Visiting Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs
One of the best things to do in Colorado Springs is visiting the Garden of the Gods. Colorado Springs is an amazing place, offering a range of adventurous outdoor activities. Garden of the Gods Park is a top attraction. The place offers amazingly orange rock formations, hiking trails, climbing, and other activities. We share our tips on how to spend time there and how to prepare for a visit. Check our Guide to Visiting Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Where is the Garden of the Gods?
Garden of the Gods is an incredibly naturally formed area full of red rock formations in different shapes, from enormous boulders to spires. What’s more, Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark since 1971. Dramatic views and 300′ towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak will dazzle you. The area of the Park is 1,367 acres.
How to get to the Garden of the Gods?
Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, just west of I-25. From I-25, take Exit #146 – Garden of the Gods Road.
Visiting Garden of the Gods is also a perfect idea as a day trip from Denver. It’s only 70 miles and 1 hour and 20 minutes driving via I-25 S from Denver.
PRO TIP: Garden of the Gods is a popular place and a favorite place for locals. So it might be crowded, especially in the summer months and on weekends. So, if you can, go there in the middle of the week. In peak season, we highly recommend starting your trip early in the morning or late afternoon. Or you will likely have to wait for parking spaces.
How much does it cost to visit the Garden of the Gods?
Visiting the Garden of the Gods is free. So it’s a perfect place for a family adventure. Park is open every day, 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. Visitor & Nature Center is open 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Mon-Sun) in Summer and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Winter.
Leashed dogs are welcome. But don’t forget to clean up after them.
How long do you need at Garden of the Gods?
It all depends on your needs and the activities you intend to undertake in the Park. If you have little time, 2-3 hours are enough for visiting Garden of the Gods. But you can also spend the whole day here.
How did the Garden of the Gods Get Its Name?
The story of the name Garden of the Gods is pretty funny. According to Wikipedia, the area was first called Red Rock Corral. But, in August 1859, two surveyors explored the site. One of them, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” But the second of surveyors, Rufus Cable, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”
How Was the Garden of the Gods Formed?
Rock formations were created millions of years ago. The formation lies on a fault line that caused the rock slabs to be tilted vertically into “fins” as the tectonic plates moved. The rocks get their red color from the hematite in the rock.
Moreover, archaeological research shows that prehistoric people visited the Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park. Many native peoples have reported a connection to the Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people.
The best ideas for Visiting Garden of the Gods
Start from Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center
It’s worth visiting the Garden of the Gods from the Visitor & Nature Center. It’s free and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You can pick a free map of the park, see some exhibits, learn about the park and wildlife, natural history, and geology, and see the movie: “How Did Those Red Rocks Get There?”. But watching this 12-minute film costs—$6 for adults, and $4 for kids ages five to 12.
There is also a gift shop and cafe.
Take a Drive
You can drive through the Garden of the Gods, and several parking areas have overlooks and short hiking trails. You will find there also some picnic areas and toilets. Garden of the Gods Scenic Drives is the best idea for sightseeing if you have limited time. It takes you about 2-3 hours to visit.
The Garden of the Gods Scenic Drive is 5.6 miles long on several park roads, a loop around the central Garden zone, and Ridge Road and Balanced Rock.
The most important points of interest along the scenic drive are North and South Gateway Rocks, Gray Rock, Montezuma Tower, Scotsman Picnic Area, High Point, Siamese Twins, Steamboat Rock, and Balanced Rock.
For sure, Balanced Rock is one of the most photographed spots in the Park. Most visitors take a photo “holding up” this huge rock.
PRO TIP: Start your scenic drive on Gateway Road opposite the visitor center. The road heads west for 0,4 miles to a junction. Keep right on the one-way road, which calls Juniper Way Loop, and make a 2,4-mile loop around the central Garden zone. Two parking areas and smaller lots let you stop and admire rock formations. One of the best viewpoints is Garden of the Gods Overlook.
Go for a Hike in Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods hiking is the best idea for a visit.
There are over 15 miles of trails in the Park. During the hike, you can observe wildlife. There are many species of birds and mammals in the park, as deer and bighorn sheep.
