Colorado Springs, CO: Garden of the Gods

Tour a rock garden of giant proportions on this 4.8-mile loop, passing towering redrock monoliths, golden hillsides, and views of Pikes Peak.

Photo: Dan Buettner via Getty Images

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This registered National Natural Landmark got its name when two land surveyors moved west from Denver (then called Denver City) to begin a new townsite called Colorado City (now Colorado Springs). While wandering through the towering sandstone formations, surveyor Rufus Cable called this a “fit place for the gods to assemble.” And it has been called Garden of the Gods ever since.

Take this 4.3-mile trek through the Garden to see it at its best. Follow these waypoints:


Follow the paved trail from the Garden of the Gods Nature and Visitor Center through the underpass. In .1 mile, continue straight at the 4-way on Gateway Trail.


Cross the bridge and wind through tunnel of twisted oaks. Look southwest: Pikes Peak’s snow-capped crown provides a dramatic backdrop to golden juniper-dotted hills and giant copper-hued rock faces.


Turn right at the five-way onto Bretag Trail. From here, you’ll see four groups of red sandstone slabs jut 300 feet into the sky from grassy plains.


Stay left at the Y on the trail. The aptly-named White Rock starkly contrasts the ruddy tones of North Gateway Rock across expansive meadow on the left. In 550 feet, turn right at the Y, then climb stone steps.


Bear right at the Y. The trail circles around the park’s north tip and offers intimate views of the Tower of Babel, a behemoth red rock pillar.


Look down onto park: From this bird’s-eye vantage, rock formations resemble the plates on a stegosaurus’s back. Next, descend to a dry stream bed.


Bear right at the Y to stay on Palmer Trail. In 400 feet, turn right again at the Y. Enjoy the views of rock formations while you can, because they become scarce in the next 2 miles.


Turn left at the Y; cross road. In 100 yards, stay left at the two Y junctions.


Follow Scotsman Trail to the right. 400 feet later, you’ll reach the stairs. Climb them.


Turn right to hike southeast at the 3-way.


Bear left at the Y junction, then continue southeast.


Turn left at the 4-way. In the next 350 feet, turn left onto the road and keep right at the fork.


Bear right onto Ute Trail that parallels the road; look to the left and squint to find climbers scaling vertical rock. Follow grass-lined trail north to close loop at waypoint 3. From there, retrace route back to the visitors center.

From 2022