February 2009: Garden of the Gods Park

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The indigenous Ute Indians referred to this area of protruding, jagged red rocks as “the old red land.” The story goes that when the original surveyors of Colorado Springs discovered the sandstone remains of an ancient ocean floor, one referred to it as a great spot for a beer garden. Fellow surveyor Rufus Cable, of a more romantic bent, protested the majestic muted crimson rocks were more suited to be a “garden for the Gods.”

Charles Eliott Perkins, president of the Burlington Railroad, bought 240 acres here for a summer home back in the 1800s but never built on the rocks, preferring to leave the formations as the wind and water carved them. Perkins died before formally bequeathing the land to the city for a park but his heirs honored his wishes and gave 480 acres to Colorado Springs for a park in 1909. About to celebrate its Centennial, the park has nearly tripled in size.

Garden of the Gods Park is enormously popular - attracting more than one million visitors every year - so contemplative hikes with your dog can be problematic. A good place to start is on the Garden Trail where a paved pathway winds through the heart of some of the most towering formations. The Chambers/Bretag/Palmer trails are a combination of routes that nearly circle the park for three miles with a modest rise of 250 feet. The Bretag leg is a dirt trail through scrub oak just far enough away from the rocks to present sensational skyline views.

For a bit of relief from the crowds try the trails outside the park’s main drive that circles the Garden. It will take the better part of a day to fully explore the sculpted rocks, whimsically named for what they resemble: kissing camels, Siamese twins and balanced rock among them.

There is one designated area where dogs can run unleashed; south of Gateway Road, West of 30th Street, and east of Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.

The Garden of the Gods is west of Colorado Springs. Take Exit #146 (Garden of the Gods Road) off I-25 and goo West (towards the mountains) for 2.5 miles. Turn Left onto 30th Street. The Visitor & Nature Center will be on the left (a little over a mile).