Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark and a public park located in Colorado Springs. This park is popular for hiking, technical rock climbing, road and mountain biking and horseback riding. It attracts more than two million visitors a year which makes this the city’s most visited park. There are over 15 miles of trails with a 1.5 mile trail run through the heart of the park. Annual events include two summer running races, recreational bike rides and the Pro Cycling Challenge Prologue also takes place in this park.
The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail is a paved, 1.1 mile trail through the heart of the park’s largest and most scenic red rocks. The trail begins at the North Parking lot. Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permits obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center.
The Garden of the Gods Visitor and nature Center is located at 1805 N. 30th Street and offers great views of the park. Natural history exhibits include minerals, geology, plants and local wildlife, as well as Native Americans who visited the park. Programs include nature hikes and talks, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tours, movies, educational programs and special programs.
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. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Ute, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Lakota people.
The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. The following Pleistocene Ice Age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields.