Anyone visiting Colorado should definitely make their way to Colorado Springs to visit the Garden of the Gods. The rock formations, with their vibrant reddish-orange color, are visually stunning against the back drop of Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills. It is hard to imagine that the majestic orange sandstone rocks that are so beautiful today were once sand dunes millions of years ago when an inland sea covered the area. It is this vast geological history with all of the forces that produced the Rocky Mountains that gave birth to the rock formations that make up the Garden of the Gods.
Many people are aware that Colorado is an active area for discovering dinosaur fossils, but most people don’t associate that with the Garden of the Gods. The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center opened an exhibit in 2008 to celebrate the discovery of a new species of dinosaur based on fossils that were found in the park. The discovery actually occurred in 1878, but the fossil was misidentified as a Camptosaurus and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was reexamined and determined to be a new genus and species.
The park offers great activities for people of all ages. There are hiking trails, nature walks, Jeep and Segway tours, rock climbing, or even bird watching as there are many species of birds that make the rocks their home. Rock Ledge Ranch, located within the park, is also worth a visit as it provides a glimpse into the early settlers and native inhabitants of the Pikes Peak region. Whether capturing images with a camera or a canvas, Mother Nature has made sure that there is plenty of picture perfect opportunities.
Not surprisingly, over time people have given names to many of the formations within the park. Some are obvious such as Balanced Rock. Others are more imaginative, such as Three Graces, The Cathedral Spires, Getaway Rock, or Steamboat Rock. None is probably as famous as the Kissing Camels, which is an often debated conversation amongst the visiting tourists as to whether they really look like camels. With or without names, each of the different rock formations is inspiring to realize that time, weather, and geological upheaval could reveal something so amazing and beautiful.
Fittingly enough, the park got its name from a couple of surveyors who were exploring the local area. When they came across the park and its natural beauty, M. S. Beach, for whom the story is attributed, stated that it would “be a capital place for a beer garden”. The other surveyor, named Rufus Cable, replied “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods”. The name stuck and after a long day hiking and climbing in the park, a beer is the perfect complement to a day outdoors.
Obviously there are other attractions in the Colorado Springs area that are all worth a visit as well. Places like the Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak Scenic Highway, the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, Seven Falls, or the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, just to name a few. But a visit to Garden of the Gods is on the top of our list of sites that need to be seen, not just in Colorado Springs, but in the whole state.