By: Emily Stockton and Mackenzie Winebold
Spring has sprung in Colorado, making it the perfect time to go explore the hiking trails near Manitou Springs. During your stay at SunMountain Center, be sure to check out one or all five of these beautiful spots!
1. Manitou Incline
The Manitou Incline has officially been made legal to hike (not that it stopped Coloradans before!) and offers the best aerial view of Manitou Springs around. After climbing all 2,744 steps, you’ll have reached the summit—an impressive feat!
If you intend to hike the Incline, be sure to bring plenty of water, clothing that is suitable for the weather, and wear a good pair of hiking shoes. You should also be aware of the signs of altitude sickness, as this one-mile hike comes with a 2,000-foot increase in elevation.
Still interested? To access this trail, you’ll need to hop on the free shuttle that runs between Memorial Park and the base of the Incline.
2. Intemann Trail
The Paul Intemann Memorial Trail is named for the Manitou Springs City Planner, Paul Intemann. This 1.8-mile trail is great for beginners, as the elevation increase is fewer than 400 ft. As you walk along this trail, you’ll notice beautiful Colorado wildflowers and stunning mountain views.
 3. Barr Trail
Barr Trail is another hot spot here in Manitou Springs, as this hike will bring the brave of heart to the top of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain. In 6.5 miles, you’ll have climbed an astounding 3,800 ft. in elevation, most of which is accomplished in the first three miles of the trail.
Similarly to the Incline, you’ll want to bring plenty of water, snacks to keep your energy up, and clothes that are appropriate for all types of weather, as you may experience dramatic differences in temperature as elevation increases.
You can also access this trial using the Free Shuttle from Memorial Park to the base of the Incline.
4. Red Rocks Open Space
This gorgeous open space is composed of six hiking trails, each beginner-friendly, and relatively short compared to the others on this list. The longest trail, Hogback, is 3.3 miles while the shortest, Upper Dog Loop, is only one mile. Additionally, Red Rocks Open Space offers a little glimpse into Colorado history—in the 1800’s, a quarry was opened in this space, and one can still access this area via Quarry Trail. With six trails to hike, there is plenty of space to explore.
5. Garden of the Gods Trails
You won’t want to miss out on the iconic Garden of the Gods. With 15 miles of hiking trails at various difficulties, there is truly something for every adventurer in the park. From the wheelchair and stroller accessible Perkins Trail which will bring you to iconic rock formations such as Kissing Camels rock, to more challenging trails like the Siamese Twins trail which offers stunning views of Pikes Peak, you’re sure to find the adventure you’re looking for at Garden of the Gods. Similar to Red Rocks Open Space, you’ll need to be prepare for hiking in a vast area.

For more details about these trails and other great activities in Manitou Springs, visit

To remain healthy, our bodies need a little support between each transition from one season to the next. This is more necessary now than ever. There was a time when the weather was a little more predictable and our lives a bit more geographically bound. This made it easier to move from the heat of summer to the cooler temperatures of fall. Or the colder winter weather to the freshness of spring. With climate changes and international travel, these seasonal transitions can be challenging. However, there are ways we can support our bodies as the shifts of nature occur––or as our geographical location changes.


Ayurveda, a natural eastern approach to bringing balance to the mind, body, and spirit, often holds the key to a successful, healthy body during all seasons. Let’s take a look at the transition from warmer climates, when pitta abounds to cooler, dryer one, when vata is likely to be dominant.


Nutritional Support

When the weather turns colder and drier (qualities associated with vata) and we move out of the fire of pitta energy in the summer, it’s a good time to reduce our intake of raw foods. It takes more digestive fire (agni) or energy to digest our foods. And when our digestion slows down or becomes impeded by less than ideal food choices, we become sluggish and our bodies become breeding grounds for illness.


According to Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, authors of The Ayurvedic Cookbook, the fall is the most important time to attend to diet. This is the time when the attribute of motion is most prevalent. We’re “on the go a lot, mentally, physically, or both.” This requires grounding. Warm, nourishing foods will help us do that. They say to make sure food is “warm, moist, and well-lubricated. Soup, hot drinks, and rice with a little oil” are beneficial for this.


Michael Monroe, SunMountain Center chef, suggests increasing the use of spices such as cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, to name a few,to bring warmth to our dishes and our bodies. Additionally, acorn squash stuffed with walnuts seasoned much like sausage is a good way to support the body and tantalize the taste buds. Warm muffins are also an added culinary treat that do more than just satisfy our sweet tooth. See the Chocolate Chip Recipe below to warm your soul and your body.




SunWater Yoga Instructor Justin Kovich offers the following to support your practice and your body in cooler weather:



Begin in a low lunge and then straighten and flex the front leg, by shifting your weight. This circulates the lymph through the legs and cleanses the body of toxins.


Organ Massage

 While sitting, place two soft fists on either side of the belly button. Do a forward fold over your fists, and gently massage your stomach for 3-4 breaths. Sit straight, and then repeat the action several times after moving your hands to different locations around the belly. However, do not perform this massage after eating.




