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Garden of the Gods and on to Denver 7/18/2016

by Chris Guenzler

After shooting the picture of the Midland Railroad tunnel we drove through a very heavy thunderstorm which got rid of most of the dust. We then drove into the Garden of the Gods through the rain but that was not going to stop us.

Garden of the Gods


The area was first called Red Rock Corral. Then, in August 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City explored the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."


The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people.

Multiple tribes traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes' oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods. The Old Ute Trail went past Garden of the Gods to Ute Pass and led later explorers through Manitou Springs. Starting in the 16th century, Spanish explorers and later European American explorers and trappers traveled through the area, including Lt. John C. Freemont and Lt. George Frederick Ruxton, who recorded their visits in their journals.

In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins, a friend of William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins' death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch and upon his death it was donated to the city.

Helen Hunt Jackson wrote of the park, "You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size... all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe."

Having purchased additional surrounding land, the City of Colorado Springs' park grew to 1,364 acres. In 1995 the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center was opened just outside the park.

Geological formation

The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted into "fins" by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. The following Pleistocene Ice Age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields.

The resulting rocks had different shapes: toppled, overturned, stood-up, pushed around and slanted. Balanced Rock, a fountain formation, is a combination of coarse sand, gravel, silica and hematite. It is hematite that gives the large balancing rock rock its red hue. It toppled off of a ledge, first resting on sand that was gradually worn away at the base. Gateway Rock and Three Graces are stood-up rocks that had been pushed up vertically. The Tower of Babel is Lyons Formation, a stone made of fine sand from an ancient beach.


The Garden of the Gods Park is a rich ecological resource. Retired biology professor Richard Beidleman notes that the park is "the most striking contrast between plains and mountains in North America" with respect to biology, geology, climate and scenery. Dinosaur species Theiophytalia kerri was found in the park, in 1878, and studies of the skull in 2006 reveal it to be a new species. A honey ant never before recorded was also discovered in 1879 and named for the park. Mule deer, bighorn sheep and fox abound in this area. The park is also home to more than 130 species of birds including white-throated swifts, swallows and canyon wrens.


The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail, is a paved, wheelchair-accessible 1.1-mile trail, "through the heart of the park's largest and most scenic red rocks". The trail begins at the North Parking lot, the main parking lot off of Juniper Way Loop.

Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permits obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. The requirements are following the "Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines", using proper equipment, climbing with a "buddy" and staying on established climbing routes. Precipitation makes rocks unstable and therefore climbing is not allowed when the rocks are wet or icy. There are fines for unregistered climbers and possibly rescue costs. Several fatalities have occurred over the years, generally because the climber was not wearing safety equipment or the equipment failed.

Visitor and nature center

The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is located at 1805 N. 30th Street and offers a view of the park. The center's information center and 30 educational exhibits are staffed by Parks, Recreation and Culture employees of the City of Colorado Springs. A short movie, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There?, runs every 20 minutes. A portion of the proceeds from the center's privately owned store and cafe support the non-profit Garden of the Gods Foundation; the money is used for maintenance and improvements to the park.

Natural history exhibits include minerals, geology, plants and local wildlife, as well as Native Americans who visited the park. Programs include nature hikes and talks, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tours, movies, educational programs and special programs.

Hours and admission

The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitor and Nature Center are free to the public. As of July, 2013, the park hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. from May 1 to October 31; 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 1 to April 30. The Visitor and Nature Center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend; the remainder of the year it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Our Visit

We drove in to the park but the rain stopped us from taking pictures until we got to the east side of the park.

Kindergarten Rock.

Sleeping Giant.

Looking back towards Colorado Springs. We drove the loop around the park to the north side then parked in a lot.

The base of South Gateway Rock.

South Gateway Rock.

More views of South Gateway Rock.

Cathedral Spires.

Keyhole Window.

Sleeping Giant.

Cathedral Spires.

We left Garden of the Gods and drove down the Garden of the Gods Boulevard toward I-25. We stopped to gas up the car and I picked up some more Coca-Cola for my use. From here we drove to Denver and Chris Parker gave me the easiest route to the hotel off I-25. We checked into the Super 8 but found out we had only four nights instead of six. When we got to our room, Elizabeth found us two more nights at the Quality Inn next door, so from an error by Super 8, we will have rooms at the Quality Inn Friday and Saturday nights. Robin, Elizabeth and I walked over to the Holiday Inn and we all picked up our NRHS tickets and guidebooks, ha ha. Instead of the quality books that Bart Jennings produced for the last four conventions, we are using the Kalmbach Colorado Railroading book which I already had since last November. We walked back and went to Chick-Fil-A and brought dinner back to the room due to an impending thunderstorm. We finished the Cumbres story, watched some television and called it an early night since the internet at the Super 8 is bad that I cannot upload my stories. Tomorrow, we have our first NRHS convention trip to the Royal Gorge and a bus ride each way of 2.5 to 3 hours as bus hosts.