Colorado Springs is an amazing place, offering a range of adventurous outdoor activities. One of the top attractions in Colorado Springs is, no doubt, Garden of the Gods Park. 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. So, check our Guide to Visiting Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
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Where is Garden of the Gods and how to get there?
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, 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.
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 20 minutes driving via I-25 S from Denver.
PRO TIP: Garden of the Gods is a popular place and a favorites 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 recommended starting your trip early in the morning or late afternoon. Or you will likely have to wait for parking spaces.
How much cost to visit 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.
What’s more, archaeological researches show 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 starting to visit 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, geology, and see the movie: “How Did Those Red Rocks Get There?”. But watching this 12-minute film costs—$6 for adults, $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 there are several parking areas with 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 taking a photo as “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. You will find there two parking areas and smaller lots that let you stop and admire rock formations. One of the best viewpoints is Garden of the Gods Overlook.
Go for a Hike
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 it’s also the 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 the most exciting rock formations on this trail 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, call 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
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. What’s more, except for stunning red rock formations in the Garden of the Gods, you will also enjoy North Cheyenne Canyon up to the 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.
What’s more, 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 are also possible to see 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 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 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 wear 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, which is is 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
For our next trip, we plan a Balloon Flight over the magnificent Rocky Mountains. 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 also taking a trip to Pikes Peak.
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 lots of 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 souvenirs shops. It also offers a large selection of accommodation.
Visit Manitou Cliff Dwellings
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are comprised of Anasazi Ruins that date back 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 definitely 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 there.