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Colorado is a fantastic place to visit if you’re an outdoor enthusiast! Garden of the Gods is one of the most scenic places in Colorado, one of the top things to do in Colorado Springs, and it’s easily accessible from Denver! In this post, we’re going over everything you need to know about visiting the Garden of the Gods. We’re sharing all of the insider tips we’ve learned from visiting Garden of the Gods, so pack your hiking bag, and let’s explore this beautiful park!
About Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is not a National Park, nor is it managed by the National Park Service. Garden of the Gods is actually a public park! This park is open year-round and is completely free. Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs in the Pikes Peak Region of Colorado.
Garden of the Gods History
Archaeological evidence indicates prehistoric people were present at Garden of the Gods around 1330 BC. Around 250 BC, Native American people settled in the park. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people.
In August 1859, two surveyors left Denver City to establish a new town. While exploring nearby, they came upon the magnificent rock formations that stand at Garden of the Gods today. Surveyor M. S. Beach suggested it would be a “capital place for a Biergarten.” His partner Rufus Cable replied, “Biergarten! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”
Several years later, General William Jackson Palmer founded Colorado Springs. General Palmer urged his friend, Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of “the Q” Railroad, to make a home in the Garden of the Gods and build his railroad there. Perkins purchased two hundred and forty acres in the Garden of the Gods for his summer home. He never built anything else on it, rather he left the land in its natural state for the public’s enjoyment. Per Perkins’ wishes, upon his death, the land became a public park.
Geology of Garden of the Gods
The story of Garden of the Gods began when sandstones, limestones, and conglomerates were deposited in layers. Geological upheavals along the fault lines caused the rocks to be turned vertically. The following Pleistocene Ice Age caused erosion and glaciation of the rocks and created the remarkable red rock formations we see today.
Ecology of Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, making it a transition zone for plants and animals from the mountains to the plains. So at Garden of the Gods, you can see a range of plants and animals! Keep your eye out for animals like mule deer, bighorn sheep, foxes, black bears, and more!
Remember, do not approach or feed wildlife and leave no trace.
Garden of the Gods Map
Things to do at Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods Visitors and Nature Center
If you’ve never been to Garden of the Gods before, we recommend stopping at the Vistors and Nature Center before starting your visit. The visitors center features a cafe, gift shop, restroom facilities, maps, and other resources. You can also explore the exhibits and displays about the history and geology of Garden of the Gods and watch an immersive movie about the park’s history. The movie is an additional fee. You can also book tours and activities at the visitor’s center!
After visiting the visitors center, we recommend taking the self-guided driving tour of Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods Self-Guided Driving Tour
Driving through Garden of the Gods is one of the easiest ways to see the entire park and view the rock formations. The park features a one-way driving tour where you weave in and out of the rock formations. Along the driving tour, there are several places to pull over for photos or to park and hike. We recommend driving through the entire Garden of the Gods Park first and then driving through again to hop out of your car to photograph and hike. This way, your first drive-through will give you an idea of what the park is like! View the route of the driving tour here and listen to the audio guide.
Hiking at Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods features 21 miles of hiking trails. Trails range from beginner to advanced and are either paved or dirt. If you’re hiking, grab a map at the visitor’s center, or download maps from AllTrails. We’ll discuss the best hiking trails at a Garden of the Gods later in the post! Or skip to it here.
Tours of Garden of the Gods
If you’re traveling to Garden of the Gods in a large group or what to learn more about the park, Garden of the Gods offers several guided tours. Bike, segway, and vehicle tours are available. Vehicle tours include Jeep tours, hike and ride tours, and 1909 trolley tours. Segway tours are available hourly and last 1.5 – 2 hours. Bike tours include both mountain bike and e-bike options and range from 1.5 – 2.5 hours. Guided nature walks are also available through the Visitor’s Center.
Mountain Biking at Garden of the Gods
Mountain biking is permitted at Garden of the Gods on designated trails and The Garden Drive/Juniper Way loop roads. Bike lanes are available on the road. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent both mountain bikes and e-bikes from the visitor’s center. Bikes are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, but reservations are recommended.
Horseback Riding at Garden of the Gods
Horseback riding at Garden of the Gods is allowed on designated trails. Parking lot 16, located near Balanced Rock and the Trading Post, is the only lot for large vehicles and trailers.
Climbing at Garden of the Gods
You can experience some of the best rock climbing in Colorado at Garden of the Gods. Technical rock climbing without a tour or guide is allowed at Garden of the Gods; however, bouldering, rock scrambling, and sport repelling are not allowed. All climbers must register and obtain a permit from the visitors center, and proper climbing equipment must be worn. View the rock climbing policies here.
If you’re not interested in rock climbing on your own, you can opt to go on a rock climbing tour! Private 4 and 6-hour climbing tours are available through Front Range Climbing.
