When we visited Colorado in Summer last year, I wanted to visit and see so many places. And of course, it was impossible. Garden of the Gods was one of these places.
When it was clear, that we will travel to Colorado and New Mexico on Christmas vacations, Garden of the Gods was the first place, I included in the itinerary.
Garden of the Gods is a public park. The same as your neighborhood park, but bigger and wilder 🙂
They have a fantastic visitor center with the museum and the gift shop. We parked near it and spent an hour exploring museum expositions. Also, the view from the visitor deck is stunning.
The park is top-rated, parking lots fill quickly, at first we were enthusiastic about finding a spot closer to the trail we wanted to hike, but eventually, we ended up at the overflow parking lot closest to the visitor center. However, I suggest driving Juniper Way Loop before the parking. Juniper Way Loop is a one-way road that circles through the main formations so you can check what exactly you want to see.
Hiking Central Garden Trails
We started from the overflow parking lot and followed the trail to the central garden towards North and South Gateway Rocks. Central Garden trails are mostly easy, some are paved, some have stairs. But due to the place popularity, expect crowds.
From Gateway Rocks, we turned left towards Cathedral Rock.
When the paved trail reached Cathedral Spires, we choose a dirt spoor trail with the stairs that climb towards Cathedral Rock and Sleeping Giants. The top point has an excellent overview of the central part of the park and Three Graces.
After the overlook, the trail descends on the base level of the parks and leads to parking P7 or returns back to the Central Garden trail. After the short distance, we again turned left towards the Palmer Trail. Our goal was the Northern Vista point that you passes when drives Juniper Way Loop. Of course, it’s possible to walk the road towards it – but I don’t recommend it. The road is narrow with blind turns, and we saw a few cars speeding. It’s definitely not safe.
The overlook has a postcard view of Three Graces with Cathedral Spires with Sugarloaf Mountain on the background.
From there we retraced our way back to the northern connector with Palme trail and walked it clockwise towards parking P2. From there we returned to the Central Trail which passes Tower of Babel, Kissing Camels, and Signature Rock on the right and White Rock on the left. It was close to the sunset and wildlife became active. At the foot of Signature Rock, we met a pair of deer.
From Signature Rock trail leads back towards Northern Gateway Rock and then back to the parking lot.
From the parking lot, we returned back to the Juniper Way, but instead of completing the loop we turned right on Garden Drive towards Balanced Rock Area.
From all balanced rocks, this one looks less impressive but very heavy.
Also, it was so crowdy there it was hard to get a good view of the rock itself. The place is beautiful, but you need to visit it not on weekends.
Sunset from Mesa Overlook
I was disappointed with crowds and noise at Balanced Rock, so we quickly left the park though we had plans to see the sunset. However light started turned amazing, and I cannot miss it.
There is a vista point near the Visitor Center on Mesa Road, we parked there, and I started to shoot. Fiery sun under the heavy dark clouds with the foreground of orange rocks, this is my most prominent memory of that day.
Links and information
- The location of Garden of the Gods on Google Maps
- The park is ~70 miles south of Denver, the closest town is Colorado Spring
- Here is an official site of the park.
- Mesa Overlook location on Google Maps
- While in the area, also check Manitou Cliff Dwellings and North Cheyenne Cañon Park
- My other Colorado adventures