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Garden of the Gods: A Must-See in Colorado Springs

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Rock formations at Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs.

South Gateway Rock. Photo: Don Nadeau, BidOnTravel  

Update: December 2016

The Garden of the Gods Visitors’ Center, run by its foundation, received a total makeover and expansion in 2015.

Some highlights are

  • New exhibition halls with interactive exhibits show you the geology, ecology, culture and history of the park;
  • A new Geo-Trekker Theatre lets you watch a film about how the rocks formations formed; and
  • A new webcam not only shows Pikes Peak and the red rocks night and day, but also allows you to pick any day you want over the last year.

Of course, you can still sign up at the Visitors’ Center for free guided walking and nature tours, paid Jeep and Segway tours, and guided rock climbing.

A guide to the Garden of the Gods

Looking west as you cross the Colorado prairie, the Rockies rise tall above the landscape. On a clear day they can be seen from about 100 miles away. Pioneers, crossing the endless plains, saw these towering mountains days before they arrived at the base. In Colorado Springs, at the base of the mountains, sits a cluster of giant red rocks, seemingly dropped from the sky. They’re as out of place in this muted palette as a splash of vivid color in a black and white photo.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs view from visitor center

View of the Gardens with the Rocky Mountains in the background from the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. Photo: Penny Whalen

The Garden of the Gods, named by a pair of surveyors in the mid-19th century, is an area of geological formations over 300 million years old. Now a registered National Natural Landmark, it belongs to the people of Colorado Springs. The original 480 acres were donated to the city in 1909 by the family of the late railroad magnate Charles Elliot Perkins. The gift came with the stipulation that access would always be free. Expanded over the years, the site is now 1,323 acres, including the adjoining Rock Ledge Ranch.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Plaque commemorates the gift of the original 480 acres by the Perkins family in 1909. Photo: Don Nadeau, BidOnTravel

There are a variety of tours offered Memorial Day through Labor Day, available at the Visitors Center:

  • Jeep tours to Balance Rock, are 45 minutes long and are $17 per person.
     
  • Van tours to Balance Rock are 35 minute long. Cost: $10 per person.
     
  • Segway guided tours are also offered. These are one hour long and are $65 per person. You must be at least 14 years old and under of 225 pounds.

Other times of year, private tours are available through Adventures Out West.

Without stopping, the main-loop ride (three-and-a-half miles) is about 14 minutes; touring secondary roads adds another 15 minutes or so during busy traffic times.

Balance Rock from east, Garden of Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Balance Rock, seen from the east. Photo: Penny Whalen

You can also see the park on foot on your own or with a guide. The Garden of the Gods offers free 30-minute, nature walks daily year-round, at 10am and 2pm. They are led by a naturalist who talks about the flora, fauna and geology of the area. You can also walk the trails through the formations on your own, oohing and aahing at this gift of the gods. In warm weather, make a day of it. Bring your lunch and enjoy a picnic along the way. You can even do technical rock-climbing in designated areas. Stop at the Visitor’s Center for a permit. Bicyclists are welcome to ride their mountain bikes on designated trails; the one-way roads through the Gardens have designated bike lanes.

Balance Rock, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Walkers and bicyclists at Balance Rock. Photo: Steve Collins

For something different, visit Garden of the Gods on horseback. You can bring your horse and ride the designated trails through the Garden. Don’t have a horse? Academy Riding Stables offers daily group trail rides year-round, weather permitting. Or book a private ride. Sandy Lerma, who works at the stables, says, “It’s the best way to see the garden.” The ride goes past a lot of formations you won’t see in the car. “You can see them on foot,” Lerma points out, “but the horse covers a lot of ground and you see more in less time. Plus, it’s fun.” Academy’s wranglers, aka guides, are knowledgeable about the geology and history of the area.  For rates and other information call the stables at 719-633-5667.


Kissing Camels, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Kissing Camels. Photo: Penny Whalen

The Garden of the Gods is a must-see on any visit to Colorado Springs. For some, it may be reason enough for a trip.

Garden of the Gods photo gallery:


Garden of Gods, Colorado Springs, Balance Rock from west

Balance Rock, seen from the west. Photo: Penny Whalen

White rock, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

White Rocks are from a later geological era than the red rocks. Photo: Steve Collins

Garden of the Gods seen from DoubleTree Hotel, Colorado Springs

View from window at DoubleTree Hotel, Colorado Springs. Photo: Don Nadeau, BidOnTravel

Tower of Babel, the northern-most section of North Gateway Rock. Photo: Don Nadeau, BidOnTravel

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Detail of North Gateway Rock shows pockets created by freezing and thawing over millennia. Photo: Don Nadeau, BidOnTravel

More about the Garden of the Gods:

Comments

Ruth Hryshkanych
August 3, 2017

Dear Penny,  (Penny Whalen)
I am impressed with your photography on this site!
Is this in a brochure form that you could mail to us for our group coming to you on Sept 17th?  I would need 30 of them for the trip packets for our LLBC Bus Tour travelers.
I did leave a message on your answering machine.
The address is:  LLBC Bus Tours   ATTN Ruth H   N18250 Lake Lane   Pembine, WI 54156
Thank you!
Ruth

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Don Nadeau
August 6, 2017

Hi Ruth,

Am forwarding your request to Ms Whalen.

Thank you for reading the blog and please have a very enjoyable trip.

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Don Nadeau
August 7, 2017

Hi Ruth,

If you wish you have my permission to print out copies of this blog post for your group.

The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau will not have copies, but it may have related materials. It can be reached at (719) 635-7506.

Again, thank you for your interest in this post.

Don

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