Visiting Garden Of The Gods was originally supposed to be a quick day trip during our three-day stay in Boulder, Colorado for the final two Dead & Company concerts of their 2018 summer tour. But while at Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to change our travel plans on the fly.
We shortened our stay in Estes Park one day and shortened our stay in Boulder one day, which gave us two full days in Colorado Springs.
- On the first day, we visited garden Of The Gods, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and Cave Of The Winds Adventure Park.
- On our second day, we drove out to Cripple Creek to tour the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, visit the Cripple Creek Heritage Center and the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum, and ride the Cripple Creek And Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.
At 6,400 feet elevation, Garden Of The Gods is a 1,367 acre public park in Colorado Springs. The park features 19 incredible red sandstone rock formations standing up to 300 feet tall and more than 15 miles of trails.
With the snow-capped, 14,115 foot Pikes Peak in the background, Garden of The Gods is the most breathtaking city park we have ever visited. Whether you drive, walk, hike, or bike through the park, you’ll be treated to majestic views in every direction.
Hiking Trails At Garden Of The Gods
Throughout Garden Of The Gods Park, there are several parking areas that provide access to the park’s 15 miles of trails with breathtaking views.
- Perkins Central Garden Trail: An easy, 1.5 mile, paved, wheelchair accessible, loop trail that travels through the heart of the park and the most stunning rock formations, stretching up to 300 feet in the air.
- Ridge Trail: A moderate, 0.5 mile, loop trail that gives you the feeling of being among the rocks.
- Siamese Twins Trail: An easy, 1.0 mile, loop trail providing visitors a unique view of Pikes Peak through the natural window of the twins.
- Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail: A moderate, 3.0 mile trail that almost circles the entire park and travels through rocky terrain away from the crowds.
- Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail: A moderate, 1.9 mile trail with distant views of the Central Garden formations.
Visiting Garden Of The Gods
When we arrived at Garden Of The Gods, our first stop was the state-of-the-art Visitor & Nature Center to learn more about the park, it’s geology, the animals, and it’s history.
It was 10:00 am mid-week and by then, the staff at the Visitor Center were already telling visitors the parking lots were full and encouraging people to ride the park shuttle. But we have found that there are always people leaving when you’re arriving, so we headed across the street into the park. Thankfully, several families were leaving when we pulled into the Main North Parking Lot, so we were able to park right away, change out of flip flops into tennis shoes, eat a quick snack, and top off our Hydro Flasks.
After that we walked/hiked the Central Garden Trail, winding through the massive red rock formations. The paved trail begins heading south past a trail information display and restrooms as you walk between North Gateway Rock on the right and a large, round gathering area with benches in front of White Rock on your left. The trail then turns right past Gateway Rock to a central circular area surrounded by amazing, towering red rock formations with Sentinel Rock in the middle. Rock Climbers were climbing a couple of them, so we stopped for a while to watch before following the loop trail northwest (counterclockwise).
The west side of the Central Garden Trail follows the outskirts of the main formations, passing the Kissing Camels and Tower Of Babel formations, as well as the backside of North Gateway Rock. We then walked past Pulpit Rock, and so far all of the rock formations were behind fences that warn visitors to keep out and stay off the rocks — which wasn’t at all what I remembered!
Where were the all the awesome rocks you can climb on?!
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long to find out. Near the south end of the Central Garden Trail, we reached the Three Graces formation and both Natalie and Carter wasted no time climbing into the three tall, vertical cracks. Then, between the Three Graces and the Cathedral Spires formations, we found the kid-friendly rock climbing area. Finally! This area was open for kids and families to explore, climb on, wiggle in, and climb through — and there were kids everywhere! We all had fun exploring the formations, then hit the trail again because it was getting really hot!
Not very far down the trail, a dirt trail leaves the main loop for a short hike through the shrubbery and up some wood/dirt steps to a huge red rock formation we could climb on and to the top of! This formation, called Sleeping Giant, allowed us to get high off the ground for amazing views of the Central Garden and see the stunning contrast of lush green trees and shrubs against the stark red sandstone.
Soon we began our hike back past Gray Rock and South Gateway Rock, which features areas of lighter composite rock, and back to Sentinel Rock. After doing a bit more climbing around, we headed back to the truck to drive the Juniper Way loop and Garden Drive to the Balanced Rock formation to round out our visit to Garden Of The Gods. Balanced Rock was awesome and you could even climb up to it to snap a photo that looks like you’re holding the entire rock up by yourself!
We loved Garden Of The Gods Park. I’m so happy I got to experience it again with Brian, Natalie, and Carter, even if it was sweltering and we were so ready to be done by the end and move onto our next adventures: The Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Cave Of The Winds Adventure Park.
History Of Garden Of The Gods Park
General William Jackson Palmer founded Colorado Springs in 1871 while extending the rail lines for his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In 1879, Palmer convinced his friend Charles Elliott Perkins, head of the Burlington Railroad, to buy 240 acres of land known as the Garden Of The Gods to build a home.
Perkins never ended up building on the property and in 1899, he purchased another 240 acres. His plan was to donate the 480 acre property to the City of Colorado Springs to become a public park. Unfortunately he dies before official arrangements were made, but his children followed his wishes and deeded Garden Of The Gods to the city in 1909 with the stipulation that it “remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.”
Today Garden Of The Gods Park is still owned by the City of Colorado Springs and has been expended to 1,367 acres with the original land donation the center of the park.
Know Before You Go
- Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark.
- Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is located at 1805 N 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904 in El Paso County.
- The park is open daily from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm.
- The Visitor & Nature Center and the Gift Shop are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the extended hours of 8:00 am to 7:00 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
- Download the Garden Of The Gods Map.
- Visiting both the park and the Visitor Center is free.
- There are several parking areas located throughout the park, but there are only 336 parking space total, so the park fills up fast, especially on weekends.
- Walking the main 1.5 mile Garden Of The Gods trail and stopping to take in the stunning views of the rock formations takes about 60 minutes. If you have kids with you that want to climb on the rock formations and explore, plan for two hours.
- If you’re not able to walk through the park, you can drive through Garden Of The Gods and enjoy the majestic views of the red rock formations and surrounding landscape from your vehicle.
- Bean Sprouts Cafe, located at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is a coffee bar and healthy café that offers a variety of choices for the entire family, including those with food allergies and special dietary needs.
- The Gift Shop is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with extended hours from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day of 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
- Pets are welcome but must be on leash at all times and all pet waste removed. Doggie cleanup bags are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center in the designated pet area.
- Located 1.0 mile from the park, Garden Of The Gods Campground & RV Resort offers family-friendly amenities like a swimming pool, dog park, playground, game room, and Wi-Fi.
- Other attractions nearby include: Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, Manitou Incline, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Pikes Peak Highway, Cave of The Winds Mountain Park, and the Broadmoor Seven Falls.