Friday, October 9, 2015

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - America's only mountainside zoo

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared about the 5-star hotel and resort, The Broadmoor. It remains a world-renowned prestigious resort in Colorado Springs today. Next up is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, another contribution of Spencer Penrose to Colorado Springs when his own private collection of exotic animals became too much to handle on the grounds of the Broadmoor.


Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is America's only mountainside zoo, located southwest of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado on Cheyenne Mountain in the United States at an elevation of 6,800 feet (2,100 m) above sea level. The Zoo covers 140-acre, of which 40 acres are in use. It is located west of The Broadmoor resort along the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain's lower north end. The animal collection includes more than 750 animals, representing nearly 150 different species, with more than 30 endangered species.

It was founded in 1926 by philanthropist Spencer Penrose to house his growing collection of exotic animals. In 1938, after substantial development, Penrose incorporated the Zoo as a non-profit public trust to the people of Colorado Springs. This trust was deemed "for the sole purpose of establishing and maintaining a zoological park to provide recreation, education, conservation and scientific facilities in the field of zoology and related subjects, and to preserve the Zoo in perpetuity for the people of the Pikes Peak region."

As an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of only a handful of Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos in the country that does not receive local or regional public tax support, nearly 100 percent of the Zoo's income is generated from earned revenues, gate admissions, gifts, membership dues, donations, and corporate sponsors and grants. This brings local support to a whole new level here in the Springs!

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo tries to continuously create new and updated exhibits that let visitors become active participants in their visit, encourage an appreciation and respect for the dignity and intrinsic value of all living things, and challenge the visitors to make a difference in the natural world.

African Rift Valley
Located near the main entrance and gift shop, the African Rift Valley exhibit houses the zoo's sizable Reticulated giraffe herd as well as Grant's zebra, Red river hogs, meerkats, African lions, and Black-and-white colobus, Cape vultures, Okapi, and Crowned crane. The exhibit runs along the east side of the main road. Reticulated giraffes flourish at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's African Rift Valley exhibit and are the largest herd in the United States. The public is able to hand feed romaine lettuce for a fee to the giraffes at inside or outside enclosures. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo giraffe breeding program is the most prolific in the world with 199 births since 1954. There is also a giraffe web cam for online giraffe viewing or the herd outside along with zoo guests.

Asian Highlands
Resting on the Western mountainside, Asian Highlands exhibits Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Snow leopards, and Pallas' cats using architecture reminiscent of a Himalayan monastery. This is one of my favorite exhibits, primarily for the Amur tiger. My children know this is my favorite animal next to the lion, which is ironic considering I don't really care for cats all that much. :)

The Aquatics building houses Nile hippopotamuses, African penguins, beavers, and Burmese pythons. Also ins
ide the building is the "Leaping to the Rescue" exhibit with multiple amphibian species on display including the critically endangered Wyoming toad. Aquatics also houses a collection of fish living in a variety of aquariums.

Australia Walkabout
Renovated and reopened in 2015, guests are able to walk along with free-ranging Red-necked wallabies in a unique way inside their exhibit. Budgie Buddies is located here and houses the zoo's parakeet collection. Guests can hand-feed the birds with special seed sticks in a building with floor-to-ceiling windows and Colorado Springs as the background. The rest of the area exhibits Emu, American alligators, and a Matschie's tree kangaroo.

Bear Grottos
Spectacled bears and Asiatic black bears live in two moated exhibits with large trees and pools with a waterfall entering both exhibits.

Encounter Africa
Opened in 2013, the Encounter Africa exhibit is the largest addition in the zoo's history. Home to African elephants, Black rhinoceros, and more viewing of the meerkats and African lions, Encounter Africa offers a uniquely close view of some of the continent's most iconic animals. A sky bridge gives panoramic views of the city of Colorado Springs. We recently welcomed three new lion cubs to the pride, and they only just recently became old enough to be watched in the observation area. This is a photo I snapped during our last visit.

Monkey Pavilion
Originally opened in 1942 to house the big cats, the Monkey Pavilion exhibits a variety of the zoo's smaller primate and other mammal species. In 1995, the zoo demolished the old monkey house and transferred the animals to their new home in what is today called the Monkey Pavilion. Inside, guests can view; Black-crested mangabeys, Goeldi's monkeys, Geoffrey's marmosets, Black howler monkeys, White-cheeked gibbons, White-handed gibbons, Coatimundi, Black and white ruffed lemurs, Ring-tailed lemurs, Wolf's guenon, Sykes' monkey, and Two-toed sloths. Animals can be found in both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

My Big Backyard
Located in the heart of the zoo, My Big Backyard provides kids of all ages creative, hands-on experiences in the great outdoors. Chickens, Goats, Koi, and Rabbits can be seen here. There's also a clubhouse experience with an active honey beehive, enlarged egg replicas where children can get into them, and on hot days, a hose with a water mist for cooling off. This areas is connected to a playground slightly below via a gate-closed path, and from there, you have easy access to the carousel and main eatery area.

Primate World
Primate World is the home to the larger primate species at the zoo. Guests can see the great apes face-to-face in the indoor and outdoor enclosures. The building was originally built in the 1960s and renovated in the 1990s to be more stimulating for both the guests and the great apes. Primate World houses Orangutans, Western lowland gorillas, Siamangs, and Naked mole rats.

