10 Tips for Visiting the Garden of the Gods


    An hour and a half south of Denver, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs makes for a great day trip with kids. The National Natural Landmark is free to visit and without hiking can be covered in a two-hour visit. Here are our 10 tips for visiting Garden of the Gods with kids.

    1. Stop at the Visitor’s Center

    Around noonish, we pulled into the visitor’s center.  We enjoyed the educational exhibits, the huge gift shop, the cafe, and the breathtaking 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 Garden of the Gods map

    On to the park itself.  The park is free. Make sure you grab a map at the visitors’ center so you know 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.

    You can visit the park as part of a weekend in Colorado Springs or part of a Southwest Colorado Road Trip Loop.

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    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes Washington, DC (done!), Yellowstone (done!), London, and anywhere in the Caribbean.