 Sooth your skin, which may become drier during this season, with a self-massage, using unrefined organic sesame oil. (Avoid using coconut oil as this can have a cooling effect–––the exact opposite of what we want to do at this time.) Apply oil to the feet and hands first. Circle around the joints and gently work the oil into other parts of your body. Apply to your face and then massage your scalp as well.  Leave on as long as possible and then shower to rinse off excess oil and the toxins that have been released in the process.


Flowing with the Light


Cooler weather associated with vata energy can leave us feeling scattered and fragmented.

Routines are important during this time as well. Consistent times to go to sleep and to awake are important. Eating on a regular schedule is as well.


And as the days become shorter, honoring our desire to cozy up next to the fireplacewill create a solid foundation for health.Rather than push to get things done and keep in constant motion, opt for nourishing your self. Self-care often begins with quieting our bodies so that our minds can also be still. This practice rejuvenates us in body, mind, and soul. More on that in our next blog.


Chocolate Chip Muffins


3 flax eggs

7.5 tbsp water

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups maple syrup

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

3 tbsp flaxseed meal


3 cups garbanzo bean or oat flour

1 tsp each of clove, allspice & ginger

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups Almond meal

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips



Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl.  Then mix dry ingredients in another. Then blend the two mixtures together. Bake 350 degrees for45-50 minutes in lightly oiled muffin pans.



When it comes to facilitating a retreat, there are a lot of factors to consider. Planning a retreat requires we think about what we want first. If you’re not happy and content, then it’s likely the participants of your retreat will not be either.



Location, Location, Location



Your first consideration should be the location. If you’re drawn to the beach, you might not want to head to the mountains. And if you abhor the city, then a quieter abode for your retreat should be top on your list.


Nestled at the base of Pikes Peak in the eclectic mountain town of Manitou Springs, the atmosphere of SunMountain has been intentionally created to be warm and welcoming.




by SunWater Spa Team and Sharon W. House



Pure essential oils are on the radar these days, especially with political tempers boiling and anxiety levels rising. Yes, Xanax and other pharmaceuticals are trending; however, more and more people are turning to pure essentials to help destress and calm.

Distilled from plants without the fat or oils found in cooking oils, pure essential oils are highly concentrated compounds that can be used in their pure form, through a diffuser or added to a hot bath. Essential oils have long been hailed by folk wisdom, and recent scientific research has caught up. A new study from Dr. Hideki Kashiwadani at Kagoshima University in Japan has found that “… sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium,” in the mice that this group studied.


Ancient pharmacists and medical practitioners from Egypt to Italy and Greece utilized lavender, Frankincense and ylang ylang to help relieve their patients’ pain and anxiety. With the scientific community beginning to validate our ancestors’ claims, according to a recent Organic Spa conference, the use of these oils will continue to rise.



One of the most recognized and sweetest-smelling essential oils, lavender can be found in perfumes, bath salts and lotions. It can also be used in its pure form on pulse points or in a hot bath. In addition to relaxing users, lavender has been shown to heal scars and relieve migraines.



Gaining in popularity and revered for its scent, ylang ylang is extracted by steam distillation of fresh flowers of the ylang ylang tree, which is found in rainforests in a number of Asian and South Pacific Islands. Research published in June 2006 documents noted ylang ylang’s efficacy in helping to relieve depression and anxiety. Therapists are beginning to use the oil in massages and steam treatments.


At SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs, Colo., massage therapist Rachel Luplow uses seven essential oil blends in her 90-minute massage, Chakra Journey. “The concept behind this treatment is to use these essential oil blends from head to toe as each one is designed to balance one of the seven main chakras in the body,” Luplow explains. One of SunWater Spa’s most popular deep tissue massages, the Mountain Healer, utilizes jojoba body butter, infused with sage, lavender, spearmint, arnica and other oils to alleviate sore, tense muscles.


Whether you choose to enjoy the gentle hands of a therapist such as Luplow, or luxuriate in a warm bath perfumed with lavender or ylang ylang, the destressing benefits of pure essential oils are a welcome trend that is destined to grow.





If you’re feeling that the New Year seems to be off to a rocky start, you just might need to add some new coping methods to your arsenal, beyond wine and more wine. It may not be what the doctor ordered, but many health and wellness practitioners are embracing Restorative Yoga to help clients relax and destress.


Differing from traditional yoga, restorative yoga’s five to six poses utilize props to help you go deeper into the move, allowing complete relaxation and rest. A typical class includes light twists, seated forward folds and gentle backbends, held for five minutes or so.


Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Deep relaxation
Enhanced flexibility
Calmer mind
Balanced nervous system
Reduced stress


Restorative Yoga is offered on many yoga studios’ menu of classes, and SunWater Spa and SunMountain Center in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is no exception. This style of yoga is a specialization of founder Kat Tudor, who teaches classes and workshops at the properties. Kat added Restorative Yoga to her practice and her teaching about 10 years ago when she found that “the effect of this style of yoga balances out our tendencies to do too much and push too hard. We have plenty of opportunities to be active in our practices and to engage in physical activities, especially in Colorado, so restorative yoga, allow us to be less stressed and relieve the tension of our daily lives.”


