I’d somehow never heard of Garden of the Gods until I started planning a trip to Colorado Springs. As soon as I saw pictures of it, I knew I’d have to visit. It’s an incredible naturally formed area full of red rock formations that will dazzle you. I loved wandering through the enormous boulders and spires and marveling at the power of nature. Bring your camera and some hiking boots and be prepared to explore some awe-inspiring scenery. Best of all? It’s free!
What to Do
Perkins Central Gardens Trail
This was the easiest but also the most crowded trail that we explored. It’s a paved, relatively flat trail through some of the large rock formations close to the entrance. It’s also wheelchair accessible. There were a couple parking areas, including one solely for handicapped parking, that offered easy access to it, and they were packed by 9:30 am on a Saturday. This trail is a great place to start your visit and get a feel for the rock formations and history of the park. My favorite was the Kissing Camels because they really do look like two camels smooching. Don’t skip the informational signs posted along the pathway, as they give good details about how the park came to be.
Siamese Twins Trail
This one was our favorite thing at Garden of the Gods. It’s a short round trip that brings you to a huge red rock formation. The “twins” are two red rock formations with a natural window in between. From the right angle, you have a perfect view of Pikes Peak through the gap. There are plenty of other cool formations to explore in that area. This one is a little tougher than the Central Gardens trail as it involves a few stairs and walking over loose dirt, but most people in reasonable shape should be able to complete it. The parking area was a bit of a challenge and we almost gave up and moved on because there weren’t any spaces available, but we got luck and a few people returned to their cars right before we left. There is another parking area a bit further away that allows relatively easy access to the trailhead, but it adds about a quarter mile to the hike.
The huge balanced rock can’t be missed as the road passes right through it. This enormous boulder that seems like it’s ready to topple over at any second is one of the most iconic sights in Garden of the Gods. It offers a lot of great photo ops and was a really popular area. We followed the outcropping of rock up and away from the road and came across another dirt road that led us to some more precariously balanced rocks. I wouldn’t want to be downhill when they finally give out.
Permits for this are required, but climbers with the proper equipment and experience can do some climbing in certain areas of the park. Be sure to only climb in areas where it’s allowed, as there are signs warning of dangers in different parts of the garden.
Where to Eat
We were pretty hungry after our hiking, so we stopped at the Trading Post on our way out of the park. We were thrilled because they were having a special that day with two buffalo burgers and fries for $7. The food was great and even the regular prices weren’t too bad for in-park concessions. They had a full grill with a decently sized menu, plus an ice cream counter and coffee stand. We ate inside, but we wandered around the huge outdoor seating area with our ice cream cones later on. There’s also a huge gift shop attached.
Café at the Garden
This restaurant is located at the visitor center at the entrance to Garden of the Gods. We didn’t sample their food, but the menu is similar to that of the Trading Post. The restaurant looks like it offers a great view of the rock formations too.
What to Bring
Water – There aren’t a lot of places to refill your water in Garden of the Gods, and you’ll definitely need some on a hot day.
Good shoes – Don’t miss out on a cool trail because you showed up in flip flops. Wear some sturdy shoes that won’t slip on the trails or fall off of your feet.
Camera – There is so much natural beauty here that you won’t want to miss a shot.
Snacks – If you’re doing a lot of hiking, some granola bars or other portable snacks will come in handy. Having some good snacks on hand will keep you from having to drop what you’re doing to go find food at one of the restaurants.
Sunscreen – People from lower elevations (like me) don’t realize how much faster you get sunburnt in the higher elevation. Bring lots of sunscreen or you will get roasted.
Patience – This one isn’t a thing per se, but this place gets crowded, especially on the weekends. By the time we left in the early afternoon, it seemed like every parking space was full, and it wasn’t even the busy tourist season yet. You’ll likely have to wait for parking spaces or to get clear pictures.
How to Find It
Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, just west of I-25. The drive from Denver is a little over an hour, so it can easily be a day trip. From the north, you’ll want exit 146. From the south, you can take exit 141.
Read all about the park at their official website.
Have you visited Garden of the Gods? What was your favorite area?