Contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior
I was pretty enthusiastic when I found out I’d be going to Colorado for a business trip, but that enthusiasm wore off when I learned I’d be going to Colorado Springs. There’s nothing interesting in Colorado Springs, I thought to myself. All the cool stuff to do in Colorado is in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and around the ski resorts, right?
After I asked a few of my Colorado friends (all of whom live in Denver or Boulder) what there was to do in Colorado Springs, they directed my attention to Garden of the Gods. My buddy even described it as a slice of the Moab Desert in Utah, dropped in Colorado.
I had an entire day to myself and ventured off to Garden of the Gods on my own one morning. I was completely mesmerized right when I started driving through the park. From the get-go, I noticed a huge change in scenery. It went from mountains and plains to desert with pueblo-style houses along the way.
The park is essentially a loop with numerous parking lots to stop, take pictures, and hike along the unpaved hiking trails. Watch out for cyclists as you’re driving around the park. There’s a wide bike lane, and with all the hills and turns, it’s prime territory for road cyclists.
Garden of the Gods is horse-friendly with some trails strictly dedicated for horseback riding. Be sure to check the maps throughout the park and online before you go to distinguish which trail(s) would be best for you and your needs.
Same goes for mountain biking. Goodness, I wish I had brought my mountain bike. While I didn’t go down the mountain bike trails, from what I could see at the trailheads, they looked like so much fun.
This park has got to be one of the most accessible parks I’ve come across. As you drive in, you’ll see massive rock formations out in the distance and about halfway into your loop through the park, you’ll come across the main parking lot. That’s where you’ll find facilities, a large parking lot, park information, and paved pathways taking you around these massive rock formations.
Bring a camera; the rock formations are amazing with the sky in the background. I’d recommend bringing a DSLR, if you have one, and a tripod for some time-lapse shots.
The paved paths seem to go on and on around all the rock formations. There are free guided tours where you can learn more about how these amazing rock formations came to shape. These tours are offered every two hours, starting at the makeshift information/gift shop area. You can also find free maps of the park there as well, but there are plenty of directional signs throughout the paved trail area, ensuring you won’t get lost.
Climbing is allowed at Garden of the Gods, but you do need to stop at the information area to get your free climbing pass. There’s marked climbing areas all around. If you really want to climb a lot of routes, bring your trad gear. There are some bolted lines and a few boulder problems, but most of the routes are trad. Be sure to watch the weather. Only climb at least three days after it rains as the rock can be really slick and fragile after a good rain.
Mountain and outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the outskirts of Denver, Boulder, and other small cities in the area, but Garden of the Gods is a hidden gem in Colorado Springs. There’s so much to do that it’s impossible to be fully satisfied with just one visit.