Many retreats at SunMountain Center incorporate Restorative Yoga, including the upcoming Fearlessly Yoga and Healing Retreat with Erin Berry, scheduled for February 28-March 3. An immersion in Meditation, Sound Healing and Restorative Yoga, participants will be in a remarkable place that allows them the freedom and space to reconnect with their authentic self.


So before you turn to medications to calm your angst, try Restorative Yoga. It might just be the perfect antidote for an anxious 2019.

Have you ever experienced an aqua cranial therapy with us? Kathleen Morrow, one of our talented practitioners, began studying the art of aqua cranial after learning of its curative properties when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Learn more about Kathleen’s journey and philosophy as a therapist in our newest blog!


1. How long have you been a craniosacral/aqua cranial practitioner, and what was the path that led you into bodywork?

Around forty years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I started researching what could help her. A local acupuncturist told me about a school in Washington State, The Polarity Institute, where I could study under Dr. Randolf Stone, DO, ND, DC, and doctor of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. I began my studies there and was certified as a Registered Polarity Therapist one year later.


In 1995, I met Franklyn Sills, Director of the Karuna Institute located in the United Kingdom, at a polarity therapy conference in California. After hearing his presentation on Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy.  I was convinced this was my next line of study, and began Franklyn’s intensive two-year certification program, graduating as a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST) in 1997.


I continued my studies for another four years, mentoring with notables in the field, including Franklyn Sills, Dr. Michael Shea, and John and Anna Chitty, co-directors of the Boulder School of Energy Studies. I was awarded my National Teacher Certification in May of 2001, and then opened the state certified School of Inner Health (SIH) in 2002 in Manitou Springs, which specialized in teaching craniosacral, lymphatic massage, and aromatherapy. Directing and teaching at SIH became my passion for the next fifteen years. In 2016, I sold the school to a colleague in order to enjoy my semi-retirement, and I then began offering Aqua Cranial Therapy at SunWater Spa.


2. What gift does your work offer your guests? What do you want your guests to walk away feeling/thinking?


There are two schools of thought about craniosacral therapy. One is the “mechanical” model, where the practitioner’s “attention” is focused on the movement of bones in the body. These motions have a five- to six-second cycle, rocking in and out. A student can become certified in this work in five days. Practitioners are basically moving and adjusting bones, much like chiropractic.


The second school of thought began when Franklyn Sills started teaching craniosacral therapy in the U.S. in 1995. He brought to it a deeper intention of following a slower twelve-second cycle of cerebrospinal fluid as it moves along the bones. This work is about following the rhythm of the body versus making adjustments. This practice is known as Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. A student of this work also learns to feel and hold a very slow fifty-second expansion and contraction cycle; Dr. Sutherland, one of the founders of craniosacral therapy, called this the “breath of life” (this is your life force itself). Dr. Sutherland discovered in his later years that holding and following these deeper rhythms allows the client’s fluid systems to synchronize with the practitioner’s fluid rhythms in the same way we did with our mother while in utero. This is how our bodies formed and there are no client adjustments needed.


From this place of strength and support, the client’s body will realign and heal itself from whatever bumps, blows, and imbalances there have been in this lifetime, especially concussions. The client usually drops into a deep relaxation, and when treatment is over they experience a new sense of balance with less pain. When this work is done in the beautiful, warm, natural waters at SunWater Spa, the client experiences a deep, womblike sensation while their body heals itself.


3. How would you sum up your personal philosophy or mantra?


My personal mantra is presence.


In a rapid-paced world of potential confusion and emotional upset, I hold “ground” with daily meditation and frequent walks in the woods. I also have some “grounding” tools that Franklyn Sills taught me. From this place, I’m mentally clear, able to do my work and make life decisions.


4. What is one self-care suggestion you offer to your Aqua Cranial recipients?


On a very physical balancing note, I always recommend that my clients breathe deeply, especially in times of stress, shock, or overwhelm. I suggest they stop, put their hands on their ribs, and expand the ribs into the hands with each breath. This exercise opens the diaphragm, which in turn moves fascial tissue up the body around the heart, lungs, and ultimately the brain. At the same time, the fascia below is responding and massaging around the digestive organs. In about ten breaths, a sense of mental clarity and physical relaxation occurs.


5. Based on your experience, what makes SunWater Spa stand out from other wellness centers/spas?


Of course, the beautiful, warm, health-filled mineral water is my first “go-to” for this question. And then there is a deep sense of caring for the community, starting with the owners, Kat Tudor and Don Goede, and extending throughout the staff. This sense of caring and support of community filters into the surrounding communities of Manitou and Colorado Springs. Because they feel this, our local customers return over, and over, and over again.


Kathleen Morrow