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The US state of Colorado is renowned for its wild, natural beauty and the Colorado Springs area (also known as Pikes Peak Country) is home to some of the state’s best natural wonders.
Just outside Manitou Springs, the Garden of the Gods is a 1,350-acre city park featuring soaring red sandstone rock formations, many dating back more than 300 million years.
The unique formations were sculpted through time by the forces of nature and have been given descriptive names like “Kissing Camels” and “Balanced Rock.” The park offers many trails for hiking enthusiasts and rock climbers alike. It’s also an ideal spot for picnicking, horseback riding, or just awe-inspiring photography.
If you’re looking to explore interesting rock formations or just take in breathtaking scenery then Garden of the Gods is the place for you!
And it’s an absolute must-see if you’re planning a visit to Colorado Springs. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to the Garden of the Gods Park.
Is the Garden of the Gods park free?
In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins purchased the land that included a portion of where the park sits today. Upon his death in 1909, his family gave the land to the city of Colorado Springs with the provision that the park always remains free to the public.
So yes, today Garden of the Gods Park is one of America’s most spectacular free sights. Both the park and the Visitor & Nature Center are free and open to the public.
What are the opening hours for the Garden of the Gods?
The park is open daily in the summer months from 5:00am – 10:00pm (May 1 – October 31). And 5:00am – 9:00pm November 1 – April 30).
The Nature & Visitor Center is open daily in the summer months from 8:00am – 7:00pm. The winter hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm daily.
What’s the best time of day to visit Garden of the Gods Park?
You may have seen photos of the Garden of the Gods with an amazing sunset in the background. To enjoy views like that, plan your visit for late afternoon when the sun casts its golden rays over these red sandstone formations and creates an awe-inspiring scene.
Sunrise is another fantastic time to visit for abundant colors. So, the bottom line is that the best times to visit are early morning or late afternoon. During these times you’ll get a chance to experience the park with the most vibrant colors and the fewest crowds.
How long of a walk is the Garden of the Gods?
With 21 miles of trails to explore, there’s something for every fitness level.
Hike one (or several) of the many trails to take in the park’s spectacular views. From short hikes for beginners or more challenging trails designed for experienced hikers, Garden of the Gods has something for everyone.
Don’t forget to take some time to just enjoy the views from one of the many scenic overlooks and picnic spots! Here are the primary hiking trails to explore:
For an easy, scenic stroll, try one of these trails:
- Perkins Central Garden Trail (Easy) – This paved and relatively flat 1.5 mile roundtrip path takes you through the heart of the Park at the base of the highest rock formations.
- Siamese Twins Trail (Easy) -This 1-mile roundtrip trail has less than a 150 foot rise. Along the path, don’t mist the unique photo opportunity of Pikes Peak through the natural window of the twins.
- Ridge Trail (Easy/Moderate) – 1/2 mile loop, with less than 100 foot rise in elevation. This path leads to the foot of The Sleeping Giant rock formation and back.
For a more challenging workout:
- Chambers//Bretag/Palmer Trail (Moderate) – This 3-mile hike has less than a 250 foot rise. Circling nearly the entire Park, this trail rolls through rocky terrain away from the traffic.
- Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail (Moderate) – This 2-mile rocky and rolling loop features distant views of the Central Garden formations.
Best hotels near the Garden of the Gods
After all that hiking you’ll need somewhere to relax and recharge for the night. Luckily, there are plenty of terrific hotel options for every budget in the Colorado Springs area.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Broadmoor – More than just a hotel, The Broadmoor is a destination unto itself. You’ll find the typical 5-star resort amenities like golf, incredible dining options, and a luxury spa. Plus, the Broadmoor offers some pretty amazing outdoor experiences dubbed “Broadmoor Adventures” (think zip-lining and fly fishing). Yes, all this mountain splendor comes at a somewhat hefty price. But this is one truly unique resort experience that just might be worth it.
- Best Western Plus Peak View Inn & Suites – With affordable rates and Pikes Peak views, this lodge-style resort is a great choice for families. Features include abundant parking, comfortable beds, and an excellent free breakfast buffet.
- The Mining Exchange Hotel & Spa – With a perfect location in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs, this historic Colorado hotel features two restaurants and a full-service spa.
- The Lodge at Flying Horse – If you’re looking to get away from it all on your visit to Colorado Springs, this resort is a terrific choice. Located on a private 18-hole golf course, the resort also boasts a steakhouse and a decadent spa making it an ideal option for a romantic getaway.
Best things to see in the Garden of the Gods
The park is full of fascinating things to see but these 3 places top my must-see list for the Garden of the Gods:
1. Balanced Rock
The park’s most famous rock formation, Balanced Rock can be seen from many different points in the park. It’s easy to visit by car or hiking trail and is a popular photo opportunity with visitors. Keep your eye out while you’re walking around because there are other great rocks close by!
2. The Kissing Camels
The Kissing Camels rock formation is one of the most popular sites in Garden of the Gods. It’s named for its two “camel” rocks that are positioned so they look like they’re kissing each other. The Kissing Camels can be easily viewed from several of the trails through the park.
3. The Garden of the Gods Trading Post
Built in 1929, the Trading Post is the largest and oldest gift shop in all of Colorado.
At the Trading Post, you can shop for the perfect souvenir to remember your visit or just refuel after your hike with a bison burger or homemade fudge. There’s even a hidden entrance to the park favored by locals looking to avoid the summer tourist crowds.
BONUS: Don’t miss these 3 sights while you’re in Colorado Springs
There’s so much to see in the Colorado Springs area, you could spend weeks trying to see it all! But if you only have a few days, after you hike the Garden of the Gods, here are my other top 3 must-sees:
- Pikes Peak – After 126 years in operation, the famous Cog Railway to the summit closed in 2018. It is currently undergoing infrastructure refurbishment and is scheduled to re-open in 2021. In the meantime, there are still several ways to visit the summit of “America’s Mountain.” You can hike, cycle, drive yourself (on a toll road), or take a group tour.
- Manitou Cliff Dwellings – One of America’s most unique archaeological sites, these Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings were relocated from the Four Corners area in 1904. The fascinating museum and preserve has been open to visitors since 1907.
- The Air Force Academy – A must for “Top Gun” fans with the need for speed. A quick stop by the Visitor Center will give you the lay of the land. Don’t miss Falcon Stadium, the Honor Court, and especially the Cadet Chapel.
And there you have it!
Everything you need to know to plan your day at one of America’s most incredible free parks. Not only is the Garden of the Gods one of Colorado’s most famous attractions it’s a must-visit for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
With amazing rock formations, a legendary gift shop, and a variety of trails and hikes that are perfect for the whole family, a visit to the Garden of the Gods is a must on your trip to Colorado!