It is not often that I feel small. In fact being over 6’6” I normally feel quite large. Especially compared to my wife who comes in at a modest 5’2”. Recently we visited Garden of The Gods in Colorado Springs. Walking through this amazing landscape showed me just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. We were so amazed by the park that we visited three times during our short time in the area. The red rock formations are unlike anything we had ever seen before.
History of Garden of the Gods
To truly understand the garden you really have to start at the beginning. The natural red rock that makes up the park has been there as long as time. The garden picked up its name in 1859 when two surveyors stumbled across this beautiful area. One man said it be the perfect place for a beer garden in the future. While the other man said it would be a place fit for the gods to assemble. Calling it the Garden of the Gods and it has kept that name since. In 1879 a railroad tycoon by the name of Charles Elliott Perkins bought 240 acres containing the garden. His original intent was to build a summer home around the rock formations but ultimately decided to preserve the land in its natural state.
Perkins opened the land to the public and had hopes of turning it into a public park. Over the years Perkins acquired more land over the years doubling his original purchase. Sadly Perkins died before accomplishing his goal of turning the land into a public park. But his children decided to complete his dream and turn over the 480-acre property over to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909. The family and the city made an agreement that it would always be known as Garden of the Gods and it would remain free to the public. They also agreed that no intoxicating liquors would be sold or made on site and that no buildings would be built except those necessary to maintain the area.
The Garden Today
Today the garden is still free to the public. A road now weaves through the park allowing easy access to many of the prime attractions. Along with the road is a 15-mile trail system that allows visitors to get up close and personal with the rock formations. For those looking to really experience the rock, climbing permits can be picked up at the visitor center and online. The visitor center sits directly across from the garden is also a great place to visit. It offers an amazing view of the garden with Pikes Peak in the background. Along with a nice museum and a small restaurant to grab a quick meal before entering the park. To learn more about the Garden of the Gods check out the website here.
The First Sight of the Garden
We had of course done our fair share of research and knew of the garden and planned to visit it during our trip. However, we were not expecting to see it as we drove to our cabin. Our cabin was located in Divide causing us to drive up the mountain to the west of the park. To say it was a shocking sight is an understatement. Seeing it from afar it almost looks unreal.
The garden is actually surrounded by homes and pretty much in the city. I imagine for locals it is just like heading down to the local park for a quick walk. In fact, during our visits, we actually saw people out for a run in the garden. With an expression that basically seemed to say it was all normal. How could that ever be normal, I mean almost nowhere else can you see formations like that. Especially that close to the city.
Exploring the Actual Garden
While the Garden of The God’s is amazing from the car and the visitors center, it is so much better up close from the trails. Honestly, if you only drive through you would miss so much. Every time you turn you see something different. The whole garden is great to see and we really think you your try to explore as much of it as you can. There are a few places that still stick out in my mind when I think back on our trip. These are places that are definite must-sees if you only have a short time in the garden.
Central Garden Trail
This is the trail that as the name implies goes through the center of the park. This trail is great because you get to see many of the large formations from it. If you enjoy taking pictures this is the trail to do it. You can get so many unique shots of the beautiful red rock. Now you may have to shoot over peoples heads to get a picture without a bunch of people in it. By sliding over to a side trail you can even climb up on one of the formations. That was a definite highlight and not at all what we expected to do. Also, don’t worry it was completely safe with no sharp drop-offs. Otherwise, it may have freaked me out too much to do.
This is probably one of the coolest things to see. The best part is that you do not have to hike to see it. The parking for this feature is located right next to it. What makes this special? Well, the feature really looks like one large rock balanced atop another. It at one time was privately owned. The owners would actually charge people 25 cents to have their picture made in front of it. Once personal cameras became popular they put up a wall and would charge a fee to see the formation. Another popular formation is located next to this one and is named Steamboat Rock because it really looks like a steamboat.
This formation is truly special. On a clear day and from the right angle you can actually see Pikes Peak through the rock. We were lucky enough to see this, but it did not translate well in photos. Unlike the previous formation, this one does require you take a short hike. It is a simple walk that is only made tough due to the altitude of Colorado Springs. One highlight of this hike for us was getting to see a few young mule deer cross the trail in front of us. We even got to see a couple of them hop a fence. Until that point, we had not even thought about wildlife calling the Garden of the Gods home.
During our visits, we did learn a few different things. For instance, it is packed on the weekends. We visited in the winter when it was in the 30s and it was still busy. Parking was hard to find and you couldn’t really get alone. I can not begin to imagine what it must be like on a nice summer day. All that is to say if you have the opportunity to visit the garden on a weekday. The morning seems to be even less busy and allow you to miss the crowds.
The visitors center is also worth the stop. All the employees seemed very nice and eager to answer any questions. It is also the only place to pick up a full-color copy of the park map. The map is a definite must-have, so you can be sure to see everything and easily find different attractions. Plus you really can not beat the view you get both from the parking lot and the top deck of the visitors center. While there be sure to stop by the small cafe and grab a bite to eat. We had not eaten lunch when we arrived and were glad to see it was an option. The price seemed to be steep at first, but they serve large, well made, portions. So it is definitely worth the price.
Just have a great time. Do not just rush through the park. Take the time to enjoy it and see all that you can. It may be the only chance you get to see a landscape like this. I can not count how many people seemed to be rushing through the park. That always amazes me. If you came all the way to see a beautiful place why just rush through it. So much can be seen by just taking the time to see it. It would stink to leave a place and then learn that you didn’t see some of the best parts because you were in a hurry.
Thanks so Much for Reading!!!
Thanks for reading this post. We had an absolutely amazing time at the Garden of the Gods. We truly cannot recommend it enough and if you ever get the chance don’t question just go. If you have been pleaser let us know your favorite part in the comments below. Be sure to follow us on social media by searching for The FamLee Life. That way you can follow us live on all our adventures like this. Interested in more of our posts about our Colorado trip? Check them out here. Thanks again for reading and have a great rest of your day. God Bless!