Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
I’ve been motivated to finally take a couple trips that I’ve always meant to do. You know, day trips to local attractions that you always put off for another day. “We can always do that next week”? Or next year? But you never get around to it?
We’ve lived outside of Denver for several years. One trip we’ve been meaning to do is to go down to the Garden of the Gods. It’s only about an hour/hour and a half from our house. So we packed up the kids and decided to check it out. Here are our 10 tips and must-sees for the Garden of the Gods.
1. Stop at the Visitor’s Center
Around noonish, we pulled into the visitor’s center. It’s a great, big lovely building. We enjoyed the educational exhibits, the huge gift shop, the cafe, and the breath-taking view.
2. Enjoy Lunch with a View
Since we arrived around lunch we decided to eat at Cafe at the Garden. They had the usual kid favorites and buffalo burgers. But the view! The view was wonderful!
There are picnic areas so if you wanted to cut costs more you could pack a lunch.
3. Explore the New Museum
Learn about the area’s geology, ecology, and cultural history through hands-on interactive exhibits.
4. Junior Ranger Program
Children ages 7 to 12 can participate in the Garden of the Gods Junior Ranger program. By completing an activity booklet (available for $2 at the information desk), they can earn a badge and certificate. Upon completion of the booklet, they will be introduced over the PA system as Junior Rangers.
5. Grab a map
On to the park itself. The park is free. Make sure you grab a map at the visitors’ center so you know what the names of all the 17 formations. There are 16 parking lots to stop and enjoy the scenery. When we visited we had so much recent rain, that everything was beautifully green.
6. Pack water and sunscreen
The dry Colorado climate and high elevation mean that plenty of water to stay hydrated and sunscreen (reapply!) are a must.
7. Take a hike
There are 21 miles of trails to explore. The paved Perkins Central Garden Trail is only half a mile while the Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail clocks in at around 3 miles.
8. Watch out for Rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes are known in the area, be sure your kids are on the alert. Don’t step where you can’t see and if you come across a rattlesnake, give it plenty of room.
9. Free Guided Walks
Tour the park on a naturalist-led walk with a knowledgeable park volunteer. Walks depart at 10 am and 2 pm daily from the North Main Parking Lot.
10. Hit the Gift Shop
At the back of the park is the Trading Post. Don’t let the size of the building fool you, it’s huge inside, with every knick-knack available under the sun. They have pottery, Navajo rugs, caps, t-shirts, moccasins, books, cups, glassware, toys, home decor, and that’s just what’s listed on the flier! There is also another cafe- the Balanced Rock Cafe. We did notice that the prices here were a little more than at the visitors’ center cafe.
The Trading Post also included a creekside patio and Gemstone Mine. For $6 a bucket you could sift through a bucket of dirt for gems. My oldest daughter said she “thought they were tricking us because you don’t know if there are any gemstones in there or not”! So we skipped that one.
As we finished up our visit, we wondered why on earth we hadn’t been here before. We vowed to come back at least once a year and bring our relatives too.