While we were in Colorado last month, we hopped in the car after church to go to Colorado Springs and spend time with my dear friend Tia and her boyfriend Jason. We first stopped for lunch at Trinity Brewing, which turned into longer lunch that expected, but Luke, Tia, and Jason enjoyed a few beers while I sipped on cider.
We headed into the park later than we probably meant to, but the clouds were rolling in which made it so much cooler than it had been, probably scared off a few people (making it easier for us to find a parking spot), and clearly created beautiful lighting. We didn't have much of a plan, other than to wander around and the rest of the group was patient with me while I snapped like 200 photos. (Don't worry, they're not all in this post.)
So what is Garden of the Gods, you want to know? When I was younger, I had heard about it, but I don't ever remember going. That probably explains why I basically pictured it as being a second Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I thought it would be closer to a forest than a desert and I figured if the gods had anything to say about their garden, it would definitely be lush and green and there would be vines dripping from above. Right? Wrong.
Instead, this is Garden of the Gods. And boy am I glad because, as you know if you read my US Bucket List post, I've been wanting to go somewhere with otherworldly rock formations. Somewhere dry and dusty.
So Garden of the Gods is a free park and a National Landmark as of 1971. It was first called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans until two surveyors came across the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". The other, Rufus Cable, seemingly awestruck by the landscape, replied, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."
The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute.
In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins and William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. After Perkins' death, his family donated the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, under the condition that it would remain free and open to the public. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch, which was also donated to the city after his death.
Colorado Springs is definitely worth visiting and Garden of the Gods is just one of its wonderful attractions. Although it's free, there is limited parking and operational hours. You can check online to see when they'll be open, as their hours change throughout the year.
It's a really great place if you're looking for an easy hike (perhaps even called a walk), or with a large group, children, elders, or people with disabilities. While you can "off road" a bit, much of the park is paved with wide walkways with fencing.
There are 15 miles of trails to explore in the park, some of which can be found online, though you can pick up a map with all the trails shown at the visitors' centre.
You may also spot some wildlife, but sometimes it's hard with the crowds. While we were leaving the park with Tia and Jason, I saw a deer butt off the side of the road while it ate some grass, but no one else saw it before we hit the curve.
You are able to bring dogs on a lead, though there is one designated area where they can be off the lead.
You can even rock climb or mountain bike, but I recommend checking the site for regulations first.