Garden of the Gods is one of the most popular spots in Colorado Springs. And while I’d lived in nearby Denver for a year in college, I’d never been. So while on a short visit to see my hiking buddy from Japan, this was an obvious stop.
There are really four ways to see the park:
- Drive your own car around the park. You can see most of the highlights from the car. This is obviously the fastest and least strenuous option.
- Drive but park at some of the many lots for a short walk to see the rock formations up close.
- Guided tour.
- Park at the visitor’s center and walk the entire park. This is about 7.5 miles and of course what we chose to do. The hiking is easy and mostly flat with only some slight inclines. Plan on most of the day to explore. Either bring a picnic lunch or plan to stop at the store for a snack and some ice cream.
If you have the time, I definitely recommend option 2 or 4. The landscape is beautiful. You will get some wonderful photos. It is a great experience for kids to get away from their electronics and scramble over the rocks.
I am normally not a tour person, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think I would especially hate it here. I felt so sorry for those people I saw stuck on the park’s tram. They were limited to what they could see from their seats and while I am sure they got some great information, it couldn’t have been worth it.
As with most tourist destinations, I definitely advised to go in the morning before the crowds. We were there when the visitor’s center opened but it got busy by the afternoon and there was a line of cars as far as the eye could see.
If you have a choice, I think I also definitely recommend going a clear winter or fall day. With the sun it was still warm and the crowds were less than there would be in the summer months. There is not a lot of shade so it would get quite hot in the summer. But the biggest reason is having the contrast of a snow capped Pike’s Peak in the background. The mountain against the blue sky and red rock was gorgeous and never ceased to take my breath away.
Fun fact: The park was surveyed in 1858 and reminded M.S. Beach of a European Beer Garden. However, his friends remarked it was a Garden for the Gods. And the name stuck. Originally private property, the land was donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909. The park remains free and open to the public. The park is open 5 am to 9 pm year round. The hours of the Visitor’s Center vary based on season and is closed some holidays. Leashed dogs are welcome. The park is great for biking and climbing is allowed with a permit.