Garden of the Gods Park at the base of magnificent 14,115 foot Pikes Peak on the west side of Colorado Springs just north of Manitou Springs offers excellent opportunities for mountain trail hiking and biking without the long drive into the mountains. Giant 300 million year old spires of red sandstone towering over the park provide spectacular scenery and rugged terrain to enjoy throughout your run, ride or hike. Trails abound in this mountain paradise and there are routes for all skill levels from paved paths for wheelchair and casual hikers to single track rocky trails that will satisfy the most experienced trail runners. Beautiful scenery can be enjoyed just a few feet from the parking lot on the paved trails and rugged mountain terrain is available on a network of trails of varying distance. Pet owners can enjoy walking their animals on a six foot leash and bikers can ride their two wheelers on designated bike paths on the sides of the roadways.
The Palmer Trail is the longest and most difficult hike with a three mile loop through rugged mountain terrain far from the traffic and crowds of the central park area. Wheelchair visitors and beginners will feel comfortable on the 1.5 mile paved path of the Central Garden Trail. These are just two of the many wonderful routes in the park. For a complete list of trails, full color trail maps can be obtained at the visitor center or downloaded from the official park website. Watch for wildlife on your tour of the park trail system where a menagerie of small animals such as ground squirrels, prairie dogs and various species of birds will entertain you on your journey. Larger wildlife such as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyote, fox and deer are often seen on the more remote trails.
When you have had enough time to explore the park on foot, feel free to cool down in the air conditioning and partake of some refreshments and shopping in the gift shop at the visitors center while you learn of the history of this magnificent park. According to the official park website, “Each ridge and valley represents a different period of environment from the past 320 million years of Earth’s history.”. The park's land was originally owned by Charles Elliott Perkins in the late 1870's and was donated to the city by his children in 1909 with the understanding that the park would remain free for public use in perpetuity.
To get to the park take Garden of the Gods Road from I25 in Colorado Springs to the west where it dead ends on 30th Street. Turn south and proceed to the park. If you are in Manitou Springs, take the 31st Street exit from Highway 24 and go north. Follow the signs to the park. Enter the main entrance to the park to the west, or park in the parking lot at the visitors center on the east side of the road.