The Garden Of The Gods
The Garden Of The Gods was named in 1859 by two surveyers who were founding nearby Colorado City. The name stuck due to the spectacular and jagged red sandstone rock formations that abruptly stick hundreds of feet into the sky. 240 acres were originally purchased in 1879 by Charles Perkins, owner of the Burlington Railroad; he loved the landscape so much he added more land over the years, and wanted it to be preserved as a park for all to enjoy. After he died, his children respected his wishes and donated the entire 480 acres to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909. The city later acquired additional land to prevent urben development from coming right up to the park's borders.
Today the Garden Of The Gods is visited by thousands every day in the summer who come to take the slow scenic drive through the park, or use the many smoothly paved trails or dirt trails for walking, more serious hiking, skating, bicycling, horseback riding, to go rock climbing, and other outdoor activities--all in the midst of the incredible natural splendor of the scenery. The smoothly paved trails make the park very friendly & accessible to those with mobility challenges.
The park has areas of willow and other deciduous trees, but also is covered in scrub oak, pinon pine, and juniper. The contrast of the greenery against the jutting red sandstone in apring and summer is gorgeous; in fall, the scrub oak turns spectacular shades of bright red and orange; in winter, seeing the rocks after a dusting of snow--or heavier snowfalls--is stunning. Several different ecosystems & "life zones" meet at the Garden Of The Gods, so the wildlife and plant life is quite diverse.
The Visitors & Nature Center has displays and information about the geology and ecology of the park, and is both entertaining and educating. Especially for those interested in natural sciences, this is a very fun place to explore. Recent discoveries have revealed the presence of American Indians in the park over 3,000 years ago. Daily 20-minute presentations are free and explore local topics like geology, ecology, wildlife, and the cultural history of the Colorado Springs area...which is a very interesting topic itself.
The historic southwestern Gift Shops in the park are regarded by many as the best in Colorado Springs, with American Indian pottery and jewelry, spectacular porcelain sculptures, books, postcards, toys, gifts, and some fairly famous fudge made on-site. There's also a cafe with indoor & outdoor dining at the main Visitor Center, with spectacular views of the park's rock formations, and also of nearby famous Pikes Peak.
Speaking of Pikes Peak...in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates wrote "America The Beautiful" and of "Purple Mountains Majesty" after visiting nearby Pikes Peak, framed here by the rocks of the Garden Of The Gods. "Above the fruited plains" was inspired by the bustling agriculture of Colorado's eastern plains, which then was a lot more active than today, as Coloradans have painfully discovered the arid qualities of much of the state.
On Sundays, the Garden Of The Gods offers a free, naturalist-led 30-minute walking tour which presents fact & lore about Colorado's wildflowers, rattlesnakes, and even about Colorado's famous Gold Rush (remember "Pikes Peak Or Bust"?), as well as other locally themed subjects. This happens at 10 AM & 2 PM on Sundays.
There is a "bat walk" on Tuesday evenings, June thru August, which is a presentation about these fascinating creatures and then a walk thru the park to see the bats. Reservations required, 719-219-0108.
And on Wednesdays, 5 PM June thru July, the park gives guided walks to view the Prarie Falcons that nest on the rocks and see them hunting the small critters that live on the landscape. No reservations needed. 719-219-0108 for information.
Easter dawn service is held every year at the Garden Of The Gods, typically attended by thousands. Many other special events sponsored by the park happen, and regular folks can schedule their own events and get-togethers, even weddings, at the Garden Of The Gods--there is a chapel--the weddings, reunions, & many other events are free of charge. Yes, you do typically have to arrange them well in advance, the park and facilities are very popular.
The Garden Of The Gods Trading Post at the southwest corner of the park has a spectacular southwestern gift shop with American Indian art and reproduced artifacts like jewelry, Navaho rugs, sand paintings and Pueblo pottery, with special events and gallery openings. They also have a cafe. (The Trading Post is not part of the park, but has a very friendly relationship with the city & the park's administrators.)
This city park is one of the most spectacular in the country, and is one of Colorado's most popular and loved attractions.