Higher than the Mile High City, with more than 300 days of sunshine per year, it is hard to deny the draw of Colorado Springs. The town is tucked in between the desert, the grassy plains, the Rocky Mountain Front Range and Pikes Peak (which soars to over 14,000 feet / 4,200 meters). Twenty million visitors came through the area in 2017, and more are on the way. Whether you’re a local or only visiting for a short time, this guide will show you some of the best photo spots in Colorado Springs.
America the Beautiful Park
Thirty acres of parkland on the west side of downtown, with sculpture and fountains and views of the city, Pikes Peak and the mountains. You can park here and take a photowalk through downtown, along one of the many walking trails or you can look for interesting compositions among the nearby train tracks.
Recommended for: Urban and mountain views. Trains, tracks and urban shots. One of my favorite spots for an urban photowalk.
A dense forest of ponderosa pines at around 7,400 feet (2250 m). Black Forest is a ways north of the city. Drive along Shoup Road, Hodgen Road or Burgess Road and enjoy the pleasant views. Or try Black Forest Section 16 and Black Forest Regional Park to walk among the ponderosa trees.
Recommended for: Landscapes, nature and mountains
Calhan Paint Mines
The Calhan Paint Mines (or simply the “paint mines” as the locals call them) is an area of prairie and badlands on the eastern plains of El Paso County. Take your camera and explore among the sandy gullies, hoodoos and rock formations, or take the trail that goes across the plains for expansive views of the Colorado countryside.
Recommended for: Landscapes, sunsets, night sky photography; also a good location for storm watching
Fountain Valley Regional Park
Mostly flat, easy strolls through cattails, wetland and cottonwood forest. This park stretches along Fountain Creek on the south end of Colorado Springs. Enjoy the streams, ponds and lakes, and if you’re lucky (more luck if you stop by early in the morning) you can see a number of wild birds, duck, geese, deer, foxes and even frogs and turtles.
Recommended for: Nature and bird photography
Garden of the Gods
Towering red rocks, panoramic mountain views and plenty of hiking/walking trails for access. Garden of the Gods Park is very popular with locals and tourists alike, with millions of visitors each year. The park is located on the west side of Colorado Springs, up against the mountains, and since the park is so close to the mountains, you won’t get much in the way of golden hour or sunsets here. But during sunrise or early morning, the best viewpoints are along Ridge Trail, Palmer Trail and Dakota Trail.
Recommended for: Landscapes, rock formations, especially during sunrise
Smith Creek in Sun Hills
One of my favorite places to enjoy an afternoon photowalk and golden hour. This isn’t a park or official open space, as far as I know, but the Smith Creek valley is a small undeveloped area near the Gleneagle neighborhood. The main walking trail is a loop that will take you around the small valley, with views to the mountains and the west. Best access point is on Walsen Road, off Sun Hills Drive.
Recommended for: Landscapes and nature, also bird photography
High Chaparral Open Space
Good views, panoramic to east and west. There isn’t much here in terms of walking trails or attractions, but it’s a decent place to watch the sunset or point your camera at some passing storms. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Spanish Peaks from here.
Recommended for: Sunset and golden hour landscapes; good location to watch thunderstorms and weather events
Old Colorado City
Old Colorado City used to be its own town in the old days. But now, OCC is a neighborhood and historic district on the west side of Colorado Springs. On Colorado Avenue, between 21st Street and 26th Street, you can walk from shop to shop, with the historic buildings, streets and alleyways as backdrop.
Recommended for: Architecture and street photography
Set on a series of bluffs on the east side of the city, Palmer Park is another huge open space area (730 acres and 25 miles of trails) and regional park in Colorado Springs. The park is full of rock spires, hoodoos and cliffs, and some say the Grandview Overlook has the best view of Pikes Peak in town. Another favorite viewpoint here can be found if you take the first right once you turn off Paseo Drive towards Grandview Overlook. The view here looks west, through the canyon towards the peak, framed with rocks and pine trees.
Recommended for: Overlooks, vistas and rock formations
Memorial Park and Prospect Lake are situated up out of the valley and east of downtown, so you can take an afternoon photowalk around the lake for golden hour light and sunset. Many events and festivals are held here, and the area can be good for candid shots and street photography.
Recommended for: Sunsets, landscapes and street photography
Pulpit Rock Park
Part of an interconnected open space area named Austin Bluffs Open Space, Pulpit Rock is a massive rock formation overlooking the north central part of town. The viewpoint at the top looks to the west and affords a nice panorama of the city and Front Range mountains. Get here from the parking lot on North Nevada Avenue, or for less climbing, start at one of the trails near Vickers Drive/Butler Court.
Recommended for: Nature, city and mountain overlooks
Spruce Mountain Open Space
This is a bonus, as Spruce Mountain is outside of the city and about thirty minutes driving north of Colorado Springs. Take Interstate 25 north to the Greenland exit. The trailhead on Spruce Mountain Road will take you up to the plateau, and the best view of the mountains and south towards Palmer Lake is at the west end of the loop at the top. There are also a couple overlooks on the north side of the loop with impressive views of Eagle Mountain and the bluffs in Douglas County.
Recommend for: Landscapes and some incredible views of Palmer Lake and the front range
Additional Creative Commons photography from Flickr:
Skilled photographers know that good photography is about subject, lighting and composition. The Photographer’s Guide series on DailyPhotoBlog aims to give you the best chance to create shots you love, by bringing you to the most photogenic places and the most beautiful viewpoints (i.e. the subjects). The composition and lighting are up to you!