10 Tips to Visit Garden of the Gods

Last updated: November 2nd, 2023 | Originally published: November 1, 2023
Garden of the Gods

*Our 10 Tips Series is designed to provide important pieces of information about popular tourist attractions in a quick, easy to read manner. Simply put, we consider these to be the most importing 10 tips to visit Garden of the Gods.

The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is considered one of the best city parks in the USA. It is free to enter and located a few minutes from downtown Colorado Springs.

Despite its fame and magnanimous hillside presence, the park is only 2 square miles in size. Visitors can see the highlights in a few hours, or relish the nuanced trails for days.

There probably isn’t a park of this quality that is easier to enjoy anywhere else in the nation. We hope you enjoy our article about Garden of the Gods.

1. Arrive Early in the Morning or Late in the Afternoon

Garden of the Gods
Central Garden Trail

Garden of the Gods sees 4.5 million annual visitors, so consider this park discovered. It’s just so easy for anyone to pop in for a visit. Nonetheless, parking is limited.

In our experience the crowd arrives somewhere between 09:00-10:00, and by 12:00 most every good thing has been murdered. Once the parking lots are jammed and the waiting with your blinker on begins, the fun is over.

Besides, one of the essential components of a phenomenal Garden of the Gods visit is to catch the monolithic shark fins in the early morning or late afternoon light. The crowd seems to let up around dinner time, so a sunset visit is a wonderful way to experience the park.

2. Garden of the Gods is Free (and NOT a National Park)

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a designated National Natural Landmark, but it’s really just run by the City of Colorado Springs. Once upon a time we thought it was a National Park — it sees enough visitors to rank the 4th most visited in the country if it were.

3. Why Do They Call it Garden of the Gods?

Garden of the Gods
Central Trail Viewpoint

In 1859 a group of surveyors left Denver City to begin a new town called Colorado City. While exploring the area they came upon Garden of the Gods. Surveyor M.S. Beach noted that the area would be an ideal place for a German beer garden. The other surveyor, Rufus Cable, exclaimed that the area was “fit for the Gods to assemble,” and named the land Garden of the Gods.

So some dusty hats with beer on the brains acknowledged the gobsmacking nature in their path, and in about 10-seconds of flippant conversation the place was named forevermore. Well alright.

4. The Central Garden Trail is Fantastic (and Easy)

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

The star of the show is the Central Garden Trail, an easy-to-stroll, paved path that meanders about the largest of the menhirs. This short but powerful “hike” can be had by the very young and the very old. All but the southernmost part of the Central Garden Trail is flat.

Here is a shamefully crude map:

5. The Susan G. Bretag Trail is Best at Sunrise

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

The sun rises in the east, so… we’re going to try to be on the eastern side of the park in the morning. The Rocks are aligned pretty much north-south, so it is prosaic that the one side of the park glows in the AM, and the other glows in the PM.

The Susan Bretag Trail is one of the best views of the Garden of the Gods, especially after sunrise.

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6. The Palmer Trail is Best Before Sunset

Garden of the Gods

The Palmer Trail begins in the SW corner of the park near the Siamese Twins rock feature. It then runs northward up the west side of the Central Garden, wraps around the north end of the park, and terminates at the Susan Bretag Trail.

In the NW corner of the park — before the Palmer Trail turns east — there is an incredible vantage looking down the west side of the Central Garden. It is my favorite view in the park. This is the perfect place to be late in the day.

Also, you don’t have to be on the trail to catch this vista. The road that runs through the park has some pull-out parking just below the Palmer Trail. It’s essentially the same perspective.

7. The Best Viewpoints at Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is replete with spectacular viewpoints, but some are better than others. Rather than write them all out here, check out The 6 Best Views at Garden of the Gods.

8. The Park Can Be Seen in One Day, but…

Garden of the Gods
Central Garden Trail

The Garden of the Gods is small enough to be seen in a day — heck, in two hours if you’re in a hurry. A visitor could conceivably arrive at 07:30, park in the main parking lot, walk the Central Garden Trail, get back in their car and drive the rest of the way around the park (stopping at a few of the best features), then peruse the gift shop for 30 minutes, and be on their way before lunchtime. Easy.

But why would you do that? The Garden of the Gods is magic enough to visit again and again. If you have the time, you couldn’t spend it in a better place.

9. Visitor Center Gift Shop is a Very Nice Rip-Off

Colorado Springs Manitou Springs Things to Do
Garden of the Gods

I’m going to avoid the rant here. The Garden of the Gods visitor center looks like a National Park visitor center, and it quacks like a National Park visitor center, but this is not a National Park visitor center gift shop. The City of Colorado Springs wants your money — the least they could have done was make good looking t-shirts and hats to earn it.

10. Nearby Red Rock Canyon is Similar

Colorado Springs Manitou Springs Things to Do
Red Rock Canyon Open Space

If you didn’t get enough beauty at the Garden of the Gods, two miles away is a whole other universe of craggy rock formations at the Red Rocks Canyon Open Space. Here’s a MAP. It is easy to spot from Garden of the Gods — it looks very cool in the distance.

Red Rocks Canyon is a 1,400 acre park with 11 trails that range from 1.7 miles to 5.4 miles. While it is easy to think of it as Garden of the Gods-lite, it really is its own thing. The higher you go up the hillside the better the view.

An Honest Conclusion for Garden of the Gods

Colorado Springs Manitou Springs Things to Do
Mesa Road Viewpoint

Time spent here is time well spent. We visited three times during our 9-night visit to Colorado Springs and it never got old. The Central Garden is surreal. If you have the time, try to catch it from every angle.

If you’re in Colorado Springs and looking for things to do, check out some of our other articles:

Driving Pikes Peak

Tips for the Manitou Incline

Tips for Meow Wolf

How to Visit Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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