The most popular hiking trail is the paved Perkins Central Garden Trail. What’s important is that it’s also a wheelchair-accessible trail. It starts at the main parking lot. It is an easy 1.5-mile (2.4km) loop through the main rock formations and offers spectacular views. One of this trail’s most exciting rock formations is the Kissing Camels.
Other great hiking trails in the Garden of the Gods are Ridge Trail, Ute Trail, Siamese Twins Trail, Palmer Trail, and Susan G. Bretag Trail.
On Siamese Twins Trail, you can admire spectacular rock formations called the Siamese Twins. It’s created from two nearly identical columns. The small space between the two pillars makes a perfect window to frame photos.
Take a Jeep Tour in Garden of the Gods
Importantly, Garden of the Gods also offers many other attractions. They are paid, but they are a lot of fun. One of them is a Jeep Tour in the park. Moreover, besides stunning red rock formations in the Garden of the Gods, you will enjoy North Cheyenne Canyon up to Helen Hunt Falls.
Take a Segway Tour
Another top-rated attraction in the park, especially enjoyed by kids and teens, is Segway Tour. You will learn the ropes of your Segway before setting out. It’s a guided tour, so you learn a lot about those rock formations and it’s geology, history, and wildlife.
Moreover, mountain biking and horseshoe riding are also allowed in the Park.
Take a Hiking Tour
Some of the lesser-known trails and stunning rock formations can be seen during Guided Hike.
Take a 1909 Trolley Tour
You can also take 100 years old Trolley Tour. Departing is every hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The open-air trolley seats 14 guests and provides fantastic views around the entire park. It costs $17 per person, and you can purchase tickets at the activity desk in the Visitor Center. There are no advanced reservations. The trip duration is 45 minutes.
Check the Garden of the Gods Adventure Series Program
The park also offers the Garden of the Gods Adventure Series Program. So, before your visit, check their schedule. They offer different types of events, as presentations of feature the top naturalists, interpreters, historians, walks, and hikes throughout the year.
Rock Climbing in Garden of the Gods
Rock climbing is also possible in the Garden of the Gods. But you must have a permit. What’s important is the climbing permits are free. But check all the rules and don’t forget your climbing gear.
What to Bring to Garden of the Gods?
- Water & Snacks. There are a few places in the park where you can refill water and have lunch, but there may be lines during the tourist season. So, pack water and light snacks. Alcohol is not allowed.
- Hiking shoes. Comfortable shoes are essential. Hiking Trails in the park are not difficult, but it is worth wearing walking shoes with good grip.
- Camera. The park is extremely interesting for photography. So don’t forget to charge the phone you are taking pictures with or your camera. The best light is in the afternoon.
- Sunscreen and Hat. Protect yourself from the sun. Even in winter, it can be sunny. So, use sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Where to Eat at Garden of the Gods?
If you forget to pack some snacks, don’t worry. You are pretty close to the city, so after visiting Gardens of the Gods, you can drive to Colorado Springs for lunch.
Or you can eat in the Park. There are two places in the Park where you can eat: Café at the Garden, located at the visitor center at the entrance to Garden of the Gods. The other one is the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, the oldest and largest gift shop in Colorado. You can enjoy a bison burger and locally brewed beer.
What are some must-dos in Colorado Springs?
Colorado Springs is a city where there is no time to get bored. You can spend a week of vacation there, and it won’t not enough to enjoy all its attractions. It is a perfect place for people and families who like active outdoor recreation. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Colorado.
Take a Balloon Flight or Zipline Tour
We plan a Balloon Flight over the magnificent Rocky Mountains for our next trip. On our must-do list is also Zipline Tour which soars 150 feet above Manitou Springs and ranges from 225-650 feet in length. We are sure to get a massive adrenalin rush on this zipline adventure.
Take a Pikes Peak Highway Drive
One of the best things to do when visiting Colorado Springs is taking a trip to Pikes Peak. Here you can check our detailed Guide to Pikes Peak Highway if you can drive independently.
Pikes Peak Highway is the serpentine road that rises the 14,115-foot (4,302 m) summit of America’s most famous mountain. It’s a fabulous 19-mile one-way (31 km) road adventure. You can do it yourself by car, or you can book a Cog Railway. Tips you will find in our detailed Colorado road trip itinerary. We described how to visit Pikes Peak on day 13 of our itinerary. Or you can read our detailed article about Driving Up Pikes Peak Highway in Colorado, where we share many tips.
