Visiting Garden of the Gods
During a Denver travel conference, it was a must to visit Colorado Springs’ paradise, Garden of the Gods, a beautiful paradise that I’d been hearing about for years. My husband (Eddie) and I hit the roads to see the beautiful attraction for ourselves and be part of the 2 million visitors who visit each year.
The drive to Garden of the Gods was 90 minutes from Denver. Eddie and I enjoyed the scenery along the way, but the real treat was waiting for us atop a 6,400 feet mountain. That is a pretty drastic elevation if you aren’t used to it, so we recommend viewing this guide for high-altitude effects and tips.
As we entered the Garden of the Gods park (it’s free!), our mouths nearly dropped to the floor at how spectacular the rocks were! Exquisite landscape and jagged rock groupings surrounded us with 360 degree views.
First Stop: Education
Eddie and I immediately pulled in to the Visitor and Nature Center to learn about the attraction’s complex geology through interactive exhibits and storyboards. The huge gift shop was great for buying souvenirs and there was also an onsite restaurant, Bean Sprouts. Kids will really love the restaurant’s adorable food creations while adults may prefer the healthy smoothies, coffees, and grown-up sandwiches and soup.
A 15-minute video (shown every 20 minutes) inside the Visitor Center played every 20 minutes explained the park and rock formations. It was very helpful in us understanding what we were seeing, though the signs did a great job of summing it up. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket, the weather is known to change drastically in a short time.
Garden of the Gods became a registered National Natural Landmark in 1971. It has 6 ecosystems (including wetlands and prairie) across the 1,367-acres. Chances are you can see the snow-capped Pikes Peak (the highest mountain in Colorado) in the distance.
To quote the Colorado Springs Tourism board, ” The 300 million years of geological history of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs reveal one of the most extensive pictures of earth history found anywhere in the United States. It is a true geological wonder.”
Park Wonders and Opportunities
Animals are abundant around the area so be on the lookout for mule deer, Bighorn sheep, and hawks. I was secretly hopping to see a black bear but as it turns out, it was only wishful thinking. Being a nature lover, I thoroughly appreciated the wildlflowers and cattails. By the way, Garden of the Gods is on the Colorado Birding Trail and you can find up to 15 species in the park including Western Tanager and Violet-Green Swallow.
Besides sightseeing, guests can hike (15 miles of trails), bike, rock climbing (permit and gear required), and ride horses in the natural park. You can pick up a map showing the trails at the Visitor & Nature Center. I was impressed to know that you can rent rent e-Bikes and standard mountain bikes at the park. Segway and Jeep tours are also available with Adventures Out West.
Garden of the God’s incredible towering rock formations will blow your mind. It seemed that every inch of the park was another sensational photo-op just waiting. My favorite spot was Balanced Rock. This rock grouping is made of 700 tons of sand, which when mixed with iron oxide, makes the red color. You must stop for the quintessential Balanced Rock photo of you holding up the iconic rock from underneath it. Cheesy, but fun.
There are 19 garden rock formations in total. Be sure to keep driving long enough to reach the adobe-style Trading Post, a cool place for shopping Native American crafts and treasures.
Time for Lunch
After visiting Garden of the Gods, be sure to add Amanda’s Cantina & Fonda to your lunch or dinner plans. This tasty local Mexican eatery was one of our favorites in the entire state. Eddie and I shared a tasty Queso Dip (with sliced radishes) and Chicken Flautas with sour cream and guacamole. Service is excellent and the food quite memorable.
The Best Part of our Colorado Trip
Visiting Garden of the Gods was the highlight of our Colorado travels. I’ve seen some amazing natural settings around the world but none were as grand as the ones found here…right here in our country. Be sure to add visiting Garden of the Gods, a geological wonder, to your Colorado trip, too.
Note: Garden of the Gods is open every day but Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day. The park is handicap accessible.
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