If you’re going to name a place, “Garden of the Gods,” it had better be good. The one in Colorado Springs, Colorado delivers.
Colorado Springs sits at the very eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. To the east, plains and prairie stretch almost continuously more than 800 miles to the Mississippi River. At Colorado Springs, the Rockies spring straight up, capped by 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, directly above Colorado Springs.
The mountains adjacent to Colorado Springs are replete with a wealth of spectacular scenery, but the 1,367-acre Garden of the Gods is a city park right within the municipal boundaries.
The formations are sedimentary rocks uplifted and tilted by the forces that formed the Rockies, and further shaped by erosion.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Colorado Springs on business trips. I’ve hiked in the mountains, explored Colorado Springs and the surrounding towns and even gone fly fishing far up in the Rockies. I’ve rarely passed up an opportunity to revisit the Garden, introducing coworkers and family to the site when I could.
The Garden of the Gods is easy to visit by car or on foot. A loop drive with numerous parking areas extends through a large part of the park, and 15 miles of trails provide access to most of it.
The trail in the photo above is a portion of more than a mile of pathway paved and accessible for visitors of all abilities.
That trail leads to one of the park’s landmark formations: the Three Graces:
Another popular spot, right by the park road, is Balanced Rock.
Yes, climbers, you’re welcome there, too (look closely for the blue shirt).
Climbers need a permit, available at this link on the city’s website. If you visit the park on any day it’s not raining or icy, you’ll probably see climbers.
As with most geological wonders, the site is best photographed in early morning or late afternoon light, when shadows highlight the relief. Those are also better opportunities to spot deer, rabbits and other wildlife on the trails away from the road.
Colorado Springs is about 2 hours due south of Denver on Interstate 25. It’s also about 2 hours from Denver International Airport, and has an airport of its own.
“The Springs” has a lot to see: the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the nearby, picturesque towns of of Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City and a historic downtown of its own. The mountains beckon with hiking, fishing, Pikes Peak, Native American ruins, and nearby is the Air Force Academy and its iconic Cadet Chapel, which I wrote about here.
But while you’re there, don’t fail to visit the Garden of the Gods, if only for a couple of hours. There’s much more to see than I’ve shown you. Here is the website with more information. Note: It can get crowded on weekends in pleasant weather (which The Springs has a lot of).
© Brad Nixon 2017. Additional photos © Willard Nixon 2017 and © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission.