One of the best things to see in Colorado, Garden of the Gods is a public city park located in Colorado Springs. It features massive upright red rock formations, some 300 feet high, caused by millennia-old geological upheavals along a natural fault line. From the park, there are dramatic views of Pike's Peak, which is the highest mountain in the southern Rocky Mountain Range, at 14,115 feet.

Visitors to the park may enjoy the wonders of the outdoors along hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, take part in the many educational opportunities offered by the park's naturalists, and participate in the thrills of rock climbing. The Visitor and Nature Center was opened adjacent to the park in 1995, and runs movies and houses excellent interactive museum exhibits. Scroll to see the full list with photos or jump to the table of contents.

History of the Park

History of the Park

© Garden of the Gods

Millions of years ago, in the Pleistocene Ice Age, the forces of nature and glaciation tipped horizontally-lying sandstone and limestone into upright formations, leaving the area with massive standing and leaning boulders. Many millions of years passed. About 1330 B.C. prehistoric humans visited the area, as is apparent in fossil evidence.

About 250 B.C. the area was used as habitation by Native Americans, who were attracted to the area by the variety of plant and animal life, and by the rock overhangs that could be used as shelter. Petroglyphs left by the area's early visitors are consistent with the style of the Ute people, although many Native American tribes claim the lands as their own.

Garden of the Gods was first sighted by Europeans in the 1800s during the expansion of the trans-national railway. In 1859, one the two surveyors who founded Colorado City came across the area and, exclaiming at its beauty, announced that it would make an excellent spot for a beer garden. The other surveyor stated that its grandeur would make it fit for not just a beer garden, but for a garden of the gods. The name stuck.

In 1879, Charles Elliot Perkins purchased 480 acres of what is now the present-day Garden of the Gods. When he died in 1909, his family gifted the land to the city of Colorado Springs, with the provision that they use the lands as a free public park in perpetuity. Further land purchases by the city made up a 1,364 acre facility, which remains a free park for the use of local citizens and tourists.

Flora and Fauna

Flora and Fauna

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Garden of the Gods is a magnificent place to visit if one is a lover of wildlife. Mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, foxes, and cottontail rabbits make their home here, as do many species of raptors such as prairie falcons, harriers, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks. There are many species of smaller birds, such as black-billed magpies, ravens, doves, Steller's jays, blue jays, scrub jays, the rare violet-green swallow, Western tanagers, meadowlarks, Mountain chickadees, and spotted towhees.

The park does have predatory animals, and visitors should be careful to clean up after their picnics and walk only on marked trails in order to avoid the black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats that reside in the park. Trail walkers should keep an eye out for the indigenous rattlesnakes. Garden of the Gods is filled with plant life, wildflowers, and tall coniferous trees, such as Rocky Mountain junipers, Ponderosa pine, and white fir, as well as deciduous Gambel oak trees.

Getting Around the Park

Getting Around the Park

© Garden of the Gods

Hiking is a popular activity at Garden of the Gods, and there are fifteen miles of trails within its bounds. The Perkins Central Garden Trail, a loop of 1.5 miles along the base of the highest rock formations, is paved, relatively level, and suitable for use by wheelchairs and strollers.

The Ridge trail is a moderate half-mile loop, while the Siamese Twins Trail is a mile of easy walking with spectacular views of Pikes Peak.

The Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail which encircles nearly the entire park, is rocky and of a more difficult hiking level. The Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail is for the use of moderately-skilled hikers, and consists of rocky climbs and rolling trails through the centre of the park. Visitors who would like guided trail walks may join in the twice-daily guided nature hikes led by park naturalists, who educate participants about local wildflowers, wildlife, and the area's history.

Dog walking is permitted on the trails of Garden of the Gods. Dogs must be kept on a 6' leash, and their owners must clean up after them.

All of the paved roads in the park have paved bike lanes, the largest being the Garden Drive/Juniper Way loop that is six miles long with a 15% grade. Mountain biking is permitted along designated trails, which are shared with hikers and equestrians.

Climbing the rock formations in Garden of the Gods Park is a popular activity, and requires a permit and waiver from the city of Colorado Springs. There are firm rules set out for technical climbing, and standards must be met for equipment safety. Certain areas of the park are closed to rock climbers during the nesting season of raptors, and near the roosts of migrating white-throated swifts. Disturbing nesting sites is strictly forbidden.

For guided climbing, Garden of the Gods uses an independent company, Front Range Climbing. Front Range Climbing offers half-day tours for beginner and moderate climbers, which include education about types of climbing equipment, knots, belaying, descending, and climbing movement. The cost includes a guide and all the necessary gear. Full day climbing adventures are available for all skill levels.

There are other ways of touring the park. The 1909 Bus Tour uses a custom-built open-air trolley to ferry visitors around The Garden of the Gods on an educational drive with fantastic views. The 1909 Bus Tour lasts thirty minutes. Independent tour companies offer Jeep and Segway Tours of the park. The Segway Tours give participants unobstructed views of Pike's Peak, a mellow pace, and stops to admire geological features, fauna, flora, and to hear stories about the archeology and anthropology of the area.

Visitor and Nature Center

Visitor and Nature Center

© Garden of the Gods

The Visitor and Nature Center is adjacent to the park, and has excellent exhibits about the geology, flora, fauna, people, and history of the park. Interactive exhibits educate visitors about tracking animals, identifying wildlife from its spoor, and about Theiophytaliakerri, the one and only dinosaur of its sort, which was discovered in Garden of the Gods.

Unearthed by Professor James H. Kerr of Colorado College in 1878, the fossils found were misidentified as those of a Camptosaurus, and lay forgotten in Yale University's Peabody Museum for over a century. Less than a decade ago, the fossils were brought out of storage and discovered to be an entirely new type of dinosaur, based on the size and shape of its snout, and the position and shape of its nasal and eye sockets.

The Visitor and Nature Center runs a movie, GeoTrekker, every twenty minutes; it is an exciting immersion into the history of The Garden of the Gods, and includes dinosaurs, hot magma, ancient sea monsters, and awe-inspiring aerial footage of the park. There is a fee for the movie, which lasts fifteen minutes.


Garden of the Gods has a Junior Ranger Program for children aged 7-12, which teaches kids about the park's history, geology, and plant and animal life. School field trips are supported by the park, and meet Colorado's educational standards for Physical, Earth, and Life Sciences. Classes from Kindergarten to Grade 6 can learn in a hands-on way about rock types and layers, fossils, plants and animals, and park history. Lessons are enlivened by films and nature hikes.

Every day there are nature presentations given at the Visitor and Nature Center by experts in their field, covering such topics as the animals in the park, the early explorers of the area, and geological formations. Although all talks are open to the public of all ages, some of the presentations are geared towards small children, and some involve physical activity.

Cafe and Shopping

The park has a cafe overlooking the stunning landscape of Garden of the Gods. Diners can order pancakes, breakfast burritos, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soup, chili, salads, macaroni and cheese, cookies, snacks, fresh fruit, and beverages.

The park's gift shop is an award-winning selection of Colorado-made items, including American Indian jewelry and pottery, porcelain sculptures, gifts, books, toys, postcards, and delicious fudge made right at the Visitor's Center.

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1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904, Phone: 719-634-6666, (website link)

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