Seven Falls always has been what its name implies – seven cascading waterfalls, which for decades have attracted Pikes Peak area residents and tourists to see their majestic beauty.
But this is not your grandfather’s Seven Falls.
The falls and canyon, which reopened in August 2015 after closing two years previously because of severe flood damage, are no longer just a picture postcard moment.
The five-star Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs spent $12 million to buy, rebuild and makeover the property that’s been one of the Pikes Peak region’s marquee tourist attractions.
The hotel added picnic areas, a mining-themed restaurant and even a zip-line course – all with the goal of transforming Seven Falls into an attraction with a broader appeal to residents, tourists and hotel guests.
“It’s designed to be a multi-hour experience and not just something where you come in and look at the falls and you’re done,” said Broadmoor president and CEO Jack Damioli.
“We’ve taken a look at Seven Falls and re-imagined it and came up with the beautiful, historical natural attraction, a fine restaurant and then this soaring adventure (zip-line courses), which will appeal to a different generation and those seeking more adventurous activities,” he said. “It’s not the old Seven Falls anymore.”
Renovation was extensive
Seven Falls, in South Cheyenne Canyon on the Springs’ southwest side, dates to the 1880s. Oilman Al Hill bought Seven Falls in 1946, and his family owned the property until last year. Seven Falls was known primarily for its scenic waterfalls – cascading down 181 feet of sheer granite cliffs – and the canyon, which has been billed as “the grandest mile of scenery” in Colorado.
In September 2013, torrential rains destroyed hiking trails, washed away a viewing platform at the foot of the falls, sent debris and sediment rushing through the area and caused other extensive damage that forced Seven Falls’ closure.
“When the flood came through, it cleaned the canyon out,” Damioli said. “The water came down and everything just flowed straight downhill and took everything in its path with it.”
The Broadmoor announced in April 2014 it was buying Seven Falls, and completed the deal a year ago – and has renamed the property as The Broadmoor Seven Falls. The purchase added another piece to what the hotel calls its wilderness experience.
In recent years, the internationally known resort has opened rustic retreats for guests on top of Cheyenne Mountain and in the Pike National Forest, along with a fishing camp on the Tarryall River. The offerings give the hotel the opportunity to provide amenities for guests beyond golf, tennis, a spa and the like, Broadmoor officials have said.
Seven Falls will remain open to the public, and the hotel has enhanced the property, Damioli said.
New trail invites hikers
Visitors no longer drive directly to Seven Falls; they park at The Broadmoor and ride over in a shuttle bus. In the past, Seven Falls’ limited parking led to traffic back-ups, Damioli said. The shuttles should prevent those tie-ups and limit vehicle emissions that have damaged vegetation in the narrow canyon, he said.
Visitors also can walk to the park, which is about 1 mile from the hotel. The Broadmoor paid to extend a sidewalk along Mesa Avenue that leads from the hotel to the mouth of the canyon. Seven Falls visitors can use the sidewalk and a new trail of decomposed granite to reach the canyon entrance.
At the front gate, visitors will buy tickets and either ride a shuttle to reach the falls, hike in on their own, or participate in a naturalist walking tour. Previously, pedestrians and hikers weren’t allowed to negotiate the winding canyon, Damioli said
Visitors will see a new, quick-bite food trailer and small gift shop near the entrance, along with new picnic areas along the creek that flows through the canyon.
Several mini waterfalls were added to South Cheyenne Creek, as well as a new trail and rock features along the creek – all part of a nearly $500,000 streamside restoration plan that stood up to soaking rains in May and June, Damioli said. At the same time, about 350 trees have been planted in the canyon, he said.
Among the park’s activities, children will be able to pan for gold in Cheyenne Creek; visitors can hear a lecture on the history of Cheyenne Canyon and the falls; and employees will offer guided hikes at the top of the falls.
Zip lines fly across canyons
An existing gift shop was given a new facade to mimic other buildings at Seven Falls, and children can feed fish at a pond near the base of the falls.
A 185-step staircase that leads to the Eagle’s Nest viewing area was refurbished, and a damaged elevator was replaced. Rock Hounds, a new retail shop at the top of Eagle’s Nest, sells rocks and offers demonstrations. A 224-step staircase that leads to hiking trails above the falls was rebuilt.
The falls, which will be lit at night (with white lights, not the colored lights of old), will remain the centerpiece. An expanded viewing platform was built to replace the one that washed away.
Among the biggest changes, The Broadmoor remodeled and enlarged an existing restaurant and created Restaurant 1858 – a 94-seat, Golden Bee-like, full-service establishment. Its slightly rustic atmosphere evokes the start of the gold rush era for which it’s named. Miners’ lanterns hang from decorative chandeliers; reclaimed mule barn siding adorns some of the interior; original mining certificates hang on the walls; and skylights were added to a raised ceiling.
Seven Falls’ flashiest addition might be what Broadmoor officials call the “soaring adventure” – zip-line courses set up on property adjacent to the park and reachable from Old Stage Road. At present, one five-line course is open, flying people across the canyon through the Pike National Forest, over Midnight Falls and Cheyenne Creek, among other features. The second five-line course also will feature two rope foot bridges and the opportunity to rappel down a canyon wall.
“It’s just not coming and looking at the falls anymore and saying, ‘OK I’ve seen that’,” Damioli added. “This is more about the experience.”
The Broadmoor is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns OutThere Colorado.
IF YOU GO
Tickets: $14; $8 ages 2-12; season passes $25 and $35 or $100 for a four-person family (includes hotel parking).
Purchase: www.sevenfalls.com or at Seven Falls gate
Parking: The Broadmoor’s east lot, just off Lake Avenue on 1st Street, next to the Christmas House. Seven Falls visitors can ride a shuttle bus or walk 1 mile to the park.
Food: No outside food permitted; food is available at the restaurant 1858 and at a food trailer.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Zip line: The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure requires a separate fee that includes entry to Seven Falls. Tickets at The Broadmoor ticket kiosk near The Christmas House or online.
What: A full-service restaurant at the base of Seven Falls
Chef de cuisine: Kathleen Symons
Menu: Traditional Colorado fare, including buttermilk biscuits and country ham, Colorado Rocky Mountain trout prepared eight ways and the 1858 mixed grill with Eagle Ranch quail, bison roast and venison sausage.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; bar menu 4 to 5 p.m.; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. (hours change seasonally)
Info: Restaurant 1858
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