The stunning ancient red rock formations that have been drawing people with their beauty and spirituality for more than 3000 years
We have considered moving to the Colorado Springs area several times, drawn by the outdoor lifestyle that comes with living in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and the number of interesting places within a short distance of the city.
One such place is the Garden of the Gods.
The Garden of the Gods’ red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone and Ute people.
In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins’ death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch and upon his death, it was donated to the city.
Today, the Garden of the Gods is a mecca for locals and visitors seeking a day outdoors. It is very accessible to all, with several of the walking paths suitable for wheelchair access. If walking is not your thing then there segways available for hire. All in all, there are 15 miles of trails to explore the rocks.
For the more adventurous there are jeep tours and many great rock climbing routes.
Our visit was a lot more sedentary and we decided on taking the winding paths among the spectacular rock formations. The most iconic of these is Balance Rock.
There is also a great visitors centre that gives insight into the formation of the rock structures and the geology of the region, as well as information about the plants and animals found in the area. These impressive rocks have also played an important role with several native American people and this relationship is also shown in exhibits at the centre.
Things to do in Garden to the Gods
1. HIKING TRAILS
There are 21 miles of trails to explore in the Garden of the Gods.
- PERKINS CENTRAL GARDEN TRAIL, This is an easy, 1 1/2 mile roundtrip path, with less than a 30-foot rise. This trail is in the heart of the Park at the base of the highest rock formations.
Other great trails include:
- RIDGE TRAIL, a moderate, 1/2 mile loop, with less than 100-foot rise in elevation. This path gives you the feeling of being among the rocks.
- SIAMESE TWINS TRAIL is an easy 1-mile roundtrip, with less than a 150-foot rise. There is a unique view of Pikes Peak through the natural window of the twins.
- CHAMBERS/BRETAG/PALMER TRAIL is a moderate, 3-mile hike with less than a 250-foot rise. Nearly circling the entire Park, this trail covers rolling, rocky terrain away from the traffic.
- SCOTSMAN/BUCKSKIN CHARLIE TRAIL is a moderate trail that loops through the Park. Enjoy the distant views of the Central Garden formations from these rolling, rocky trails.
2. OTHER ACTIVITIES
- Biking – Guided electric bike tours provided by Amp’d Adventures, who also rent e-Bikes and standard mountain bikes. Mountain biking is permitted on select trails in the park, and all one-way roads have paved bike lanes. View a Bike Trail Map for more details.
- Horseback Riding – Guided horseback riding is provided by Academy Riding Stables. They offer 1 & 2-hour rides fitted for beginners and experts.
- Other Ways to See the Park – Explore Garden of the Gods on a Segway or on a Jeep tour! Short and long tours are provided by Adventures Out West.
- Birding – A variety of birds can be seen in Garden of the Gods Park.
- Rock Climbing – Rock climbing is permitted in the park. You must fill out the free registration form and abide by all rules. Want to learn how to rock climb? Check out these outfitters and they will teach you in Garden of the Gods Park.
Planning the journey
- Take Exit #146 (Garden of the Gods Road)
- Go West (towards the mountains) for 2.5 miles
- Turn Left onto 30th Street
The Visitor & Nature Center will be on the left
|Location:||1805 N. 30th St. Colorado Springs, Colorado|
May 1 – October 31: 5AM – 10PM. November 1 – April 30: 5AM – 9 PM
Best time to visit Garden of the Gods
The best times to visit Colorado Springs are from March to May and from September to October. That’s when you’ll find slightly cooler (yet still comfortable) temperatures as well as fewer crowds and bargain rates. Another perk for fall visitors: the foliage. Expect to see the surrounding mountains speckled with bright reds, oranges and yellows. Warm summer weather draws visitors in droves, leading to price hikes at hotels and congested attractions.
Other places to visit close by
1. PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY (5 MILES)
The Cog has been climbing Pikes Peak since 1891. We are proud to be one of the most unique experiences in the country. Recognized as the world’s highest cog railroad, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is an important part of the heritage of the Western United States. Taking this journey is like walking the footsteps of history, and now the adventure is even more iconic and inspiring.
2. ROYAL GORGE (50 MILES)
Royal Gorge is a wonderful natural marvel in itself, a 1000 foot plus deep gorge cut through the mountains by the Arkansas River. Early pioneers to the area recognized the beauty of the spot and also it provided an access route for the railways through the mountains. The railroad passes through the base of the narrow gorge just feet away from the bubbling rapids of the Arkansas River.
Today, not only can walk across a suspension bridge over the gorge you can also take a gondola ride over the canyon plus many other attractions – including some very thrilling ones!
3. CLIFF DWELLING MUSEUM (5 MILES)
The 40 room site was originally located in McElmo Canyon, which is in the southwest corner of Colorado near Mesa Verde and Dolores. The process of relocating these cliff dwellings began in 1904 and was completed in 1907 when the preserve was opened to the public. Virginia McClurg, the original founder of the Colorado Cliff Dwellers Association, hired William Crosby and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Ruins Company to begin this process. They wanted to preserve and protect these dwellings from looters and relic pot-hunters.
Where to stay near Garden of the Gods
1. CLIFF HOUSE AT PIKES PEAK
Experience the Victorian splendour of The Cliff House at Pikes Peak. Built back in 1874, the Cliff House has been serving guests for over 145 years now, longer than the number of years Colorado has been a state.
It was originally built as a stagecoach stop. They called it “The Inn.” When the gold strikes in the Pikes Peaks region played out, travellers started to surge and that’s when they decided to open their doors to guests. The interest in the ancient mineral springs also began to rise.
The Cliff House is now a part of the National Registry of Historic Places. They have 54 elegant guest rooms and luxury suites that are packed with modern amenities.
2. KINSHIP LANDING
Kinship Landing was specifically designed not just to welcome travellers, but to serve as a hub for locals, naturally mingling the two crowds that have plenty to share with each other, given the opportunity. The 80-bed boutique certainly offers lux options with suites that include fully-opening garage door windows, LED fireplaces and extravagant soaking tubs, but it’s the other end of the spectrum that makes this property seriously special. Co-founded by world travellers on a budget, Kinship Landing offers high-quality hostel accommodations in a full-service hotel with bunk rooms so chill you may want to stay there no matter your budget.
3. BLUE SKIES INN
If you need privacy and a little bit of pampering, then Blue Skies Inn could be the best place for you while staying in Manitou Springs. This friendly and charming B&B is located at the base of Pikes Peak. They have three separate houses with guests rooms that have an average size of 450 square feet. The suites have a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom.
What makes Blue Skies a special retreat are its unique rooms. Every suite has a theme and offers special views of the surrounding forests. This is also perfect for family reunions and small occasions