts of Colorado Springs. When you're hiking in areas such as the Garden of the Gods or Palmer Park, listen for their rattles and watch the trail to avoid an encounter neither of you will enjoy.

4. Know your limits.

--Never hike, climb rocks, kayak, ski, or engage in other outdoor activities alone.

--Understand your skill and experience levels, and don't push yourself beyond your capabilities. Many people enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from challenging themselves, but some judgment errors can be fatal. If you wander off the trail during a mountain hike, for example, you may find yourself stumbling over a cliff, sliding down a steep hillside, or getting lost--and rescue crews will have much more difficulty finding and extracting you because of your trailblazing.

--Follow all regulations and guidelines for safe recreation. If a sign says you need technical equipment to climb a rock, don't try to scramble up it without a rope and harness.

These tips, along with a healthy dose of common sense, should help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that can spoil a vacation--or even result in injury or death--here on the Front Range. Remember to drink extra water, pay attention to the skies, treat wildlife with caution and respect, and leave your ego at home. Have a safe and enjoyable visit to Colorado Springs!

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