The Garden of the Gods is a 1300-acre city park in Colorado Springs, Colorado that features colorful, towering rock formations amid stunning views of Pikes Peak in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
In the late 1800’s the property was owned by Charles Elliott Perkins, president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, who planned to use it as a summer home. He decided to leave this special landscape in its natural state and allow the public to share its unique beauty. After he died, his family donated the property to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909 with the provision that it be operated as a free park permanently. Over the years the city has added additional acreage and visitor facilities to the park, which was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971. It now attracts over two million visitors a year and is popular for hiking, rock climbing, biking and horseback riding.
The park has free admission and is open daily at 5:00am. From May 1 to October 31, it closes at 11:00pm. From November 1 to April 30, it closes at 9:00pm. Consider the weather forecast and plan your visit accordingly. The park is at 6400′ elevation, so winter temps can be extremely cold and snow can occur as late as mid-June. Spring and fall are more temperate, with highs in the 50s to 70s. Wildflowers are abundant April through July. In late September, the aspen trees shimmer in red and gold. Summer daytime high temperatures range from 60 to 90 degrees, though afternoon showers are frequent in July. Be aware that the sun is intense at this elevation; go prepared with hat, sunscreen and sunglasses any time of year.
Garden of the Gods in located right in Colorado Springs, just 4 miles off Interstate 25. Use exit 146 and follow Garden of the Gods Road west to N. 30th St., then turn left. The Visitor Center will be on the left at 1805 N. 30th Street (about 1.5 miles). Colorado Springs Airport (COS) is just 15 miles from the park and is served by several major commercial airlines.
Allow 3 hours to a half-day for your visit. Tip: I was able to visit both Garden of the Gods and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (35 miles west) in the same day.
What to See and Do
The Visitor and Nature Center is located at the intersection of N. 30th St. and Gateway Road, the main entrance into the park. It is fully accessible, with designated parking, ramped/level entrances, power doors, elevator, and restrooms. This building contains educational exhibits, a theater showing a film about local geology, an information desk where you can get maps and directions, a gift shop, a cafe’, and a viewing deck that overlooks the park. Various free nature talks and guided walks occur daily; check the schedule online or inquire at the information desk. The Visitor Center is open 8:00am to 7:00pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 9:00am to 5:00pm in winter. Admission is free but there is a small fee to view the film.
A one-way, 5-mile scenic drive encircles the rock formations and leads to parking areas for trail heads and overlooks. The route is roughly a figure 8 shape and direction of travel is counter-clockwise. Access the upper loop from the Visitor Center and Gateway Road by turning right onto Juniper Way Loop.
The park has 15 miles of trails, but the best one for people using wheelchairs is the Perkins Central Garden Trail, an easy 1.5 mile loop with a level concrete surface and less than 30′ rise in elevation that meanders among the highest rock formations. Designated parking for this trail is located at the Main Parking Lot on the north end of Juniper Way Loop, .4 mile from Gateway Road. Accessible restrooms are available near the parking area.
High Point Overlook is a scenic viewpoint that offers panoramic views of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. To reach it, turn off of Juniper Way Loop onto Ridge Road and go south about .1 mile. The overlook has designated accessible parking and a shade ramada.
The lower loop of the scenic drive is Garden Drive, which leads to the popular formations Balanced Rock and Steamboat Rock. At this location the road passes through a narrow opening in the massive red rocks. There is a small parking area with designated spaces and a ramped sidewalk. This is a congested area; be careful crossing the road.
Where to Eat & Sleep
While there are two small picnic areas in the park, Scotsman and Spring Canyon, these are not advertised as accessible. The Visitor Center has a cafe’, and numerous restaurants are located along Garden of the Gods Road approximately 2 miles northeast of the park.
Colorado Springs has a large selection of hotel accommodations, as well as campgrounds and RV parks. Garden of the Gods Resort Hotel is located adjacent to the east side of the park on Mesa Road and offers accessible lodging. Garden of the Gods RV Resort is just south of the park and offers RV parking as well as lodge and cabin rentals. Additional camping options may be available at nearby state parks and national forests.