The Garden of the Gods is the rock star of the Colorado Springs city park system. Its distinctive red sandstone rock formations are the result of an uplift that occurred millions of years ago. American Indians considered it a sacred place and early settlers to the region were captivated by it. Its more recent history is colorful - in 1859, two surveyors were exploring the region for possible town sites when they discovered the sandstone rocks. According to historians, one man suggested it would be a “capital place for a beer garden,” and his friend (much more poetically), said “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it Garden of the Gods.”
What Makes It Great
Today, the 1,367-acre park still doesn’t have a beer garden, but it is famous for its world-class rock climbing and hiking. But it’s also a surprisingly great cycling destination with wonderful winding roads, fantastic scenery, and good workouts. There are three options for those who want to train on the park’s roads: The short loop is a 2.5 sprint; the medium loop is 3.9 miles, and the long loop 5.3 miles. All use Juniper Way Loop, the main route through the park.
The roads wind through grasslands and pinyon pine-juniper woodlands, with the scraggly one-seed junipers dating back hundreds of years. Gateway Rock is the park’s tallest foundation, shading the land below from its high point of 320 feet, and providing shelter for swallows and swifts that dive and weave through the giant rock spires.
This park has some of the best scenic roadway in the region. The rocks here are sedimentary layers that have been tilted upright and exposed. Each ridge represents a different era, and erosion has helped create the memorable shapes. Watch for Kissing Camels, Balanced Rock, Buffalo Head, Three Graces, Siamese Twins and Tower of Babel.
Who is Going to Love It
Cyclists use these winding roads to train or just enjoy the scenery. Garden of the Gods is west of I-25, but it’s easy to reach, and it easily connects to other routes around the city.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-25, take the Garden of the Gods exit; drive west on Garden of the Gods Road to 30th Street. Turn left, and just past the Navigators headquarters, turn right to go into the park (there is a large lot soon after that entrance), or turn left into the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center parking area just across 30th Street.
The park is open, free of charge, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., May 1-Oct. 31, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 1-April 30. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Be careful here – there is a bike lane that is well-marked, but distracted drivers often pull off the busy road into the bike lane.