Garden of the Gods must be the most naturally fantastical city park in America. Walking among the humongous, uniquely-shaped red rock formations is a rather otherworldly experience.
Garden of the Gods is a public park in Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver, Colorado. Situated at the foot of Pikes Peak (which inspired the song “America, The Beautiful“), the park’s most striking feature isn’t the already impressive view of that famous mountain, but the incredible rock formations throughout.
Thanks to those stunning red, pink and white sandstone, conglomerate and limestone spires, towers and other nearly unbelievable formations, Garden of the Gods was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.
There’s nothing quite like walking along a huge wall of natural red rock only to come to one end and realize how skinny it actually is. Well, probably climbing one of these walls or towers would be even more amazing.
Even after you grasp that these rocks used to be horizontal and were pushed up into their vertical position during a geological upheaval as the Rocky Mountains were uplifted, you still can’t help but simply marvel at their erect presence. You can see other hogbacks (long hills and ridges with steep sides) along the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains; most famously Red Rocks Park outside of Denver.
The land of the park was gifted to the city of Colorado Springs by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins with his stipulation “that it would be kept forever free to the public”. A wonderful and generous gesture of sharing a Happier Place with the world, isn’t it?
The name “Garden of the Gods” doesn’t relate to any Native American holy site, although it was frequented by different tribes over the centuries, but a conversation between two surveyors in 1859. When they viewed the area, one supposedly stated that it would make a great place for a beer garden and the other responded: “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” Unfortunately, there is not a beer garden inside the park these days. You’ll have to go to a German park for such pleasures.
The pleasures you can easily indulge in the Garden of the Gods are hiking, running, rock climbing, biking and horseback riding. There are more than 15 miles of trails with a 1.5-mile paved path winding through the center of the park. Or you can just stay in your car and drive around all the major sites.
Of course, the park offers countless photo opportunities – with the special challenge of trying to photograph Balanced Rock without any people all around it. Good luck!