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Heavenly Hiking in the Garden of the Gods

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Garden of the Gods
Colorado Springs, CO
Admission: Free

Think “alien-landscape-crossed-with-the-place-where-the-bad-guys-hide-out-in-every-Hollywood-western” and you begin to get an appreciation of Colorado’s Garden of the Gods. The number of amazing rock formations assembled in one relatively small location seems to challenge the odds, but they’re there — Kissing Camels, Cathedral Spires, Keyhole Window, Sleeping Giant and more. And don’t forget the park’s signature formation and prime touristy photo op: Balanced Rock. No trip to the Garden is complete without a picture of you perched under the rock, seemingly holding it up with your bare arms, a steely grimace of determination on your face. Just don’t take too long; chances are there will be 30 or so fellow Atlases waiting their turn to shoulder the world.

Incredibly, admission to Garden of the Gods is free, one of the conditions under which the park was donated to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins. As a consequence, don’t expect to be able to get away from it all when you visit the park — it’s one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and tops the must-see list of just about everyone who visits the area. Another consequence of the park’s popularity is its paved roads — an attempt to prevent the erosion of the original trails. Cars are allowed throughout the park, with ample parking near the trailheads and major foundations. That may detract from the remote feel of the trails, but it makes them more accessible. Other trailheads in the upper areas of the park have no parking spaces — if you want a less public hiking experience, head for these. Some are marked with large wooden gates. Although the gates are open during operation hours, they also make the trails seem less inviting to the general public — you’ll have a better chance at having the trail to yourself in these areas.

The scenery at the Garden of the Gods is spectacular, but don’t expect to enjoy it alone.

Horseback riding and Segway tours are allowed in the park, so expect to share the trails at times. Even if you don’t encounter horse riders, you may come upon their “souvenirs.” Fortunately, Segways leave no such evidence of their presence.

Rock climbing is also allowed in the park, but climbers must fill out a free registration form at the Visitor Center and proper climbing equipment is mandatory. “Scrambling” is much more common on many of the rock formations, and unlike many places in the Colorado Springs area, we saw no signs prohibiting it.

Garden of the Gods is not a wilderness experience, but it provides breathtaking scenery and access to some of the most incredible natural rock formations in the Southwest. Whether you have an hour to kill or an entire day to roam, the park never fails to satisfy and inspire.

More information is available on the official Garden of the Gods website.

Check out some of the photos from our visit to the Garden of the Gods on our Facebook Album.

Audio trip reports now available!

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We’re very excited to introduce TrailCamper Audio Trip Reports — short audio-only snippets from our recent treks. We’ll be attaching these to our web reports, but in the meantime, our report from High Point State Park in New Jersey is available in three parts.