In May of 2014, the JJ family took a trip to Denver, ostensibly to visit our nephew, who was then studying there. We took the opportunity to spend a night at Colorado Springs. Early morning, we drove up to Pike’s Peak and visited the Manitou Cliff dwellings before breaking for lunch and then went to the famous Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. I had meant to write a short post about this exquisite National Natural Landmark before this. But alas, that didn’t happen until now.
The website recounts a brief history of the Park’s origins. Charles Elliot Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, bought 240 acres of land in the Garden of the Gods area in 1879. He gradually added to the property but never built on it. Charles Perkins enjoyed the area and its beauty so much that he allowed the public to visit the area freely. After he died in 1907, honoring his vision and wish, his children granted the land to the City of Colorado Springs. Per their mandate, it would be known forever as the Garden of the Gods “where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.”
The area was first named Garden of the Gods by the surveyors, Beach and Cable, who first came to the area in 1859. Seeing the natural beauty of the rock formations, Cable thought “it was a place fit for Gods to assemble” and called it such.
The beauty of the Garden of the Gods Nature Center revolves around the varied rock formations shaped by the geology of the land. Made of sedimentary rocks and formed over 300 million years, the red and grey sandstone formations are riveting. From Balanced Rock to Cathedral Spires to Sleeping Giant and Siamese Twins, there are seventeen different rock formations and made of a variety of rocks.
The Visitor Center provides maps and other details regarding the Park. There are short films about how the rocks were formed. There is also a museum with many exhibits related to the geology, wildlife of the area, etc. The Park has daily nature guided walks, led by a Park interpreter, lasting about 45 mins to an hour, along the Gateway Road. Small groups of ten people walk about a mile’s distance as the Interpreter explains the geology, the ecology, the history of the Park, and point out important details. Visitors can then decide to hike further on their own or return to the Visitor Center. Guided walks are by reservation and are $ 5 per person. There are a ton of other activities, both physically in the Park as well as online.
There are paved roads where one can drive and follow the various rock formations. Besides, hiking and biking are encouraged. Jeep and Segway tours, bikes and electric bike tours, horseback riding, are allowed. Pets are allowed but on a leash. Overnight camping is not permitted in the Park. Adventure seekers can sign up for rock climbing and bouldering with proper permit and safety gear. Nature talks and historical tours of the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site are also some of the many things to do here. The latter traces the history of the settlers in this area, from the Ute to the development of Colorado Springs as a city. Several online activities include Writing with a view, Geology programs, Reading programs for kids, and Coloring.
There are many different trails to explore in the Garden of the Gods Park. The most popular is the Central Garden Trails. But I counted about 22 different ones on their website.
On our visit, the clouds rolled in, darkening the vista around us, initially. But the longer time we spent there, they cleared and we were able to enjoy some magnificent views. We chose to drive and did not hike in the Park that day. We stopped at different locations to enjoy the rock formations. And since the children were much younger then, we needed to stop intermittently and let them spend some of their pent-up energy. The views of Pike’s Peak from the Park were terrific! But the Park itself felt like a landscape from a different time or perhaps an alien planet, a standing testament to the beauty of Mother Nature and the passage of time. It is also a testament to Charles Perkins’ love for his home’s natural beauty and his vision to preserve and protect it.
Colorado is such a beautiful state, as is! But the Garden of the Gods area is especially so, and I hope it remains this way for generations to come!