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2013: East outdoors

Don't let the flatness frighten you — sunny-day options abound


Colorado Springs East Side

Yes, the land is fairly level out here — that just means there's an abundance of golf courses to choose from, all with panoramic views of the Rockies. Farthest south is Valley Hi Golf Course (610 S. Chelton Road, valleyhigolfcourse.com), one of two municipally owned courses in Colorado Springs. A bit east, you'll find that World Golf and Sand Creek Golf Club (6865 Galley Road, worldgolfsandcreek.com) offers a nine-hole course, a driving range and some fun mini-golf.

To the north sits Cherokee Ridge Golf Course(1850 Tuskegee Place, cherokeeridgegolfcourse.com) and Springs Ranch Golf Club (3525 Tutt Blvd., springsranchgolfclub.com). And finally a bit beyond city limits, in Peyton, is Antler Creek Golf Course (9650 Antler Creek Drive, antlercreekgolf.com).

If you're in the mood for another type of range, Dragonman's (1200 Dragon Man Drive, dragonmans.com) is where you want to be. This stacked compound is equipped with three shooting ranges for different caliber weapons, a 35-acre paintball range, a 25-acre dirt-bike track and even a war/firearms museum.

And oh yes, there is also hiking. Palmer Park (3650 Maizeland Road, tinyurl.com/Palmer-Park-CS) is one of Colorado Springs' premier destinations. On a huge rock outcropping that pops up virtually out of nowhere, you can hike (and bike) and feel completely disconnected from the city that literally surrounds you. It's 730.7 acres of family fun — there's an excellent playground here, plus volleyball courts and picnic areas, among other attractions — with more than 25 miles of challenging trails.

For additional panoramic views, the scenic, albeit much smaller, High Chaparral Open Space (5002 N. Powers Blvd., tinyurl.com/High-Chaparral) is wild. If you're looking to photograph Pikes Peak, the Spanish Peaks and the Wet Mountains all from one place, consider this spot.

East of the city limits is Peyton, where the obscure, yet vast and beautiful Homestead Ranch Regional Park (16444 Gollihar Road, tinyurl.com/HRR-Park) lies. Settled in 1874 and opened as a park in 1998, the land offers a natural, spring-fed pond; wildlife such as coyotes, foxes and deer; and activities such as picnicking, fishing, messing around on the playground, and hiking and biking on a two-loop, 3.35-mile trail that rises 180 feet in elevation.

Next to Peyton, in Calhan, sits one of the wickedest rock formations in all of southern Colorado. The Paint Mines Interpretive Park (29950 Paint Mine Road, tinyurl.com/Paint-Mines) is something out of the planet Tatooine. (You know what I'm talking about, Star Wars fans.) It's a bundle of spires and hoodoos and hanging rocks all in natural reds, yellows and oranges.

Back to the courts and fields and children's playgrounds: Neighborhood parks pop up from the Stetson Hills development all the way to Peterson Air Force Base. Beginning from just south of Stetson Hills is Laura Gilpin Park (7415 Kettle Drum St.), where you'll find a half-pipe for skating and a large picnic area for the family. West of Laura Gilpin sits Stetson Park (4870 Jebediah Smith Road), with a playground, sports fields and a full skate park. Directly south from there is Sandstone Park (4650 Pring Ranch Road), with baseball fields plus volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.

But, wait — you're looking for something else? The once-in-a-lifetime stuff? The kind of stuff that'll leave you breathless? Well, there is the sky.

High But Dry Balloons (4164 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., highbutdryballoons.com) offers hot-air balloon rides around Palmer Park and the rest of Colorado Springs; one hour in the air costs about $200 per person. There's also Colorado Vertical Adventures (1587 Aviation Way, coloradovertical.com), which will take you on a helicopter tour of Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, the gold mines of Cripple Creek, Royal Gorge and combinations thereof for about $160 and up per person.

Hey, you can't put a price tag on memories.

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