The Garden of the Gods, a 1,335-acre Colorado Springs park, casts a spell on every visitor with its stunning beauty, soaring sandstone formations, and spectacular views of Pikes Peak. The Garden of the Gods Scenic Drive travels 5.6 miles on several park roads, with a loop around the central Garden zone and spurs out to Ridge Road and Balanced Rock. Parking lots scatter along the roads, allowing access to hiking trails, picnic areas, and overlooks. Points of interest along the scenic drive include North and South Gateway Rocks, Gray Rock, Montezuma Tower, Scotsman Picnic Area, High Point, Siamese Twins, Steamboat Rock, and Balanced Rock. Hikers can enjoy over 15 miles of trails that thread among formations, while road bikers pedal along the scenic drive and mountain bikers follow trails in the park’s southeast corner. Garden of the Gods Park, a National Natural Landmark, was donated to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of railroadman Charles Elliot Perkins with his wish that it always be free and open to the public.
- Start your Garden drive by stopping at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center at 1805 North 30thStreet directly east of the park. The center offers exhibits about natural history, geology, and history, 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.
- It’s best to start the scenic drive on Gateway Road opposite the visitor center. The road heads west for 0.4 miles to a junction. Keep right on one-way Juniper Way Loop to make a 2.4-mile loop around the central Garden zone. Two large parking areas and several smaller lots let you stop to hike and sightsee. Be sure to pull over at Garden of the Gods Overlook for one of Colorado’s best viewpoints.
- Park your car and go for a hike to get up close and personal with the Garden’s red rocks. Over 15 miles of trails cater to every desire and ability. The paved Perkins Central Garden Trail is most popular. The wheelchair-accessible trail starts at the main parking lot. Other fun hikes at the Siamese Twins Trail, Ridge Trail, Ute Trail, Palmer Trail, and Susan G. Bretag Trail. Pick up a park map or hiking guide at the visitor center.
- Parking is a huge problem on weekends and during the summer when the main lots fill early in the morning. After doing the scenic drive, avoid parking hassles by leaving your car at the visitor center on 30th Street and hiking 0.5 mile into the park. Also plan your visit for early morning or evening when less people are in the park.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green