Rocky Cliffs
Mountain goats can be seen from above and below the cliffs nestled between a switchback road.

Rocky Mountain Wild
As America's only mountain zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is uniquely suited to showcase Colorado wildlife in its natural setting. Rocky Mountain Wild offers encounters with Moose, Mexican gray wolf, Mountain lions, Canada lynx, River otters, Grizzly bears, and Bald eagles. The bald eagle are free to fly and return without being held in captivity, but they have a nest and secluded area reserved just for them, and almost directly across from the Amur tiger is where you can find one of them. The others are closer to the Grizzly bears.

Scutes Family Gallery
The old Bird and Reptile building, in the Australia exhibit, built in the 1940s, was completely refurbished as a modern art gallery with more than 40 species of reptiles as the artwork.

The Loft
A kid-friendly space with counter-height exhibits, offering eye-level viewing for guests. Children learn what it takes to care for an animal at the zoo. Lessons on how to prepare diets, medications and enrichment are offered throughout the day.


Installed in the zoo in 1937, this 20 horse, 2 chariot historical carousel is located in the center of the zoo. Older than most of the people who ride it, this carousel was a popular attraction at the 1932 World’s Fair. A cherished feature of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, it has been giving people of all ages a great ride since 1937. Now, restored to its original beauty, this antique carousel is a permanent attraction. Information about the history of this carousel can be found at the carousel entrance.

Mountaineer Sky Ride
An open-air chairlift style ride that takes guests above the Mountain goat, Grizzly bear and Amur tiger exhibits. Guests are then dropped off in an area west of the zoo not accessible by walking and ride round trip back down to see the rest of the zoo. At the top, you'll find a jungle gym area for kids, a rock wall, restrooms, small concession area, and a shaded resting place with historical facts inside.

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
Admission to the zoo includes the Russell Tutt Scenic Highway and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun for that day, weather permitting. Built by Spencer Penrose between 1934 and 1937, it stands dedicated to Will Rogers who died in a plane crash in 1935. The elevation of the shrine is 8,136 feet on the top deck and provides breathtaking views of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region.

So, are you ready to come for a visit?


* Have you ever visited Cheyenne Mountain Zoo? When?

* Do you have a favorite zoo? Is it nearby or in another state?

* What is your favorite animal to visit at a zoo? Why?

Leave answers to these questions or any comments on the post below. Next month, I'll be spotlighting The El Pomar Foundation, an amazing charity with their investments in the community at a philanthropic high. Nearly everyone in Colorado Springs is aware of this foundation. You'll soon discover why.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who has partnered with Nerium International in the anti-aging industry, helping others achieve optimal brain health, look younger, and live better.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have one girl and one boy, a Retriever mix named Roxie and and Australian cattle dog named Timber. She has sold twenty (20) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and LinkedIn.


  1. Yes, we went once on the way from Denver back to Texas. It must have been 1990 or so. A building full of dinosaurs was the big attraction! My little daughter was so afraid, but she was willing to walk through the building and look. Then one roared and she fled! I wondered if I'd catch before she ran down the slope. My older daughter caught her. We have some memorable photos of those dinosaurs! I remember the giraffes and peacocks. We might not have seen the cats because we had a long trip ahead of us. The view to the east is astonishing. I grew up west of Denver near Red Rocks. Since this time most of our trips include some kind of dinosaur display, whether it is the one near Golden or the Historical Museum or Dinosaur National Monument! We'd like to go to Glenn Rose, TX one day.

  2. Great post, Tiff! Many years ago, my mom, son, and I took a trip out to Colorado from Florida many years ago to babysit my nieces and nephews while my brother and his wife were out of the country. I'm guessing this would've been about 16 years ago now. To keep the five kids busy, we ended up going on many outings in the 10 days we were out there, one of them being to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. GREAT zoo. We all had a wonderful time. My favorite animal is the giraffes, and I remember that they had a great giraffe enclosure, where you could hand-feed them by standing on a path that looked down into the area. The only zoo I've been to recently is Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, which I love. It's always a fun day to grab my 35mm camera and take pictures of the animals. :)

  3. I love zoos! Thanks for this wonderful post. I'd love to visit this one. Of course my favorite one is right here in Houston, and our favorite animal to visit are the monkeys, but African Wildlife section is a close second. I grew up going to the Marsalis Zoo in Dallas. Our grandson is 22 and a senior at LSU, but his favorite place to go when he comes home is the zoo. His goal is to work with animals after graduation.

  4. My daughter went to Colorado College, and I loved visiting her because the area is so beautiful. I always went for parent's weekend but we never did the planned activities - we would visit the area sites, hike, shop, and eat! I have been to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (and Pike's Peak and the Broadmoor...) but I grew up near Milwaukee just a mile from that zoo. In the summer (a long time ago) Mondays were free so my best friend and I would walk to the zoo, visit our favorites, then walk home. I have always liked giraffes the best, maybe because they seemed graceful and peaceful. I have really enjoyed your posts! My daughter graduated a few years ago so I don't get out there anymore, but we always had fun.