Ledge Ranch Historic Site
The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site is a living history museum and farm located at Garden of the Gods park. The historic site is on the National Register of Historic Places and features restored buildings and period-appropriate attired museum guides that depict life in the Pikes Peak region through the centuries. The museum focuses on Native American Indian life, the 1860s cabin, the 1880s farm, and the 1907 Edwardian Country Estate.
Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Hours: Summer Living History Program: Beginning of June through the second Saturday in August; Wednesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults: $9, Youth: $4, Seniors: $5
Parking: Lot available
Garden of the Gods Trading Post
If you’re looking to shop at Garden of the Gods, consider shopping at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. This adobe-style building is filled with souvenirs, local crafts, snacks, and more!
Rock Formations to See at Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods features over a dozen cool rock formations! During your visit to Garden of the Gods, take some time to observe the rock formations and appreciate their natural beauty!
North and South Gateway Rocks
The North and South Gateway Rocks are the two largest formations in the park.
How to see North and South Gateway Rocks: These are two large formations that you will walk through if you hike the Gateway Trail.
The Kissing Camels is a must-see rock formation while visiting Garden of the Gods. This naturally made rock formation resembles two camels kissing along the top of the North Gateway Rock.
How to See the Kissing Camels: The Kissing Camels can be seen by either hiking the Central Garden Trail along the base the North Gateway Rock or by driving Juniper Way. Look carefully at the top of the rock formation, and you’ll find the camels!
White Rock is a very different-looking rock in Garden of the Gods because instead of it being the notable red color, it is white. White rock is composed of white sandstone of the Lyons Formation and contrasts with the rest of the rocks at Garden of the Gods.
How to See White Rock: White rock is one of the first formations you will pass as you drive the driving tour along Juniper Way. It will be the large white rock on your left at the beginning of the tour.
Sentinel Spires, Cathedral Spires & and Three Graces
These sharp, tall, and flat rock formations are some of the uniquely shaped rock formations in Garden of the Gods. These formations can be seen within the central garden and are great for photography and climbing.
How to See Sentinel Spires, Cathedral Spires & and Three Graces: Hike the Central Garden Trail and follow along on your map as you pass through the garden!
Sleeping Giant and Gray Rock
These are the two large rock formations at the southern end of the park. You will pass by these rocks as you end your driving tour of Juniper Way.
Keyhole Window is a rock opening in the Sleeping Giant that looks like a keyhole. As you’re passing by, look closely to find it!
The Siamese Twins is a layered rock formation that looks like two towers of rock have been stuck together. Halfway up the rock formation, there is a window where you can get a fantastic view of Pikes Peak in the distance!
How to See the Siamese Twins: Along Juniper Way, you will come to an intersection where you can turn right onto Garden of the Gods Rd. Keep right onto Garden Dr., and there will be a small access road to the trailhead parking area on your right. Hike the Siamese Twins Loop
Balanced Rock is one of the coolest rock formations at Garden of the Gods because it’s exactly what it sounds like! This large boulder appears to be balancing on a cliff of rocks! Balance Rock can be accessed via a roadside parking area at the southern end of the park.
How to See Balanced Rock: Along Juniper Way, you will come to an intersection where you can turn right onto Garden of the Gods Rd. Keep right onto Garden Dr. and follow the signs to Balanced Rock
Best Hiking Trails at Garden of the Gods
One of the great things about the hiking trails at Garden of the Gods is that many trails are loops and connect. This allows you to create a range of interconnecting routes throughout the park. Depending on your skill level and what you want to see, you have plenty of options! Here are a few of the best hiking trails at Garden of the Gods!
Gateway Trail to Central Garden Trail
The Gateway Trail is an excellent option if you park at the Visitors Center. Sometimes parking at the park is challenging, so you can park in the overflow lots at the Visitors Center and hike into the park. This hike offers you the iconic view of Garden of the Gods, where you can see Pikes Peak behind the rocks! This is the same view you would get driving into the park but on foot! By hiking this trail, you’ll have access to the entire park and the rest of the hiking trails.
Perkins Central Garden Trail
The Perkins Central Garden Trail is another awesome trail if you want to get close to the rock formations at Garden of the Gods. This trail will weave you in and out of the largest formations, like the Gateway Rocks, Three Graces, and the Sentinel Spires.
Palmer Trail to Central Garden Trail
If you want a more panoramic view of Garden of the Gods, consider hiking The Palmer Trail. This trail will take you just above the Juniper Way Loop to get a bird’s eye view of what you will be seeing from the driving tour. The nice thing about this trail is that you’ll come to several places where you can cross Juniper Way to access the Central Garden. Or you can continue to hike along Juniper Way and see more of the rock formations that are further from the central part of the park, like the Siamese Twins and Giant Footprint.
Siamese Twins Loop Trail
This short 0.5-mile hike offers a view of a unique rock formation known as the Siamese Twins. The structure appears as if two rocks have been stuck together. In between, there is a small hole. When looking through it, you get an awesome view of Pikes Peak!
