The Garden of the Gods Overlook, a pullout on one-way Juniper Way Loop, is one of the best scenic overlooks in Colorado. Towering sandstone formations, rising like outdoor sculptures, spread across a valley south of the small overlook, including South Gateway Rock, Montezuma Tower, Three Graces, and Keyhole Rock. The Garden of the Gods, a 1,368-acre Colorado Springs city park, is a magnificent place that was named the #1 park in the United States and #2 park in the world by TripAdvisor in 2014. This overlook is one of the reasons why the Garden is visited by over a million people every year. The busy pullout on the left side of the road accommodates about eight vehicles. It can be very busy with cars parking or pulling out, especially on weekends and in the summer. Most folks, however, only stop long enough to grab a few scenic photos and a couple selfies.
- Start your Garden tour by stopping at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center at 1805 North 30th Street directly east of the park. The center has educational exhibits about the Garden’s natural history, geology, and colorful history, as well as the dramatic Geo-Trekker movie, a café, and gift shop. You can also book a rock climbing trip, Segway tour, or Jeep ride. The center offers talks, guided hikes, and a great view from its terrace.
- One of the best things you can do when you visit the Garden of the Gods is go for a hike. The park’s 15 miles of trails cater to every desire and ability. The paved Perkins Central Garden Trail is the most popular walk. The wheelchair- and stroller-accessible trail begins at the Main Parking Lot on the north side of the park and makes a scenic loop through the central Garden zone, passing all the major rock formations. Other good hikes are the Susan G. Bretag Trail, Palmer Trail, Ute Trail, Ridge Trail, and Siamese Twins Trail. Pick up a park map or hiking guide at the visitor center.
- The Garden of the Gods is a photographer’s delight, with many viewpoints that offer the opportunity for stunning images. Besides the Garden of the Gods Overlook, visit High Point Overlook; Ridge Trail Overlook; various viewpoints on Palmer Trail; and Mesa Overlook on Mesa Road outside the park. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are the best times for photography. Winter offers great pics with snow contrasting with red rock and blue sky.
- The Garden, a forever-free park, is usually very busy through the summer and parking, especially in the main lots can be a big problem. To avoid parking hassles and headaches, time your summer visit before nine in the morning and after 5 in the evening. If the main lot and the roadside lots are full, consider parking at the visitor center on 30th Street and hiking a half-mile into the park. It’s a great walk to enjoy the scenery.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green