Or, if you don’t want to drive yourself, you can consider a trip to Pikes Peak.
Visit Manitou Springs
Nestled between Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, historic Manitou Springs town is centrally located to the area’s unique attractions. It’s a charming town perfect for a walk and relaxation. It’s only six miles west of downtown Colorado Springs and five miles from Garden of the Gods. The town is full of galleries, street performers, creek-side restaurants, boutique stores, and souvenir shops. It also offers a large selection of accommodation.
Visit Manitou Cliff Dwellings
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are comprised of Anasazi Ruins dating from 800 to 1000 years old. According to the official website, the 40-room site was originally located in McElmo Canyon. The process of relocating these cliff dwellings began in 1904 and was completed in 1907. It was to preserve and protect these dwellings from looters and relic pot-hunters.
It is worth a visit if you haven’t been to Mesa Verde National Park yet or haven’t managed to get a cliff-dwelling guided tour.
Where to stay near the Garden of the Gods?
You will find large selections of hotels in Colorado Springs. During our Colorado road trip, we stayed in budget Mecca Motel, close to Garden of the Gods.
I love those rock views at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. At 2-3 hours for a visit, we might plan to stop when we travel through Colorado this fall. I love that there are a number of great stops along the scenic drive. But it would be great to plan enough time for a hike or two to get closer to the rock formations.
Dramatic is right! I would love to visit this in person and really take in those splendor views. This would be the ultimate road trip, especially along the Pikes Peak Highway Drive. It’s fascinating to read the history of how this landscape came to be and amazing that it is still here for all of us to experience it!
That is such a cool way to name a rock formation! It sure is a feat to climb it. Attractions like these just prove the magnificence of nature over us. Wonderful shots!
Such an interesting way the place was named Garden of Gods and it is better the ‘Beer Garden’! The places so gorgeous. It was fascinating to know about how these rocks formed over time. I would love to go on a hike here and also take a Trolley Tour. This 100 years old tour sounds interesting to me and it would also give me an entire view of the place. Thanks for sharing these tips.
I love exploring geological sites. They remind one of the times that were, when Earth was not burdened with so many things. The trolley tour sounds exciting. The cliff dwellings are also worth a dekko. Certainly a park that reminds one of the beginning of time.
I am a climber and I am always interested in beautiful rock formations. I want to look at them and I want to touch them and see how the rock feels. Perfect that there are some climbing possibilities as well at the Garden of the Gods. I would definitely check this out, if I am in the area.
I’m super interested in beautiful rock formations and geographical sites. This sounds like a dream worth the visit!
That is surely funny! From Beer garden to the Garden of gods what a name! Yes, I agree that the national parks surely looks like a place where gods would assemble. I love the national park and I will surely visit it when I am in Colorado. I hope to explore this part of the world someday and thanks to your posts, I have a bigger list and places to see.
I love the red feel about the place.The trolley tour would be really exciting. Would love visiting the cliff dwellings. So much of history about Garden of Gods would be wonderful to understand. Outstanding pictures.
This is so interesting; I wasn’t aware Garden of the Gods is on a
fault line. I have visited the area when I was young but do not remember much
of it and want to return. Taking a Segway tour sounds like a lot of fun and I love
that the Perkins Central Garden Trail is wheelchair-accessible
I haven’t been to Co. Since 1996. One thing I will never forget are the Garden of the Gods and the town of manitou
The Garden of Gods looks like my kind of place! I would definitely be spending the entire day here doing a jeep tour and hiking as many of the trails as I possible could.
The Garden of the Gods looks like a great place to take my family. The kids would love to go hiking here.
Wow, those rocks sure look impressive and almost intimidating. It always makes me nervous seeing these huge rocks balancing on their ground – will they overbalance the moment I’m standing next to them?!
I would love to go on a hiking tour or on one of the adventure tours.
Wow, love the formations and landscapes of Garden of the Gods and love the story of how it was named! It’s great to know you can enjoy the park whether you only have a couple of hours or a whole day, and also that there are several car parks and several short trails — as I can’t manage big hikes, that definitely makes it more accessible to me!