Colorado has so many great spots to visit but one you just do not want to miss is the Garden of the Gods Park near Colorado Springs. We’ve been there twice, once in the winter and once in the summer. Both trips were excellent and made us determined to come back again and again.
The red-colored sandstone formations tower as high as 300 feet and walking trails lead right up to them.
The Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark that has been exciting tourists since the mid-1850’s. Before that, the Utes oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods and petroglyphs have been found from the 15th century.
The area got it’s name in August of 1859 when two surveyors started out from Denver. While exploring nearby locations, they came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach, who related this incident, suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden” when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, a “young and poetic man”, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” It has been so called ever since.
At least that’s how the official story goes on the Garden of the Gods website.
We stayed at the nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park, one of the nicest state parks we’ve stayed at anywhere. Located just south of Colorado Springs, the park has 51 sites amidst 1,680 acres. It is located right beneath the eastern flank of Cheyenne Mountain, and border the plains of Colorado and offers view that are a stunning transition from plains to peaks.
The land around the park is in remarkable natural condition and diverse wildlife viewing opportunities abound due to the property’s relatively undisturbed location. Because the park just opened in 2000, everything is nice and new.
The Garden of the Gods is about a 25 minute drive from the park and can be seen in half a day. We drove up nearby Pikes Peak in the morning and toured the Garden of the God’s n the afternoon. Next time we visit, I plan to spend the day and use the bike trails that circle the park.
What’s so amazing about the place is that the towering deep-red, pink, and white sandstone and limestone formations were originally deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and, specifically, Pikes Peak nearby. Geologists have found evidence of many different geologic features in the rocks, deposits of ancient seas, the eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, sandy beaches, and great sand dune fields. Retired biology professor Richard Beidleman notes that the park is “the most striking contrast between plains and mountains in North America” with respect to biology, geology, climate, and scenery. Dinosaur bones have been found throughout the park.
The park is amazingly accessible. We had no problem parking our Roadtrek eTrek in the many parking lots that ring the park. It is open to hiking, technical rock climbing, road and mountain biking and horseback riding. It attracts more than two million visitors a year and is the city’s most visited park.
There are more than 15 miles of trails with a 1.5 mile trail running through the heart of the park that is paved and wheelchair accessible. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
We walked the paved path and gazed upwards. We saw and photographed mule deer, first seen by Tai who sniffed them out and finally spotted them gazing in the shrubbery that abuts some of the larger formations. His barking drew a crowd of camera toting tourists but the deer obliged us all as we snapped away.
If you go, make sure you visit the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, at 1805 N. 30th Street. It and offers a great view view of the park from an outdoor terrace. The center offers all sorts of educational exhibits, staffed by Parks, Recreation and Culture employees of the City of Colorado Springs. A short movie, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There? runs every 20 minutes. A portion of the proceeds from the center’s privately owned store and cafe support the non-profit Garden of the Gods Foundation; the money is used for maintenance and improvements to the park.