A lot of my readers live here in Colorado and many of you have probably visited Garden of the Gods, but how long has it been since you’ve stepped into this iconic Colorado Springs park? For me, it had been more than 15 years and we were long overdue for a return trip.
Thankfully, on our last visit to Colorado Springs, we stayed at Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort and this retro lodging property is just four minutes from the southern entrance of the park. On Saturday morning, we got up early for a morning hike, but we first stopped at Garden of the Gods Trading Post.
The Trading Post is privately owned and is a touristy spot where people can shop, get maps and grab lunch, a cupcake or coffee. It’s a catch-all sort of tourist trap and I like it—it’s the kind of place that kids will remember as being five-times bigger than it actually is—and it’s pretty big. The manager was super nice, pointing out various points of interest on their free map of the park.
I didn’t pay much attention to which hiking trail we got on but this park isn’t very large and all the trails seem to connect at some point so you might be on one trail for a mile or so and then you’re on another.
At 8 a.m. the parking lot at our trailhead wasn’t busy and we parked and headed out. I started snapping photos right away because the sun was sending beautiful rays through the foliage that surrounded the trail.
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971, the park is owned and operated by the City of Colorado Springs. Surprisingly, the park is free to visit, which makes it a popular tourist attraction for virtually everyone who visits Colorado Springs.
What’s all the hype over Garden of the Gods? The geological formations of the rocks here are breathtaking and downright fantastical. To me, they seem like something straight out of a science fiction film, although Ryan pointed out that the eastern portion between Rock Ledge Ranch and the loop road has an African safari milieu and we almost expected to see a herd of impalas running across the wide open plain. We did spot a great deal of deer grazing in this area.
The trails are well-maintained and despite being uphill our hike was relatively easy and crowd-free. We passed huge balancing rocks and were rewarded with spectacular views of Pikes Peak and all of Garden of the Gods. It was a bright blue and cloudless day and stayed that way for most of our stay in Colorado Springs.
From this vantage point, we started down a different trail, heading towards the big rocks that look as though they fell from the sky and stuck into the earth like ginormous knives.
Around 9 a.m., people starting appearing on the trail as if they’d beamed in from outer space; they materialized everywhere and there was no end to them. We turned and hightailed it back to the car for a drive around the park loop. We’re not big on crowded trails and were happy that we’d started early. Next time, I’d start my hiking at Garden of the Gods even earlier.
As I wrote earlier, this park isn’t large and It only takes about 20-minutes to drive the loop which will provide the visitor awe-inspiring views.
We didn’t stop at the Visitors Center & Nature Center this time, but if this is your first experience at Garden of the Gods it’s worth checking out. It features two new exhibit halls, added in 2015, and incorporates modern museum technology that allows for hands-on interactive exhibits. A tour through here will give you a better understanding of how this place came to be.
Visit GardenofGods.com to start planning your visit.