Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Come explore the massive sandstone rock formations!
As you're driving towards Colorado Springs, you'll likely notice an unusual red rocky area in the distance, with rocks rising inexplicably into the sky.
These are the types of large sandstone rock formations you probably expect to see in the deserts of Utah, at parks such as Arches and Canyonlands. The rocks seem unexpected at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Unexpected or not, they're definitely alluring.
Looking for more things to do in Colorado? Check out our guide to backpacking Elk Park to Needleton in the Weminuche Wilderness, or head to Pagosa Springs for some relaxing hot springs. In the Springs, don't miss a drive up Pikes Peak!
These red sandstone rocks are located inside the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark.
Do I Need a Ticket to Enter?
Garden of the Gods is a free park!
Some of the activities listed above require a fee, but (as of November 2022), entering the park for a walk or hike is currently free, with no reservation needed.
Where Can I Park?
There's free parking at the visitor center, as well as small lots throughout the rest of the park.
This is a very popular area, so you may need to search for a parking spot. We went on a busy Sunday (late morning) and ended up parking at the visitor center.
If you park at the visitor center, there's a paved path that takes you right by some of the largest rock formations.
What Hiking Gear Should I Bring?
These trails are (for the most part) fairly easy!
I do recommend bringing plenty of water, especially if you're there on a hot day. There's little to no shade.
The day we went, we left our trekking poles in the car and ended up regretting it. If you plan to do some of the longer loop trails, and especially if you're still adjusting to the higher elevations, a trekking pole is a great idea.
Staying Found at Garden of the Gods
The park has lots of (mostly) short, interconnecting trails. It’s easy to wander the park and take whichever paths you want.
I found this trail map helpful, or you can snap a photo of the trail map (pictured below) when you first get to the park.
Also, the park is in Colorado Springs and you’ll probably have cell service (we did with Verizon towers), so you could follow along with a digital map.
Central Garden Pedestrian Walkways
The main path area, called the Central Garden Pedestrian Walkways, is a collection of paved accessible trails.
It crosses by some pretty impressive rocks, and it is definitely worth exploring.
When I initially looked at the trail map, I assumed the trails in the middle of the park would be my favorite. They're the closest trails to the largest rock formations.
These central trails are extremely family friendly, but they can also be a little crowded.
I'm glad we made time to also explore some of the longer, less crowded trails at Garden of the Gods.
Palmer Trail at Garden of the Gods
If you're able to go on a moderately easy hike (as opposed to a paved stroll), check out the longer trails lining the outer sections of the park.
We headed to the parking lot on the north of the park and turned left onto Palmer Trail.
This trail had my favorite views in the park.
Palmer Trail wasn't extremely difficult, but it did have a little bit of incline.
It was one of those trails where I kept stopping and going "Oh, look at that!" and "Ooooo."
I was certain that if I lived nearby, I would be a regular on this trail.
I found the sweeping overlook views of the large rock formations every bit as impressive (and maybe a little bit more impressive!) compared to the closeup views!
There were also several large rock formations along Palmer Trail.
If you need to stop and take a break, find some shade near one of the large rocks and have a snack.
Palmer Trail continues, and eventually you'll reach the Twins rock formation.
Next, we switched to the Cabin Cañon Trail, and continued following it to the Balanced Rock Trail.
At this point, we turned around and made our way back towards our car at the visitor center.
We finished our hike with some cold kombuchas and ice cream sandwiches at Bean Sprouts Café (inside the visitor center).
Then it was time to head for our campsite at the nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park.