Palmer, Cabin Canyon, Strausenbach & Central Garden Trail Loop
If you want to see as much of Garden of the Gods as possible, consider hiking this ultimate 4-mile loop! This loop will take you from the top end of the park to almost the bottom. This hike is a great day hike at Garden of the Gods
Planning Your Visit to Garden of the Gods
How to Get to Garden of the Gods from Denver
Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, just 70 miles south of Denver along I-25. If you’re driving to Garden of the Gods from Denver, get on I-25 South and follow until you arrive in Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods is located in West Colorado Springs and is just 10 minutes off the interstate. Depending on traffic leaving Denver, it is anywhere from a 1 hour and 15-minute drive to a 1 hour and 40-minute drive.
How Much Time to Spend at Garden of the Gods
We recommended spending one to two days exploring Garden of the Gods. You easily spend just an afternoon at Garden of the Gods to have an amazing experience, or you can spend several days. We recommend at least one entire day at Garden of the Gods to get the whole experience so you can drive through the park or take a tour and spend some time hiking around the rock formations. There are plenty of things to do at Garden of the Gods, so its easy to spend around 2 days exploring the park.
Where to Stay Near Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is located within Colorado Springs, so there are plenty of options for lodging.
- Budget Lodging near Garden of the Gods: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Manitou Springs
- Affordable Family Friendly Resort near Garden of the Gods: Cheyenne Mountain Resort, A Dolce by Wyndham
- Colorado Springs Hotels: Hyatt Place Colorado Springs/Garden of the Gods, Best Western Plus Executive Residency Fillmore Inn, Element Colorado Springs Downtown, a Marriott Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Colorado Springs Downtown
Garden of the Gods Golf Resort
The Garden of the Gods Golf Resort is an exclusive Colorado retreat overlooking Garden of the Gods! This resort offers amazing views of the park and features amenities like a golf course, event space, spa, restaurants, and more! This resort is an excellent place to stay if you’re looking for an all-immersive experience at Garden of the Gods.
When Should I Visit Garden of the Gods?
Since Garden of the Gods is one of the most popular things to do in Colorado Springs, crowds are to be expected, especially in the summer months. Summertime is the peak tourist season. October to April is considered the shoulder season and off-season. We visited Garden of the Gods in October and had two very different experiences. One time it was quite busy because it was a 70-degree sunny day. But, another time in October it was cool and rainy, and the park was empty! During the wintertime, you might get lucky to see Garden of the Gods covered in snow, which is certainly a beautiful sight!
If you’re planning to visit Garden of the Gods in the summer, try to arrive at the park early in the morning or before sunset to secure parking and avoid traffic along the driving tour.
Know Before You Go to Garden of the Gods
- Entrance Fee: Entrance to Garden of the Gods is free!
- Parking: Parking is free within the park, but some parking areas are limited. Do not park along the road unless it is a designated parking area.
- Hours: 5:00 am – 9:00 pm (Nov 1 – April 30) 5:00 am – 10:00 pm (May 1 – Oct 31)
- Pet Policy: Pets are welcome at Garden of the Gods but must be on at least a 6’ leash at all times, and all pet waste must be removed
- Visitors Center and Nature Center: The Visitor’s Center and Nature Center are open during Winter Months: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and Summer Months 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Weather: Weather is variable throughout the seasons. Check the conditions before you arrive!
- Maps: Get a free map from the visitor’s center.
- Park Policies: Familiarize yourself with the Garden of the Gods’ park rules and policies.
- Shuttle Service: When Garden of the Gods is very busy, it can be hard to find parking within the park. The park offers a shuttle service that runs 9 am – 4 pm every 15 minutes during the summer.
What to Pack for Garden of the Gods
- Refillable water bottle – Always pack water when hiking, even when the hike is short and easy.
- Photography gear – Garden of the Gods is one of the most photogenic places in Colorado, so bring whatever camera suits you best!
- Learn more about what we pack for day hikes.
What to Wear to Garden of the Gods
The weather at Garden of the Gods varies greatly throughout the seasons, so always make sure to check the conditions before you head out on the trail. For hiking, we always recommend dressing in layers regardless of the season so you can be prepared for changing conditions. For any season, make sure you wear good hiking shoes or boots. The terrain at Garden of the Gods can get rocky, so wearing sturdy and supportive shoes is a good idea.
During the shoulder seasons, such as fall and spring, we recommend layering up with a warm but rain-resistant jacket. Consider wearing a good baselayer with a jacket or pullover. The weather can range from the 40s – the 70s depending on the day, so dressing in layers will prepare you for variable conditions.
Read more about our favorite women’s hiking clothes and gear.
Things to Do Near Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is located just 10 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs! During a trip to Garden of the Gods, take some time to explore nearby attractions in Colorado Springs. Here are several suggestions of things to do near Garden of the Gods:
- Drive Up Pikes Peak
- Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings
- Olympic and Paralympic Museum
- Museum of World War II Aviation