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Pueblo, Colorado offers the best of both worlds

By Holly Martin

With the breathtaking Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to wide-open plains, Pueblo, Colo. is the perfect destination for someone looking for a little bit of nature, combined with a relaxed city atmosphere. The city of 100,000 people is located on I-25, just 45 miles south of Colorado Springs and 110 miles south of Denver.

Pueblo combines downtown shopping along the riverwalk, golf courses and restaurants with outdoor activities like hiking, fishing and boating, all within a few miles of each other.

Riverwalk

The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo is a beautiful addition to the city. The 26-acre urban waterfront is home to walking trails, restaurants and shopping. Lining the walkway are many sculptures, adding interest to a leisurely stroll. During the summer months, an excursion boat takes tours along the riverwalk and visitors can rent paddleboats to power their own trip on the water.

At the east end of the walk lays Boettcher Outdoor Education Center, which is home to an 80-seat amphitheatre. The Center is designed for young and old alike to learn more about Pueblo's history. Many outdoor events are held along the riverwalk throughout the year, including concerts at the outdoor stage, located just east of Main Street.

City Park

The Pueblo City Park isn't just a small patch of grass with a swing or two. It is home to a serene lake, golf courses, dog park, skateboard park, swimming pool and zoo. The park is located on Highway 96 in the western part of Pueblo.

Beautiful drive

Any visitor with a love of nature and a beautiful view must reserve a good portion of a day to take the Frontier Pathway, a scenic and historic byway. The 103-mile drive has an elevation gain from 4,695 feet to 9,350 feet. The drive heads west out of Pueblo on Highway 96 through Hardscrabble Canyon into the Wet Mountains. The drive takes you through Wetmore, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. Turning south on Highway 165, scenic drive ends up in Colorado City. There are many, many stops along the way, including many historic sites. Complete listings can be found at: www.frontierpathways.org.

Antiques galore

A short drive off the loop and visitors can make a trip to Canon City, Colo. Along the way, they will see Florence, Colo. When antique lovers imagine the perfect combination of an out-of-the-way town, filled with store after store of antiques, they are surely imagining Florence. The quaint little town has a number of antique stores for all kinds of tastes. There are at least half-dozen stores interspersed with art galleries and restaurants located on or near Main Street.

Canon City

An entire weekend on its own, Canon City offers visitors a number of activities. Most notable is a trip to the Royal Gorge, the world's tallest suspension bridge. Built in 1929, it is 1,260 feet long and 18 feet wide. It was built at a cost of $350,000, or about $20 million at today's prices. Visitors can walk on the bridge or ride the aerial tram. Tickets for the park are $24 for adults and $19 for children.

In addition to the Royal Gorge, visitors can go river rafting, go on a train ride, or visit the Museum of Colorado Prisons.

Bishop's Castle

Back on the Frontier Pathway, Bishop's Castle rises over 160 feet out of the side of the mountain right along Highway 165. Built entirely by hand by Jim Bishop, the structure is made of over 1,000 tons of native stone and mortar. Bishop acquired the land when he was 15 and began construction on the castle in 1969. The castle is open seven days a week. Bishop often greets visitors himself and shares a bit of his philosophy with them. Donations are accepted.

San Isabel National Forest

The San Isabel National Forest boasts over 800 miles of hiking trails. Driving on the scenic byway, visitors get a glimpse of breath-taking views. Rocky outcroppings of stone covered in snow are surrounded by forest. To the east, views show the grassy plains back toward Pueblo.

Lake Pueblo State Park

Families could spend many days just at this state park. There are 60 miles of shoreline on the 4,500-acre lake. Boating, skiing, jet skiing and sailing are just a few of the activities on the water. A daily pass of $6 gets you into the part for biking, hiking and fishing.

If the children, or the adults, in the family like to swim, Rock Canyon Swim Beach is a must. Located below the dam, this area is separated from the boating areas of the lake. The sandy beaches combining twisting water slides make it a popular spot for families. The cost is only $1 more for each person and it is open Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Visitors can rent pontoon and fishing boats for a day on the water. If you have your own boat, there are two full service marinas.

Year-round campgrounds are available. During the summer months, camping spots are full nearly every weekend, so reservations are recommended.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 620-227-1806 or e-mail at hmartin@hpj.com.



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