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Family hike in Colorado Springs: Central gardens at Garden of the Gods

Kissing camels - a formation at Garden of the Gods central gardens
Kissing camels - a formation at Garden of the Gods central gardens
Deb Stanley

Garden of the Gods may be well know as a place to take visitors, but have you explored the trails at the park? There are 15 miles of trails to explore in the park.

Garden of the Gods
Deb Stanley

I decided to come in the evening (when there are less people) and explore the main loops with most of the formations. Sure, I've walked around here before, but only to the main formations in the central garden. On this day, I decided to do all three loops in the Central Garden.

I started at the main parking lot for the Central Garden Trail (directions below). Just a few steps from the parking lot is a small pavilion with a map and signs that explain how the rocks were formed. Basically, when the Rocky Mountains uplifted, overlaying sedimentary rocks bent, broke and tilted vertically. Rain, snow, ice and wind over time formed the shapes we see today.

Walk back to the main, paved path and begin your journey. On your right, at the top of the huge red wall is one of the most famous formations at Garden of the Gods, the kissing camels. (See the arch between them?)

As you walk the path, notice the big rock formation on the left has a different color - it's white and pink.

You'll also see rock circle of benches in the middle of the open area. That's where members of a civic group started serving chuckwagon dinners from the 1930s to 1980s. Imagine eating and socializing with this view! This is a good spot to sit and enjoy the scenery around you, and maybe do a little people watching.

When you're ready continue on, the path goes in between two of the rock walls. In the very center, look at the formation on your right. You should spot a very large sign about the family that donated this land so it could be a free public park.

In the middle of the formations, look for a formation surrounded by sidewalk. A sign nearby should point out that this is Sentinel Rock. It's made of two rock formations - red Lyons rock and Fountain rock. Some also call it the Red and White Twin Spires.

This area is called Sentinel Plaza and you'll likely hear birds chirping in this area over the yells of children playing in the rocks.

Continue south and start exploring. While there are lots of trails that are blocked off and say climbers only, there are two more loops down here, and each one has a dirt path that you are allowed to walk through the formations. I wandered around and through the formations.

One of the highlights on my wandering was the Upper Loop Trail. You'll have to hike up several stairs, but make sure you look back at the top -- you should get pictures of the red rock formations in the green trees in the valley below you.

When you're done exploring, return to your car. Learn more about the park and get a map of hiking trails on the Gardens of the Gods' website. If you want to do more exploring, get trail information here. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page. Get more ideas on this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.

Details: Wandering the main path and the two southern loops was about 1.5 miles with minimal elevation gain.

Directions: From I-25, take Exit #146 for Garden of the Gods Road. Go West (towards the mountains) for 2.5 miles and turn left on 30th Street. Drive 1.4 miles. You'll see the Visitor & Nature Center on the left and the entrance to the park on the right. Turn right and drive about .3 miles to the loop. Turn right and drive about 0.4 miles to the parking lot for the central garden on your left.

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