Wednesday, November 29, 2023

A garden fit for gods

When visiting the area around Colorado Springs, Colorado, the first attraction that many people think about is Pikes Peak. It’s certainly worth visiting, either by driving up the mountain in your car or taking the steam train so you don’t have to maneuver the often-steep path.

Landscape view from one of the red sandstone formations

Yet, Garden of the Gods is the most visited attraction in the Pikes Peak region. It’s a great family destination where you can simply drive through (there are several areas to park and walk around) or spend a few hours exploring the Visitor and Nature Center as well as the Park itself.

The most notable geological features that attract people to Garden of the Gods are magnificent red sandstone rock formations, many of which are more than 300 million years old. These rocks were created as ancient mountains that eroded and were buried in their own sediments. Massive sand dunes moved across the land, while seas and oceans covered the land, then retreated. This formed horizontal layers over millions of years. Erosion through the ages has resulted in iconic formations such as Balanced Rocks in the south part of the park.

A few years ago, Larry and I revisited Garden of the Gods on a Colorado road trip. In the park we meandered on plentiful paved pathways admiring the immense and varied formations. 

Siamese Twins formation
One trail led us to the Siamese Twins, a famous pair of formations accessed by a 160-foot rise. Once there it is possible to look through a craggy opening between the Twins and see Pikes Peak and other mountains in the background.
Pikes Peak and other mountains seen from Siamese Twins

For the active traveler, there are 15 miles of hiking trails. We headed out on one trail to explore beyond the areas where most tourists congregate and got slightly lost—but not before encountering a lone deer. Then we headed to the Perkins Central Garden Trail, an easy one and a half mile round trip trek on a concrete path that starts at the North main parking lot. We also hiked parts of the Chambers/Bretag/Palmer trail which provides excellent views of many of the  famous, named rock formations.

How the Garden came to be

In August of 1859, two surveyors started out from Denver City to set up a townsite. While exploring nearby locations, they came upon this beautiful area of sandstone formations. Surveyor M. S. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a Biergarten” when the country grew. His companion, Rufus Cable, a “young and poetic man,” exclaimed, “Biergarten! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods,” and the name stuck.

Larry is dwarfed by the huge rocks.

In the early 1900s, Charles Elliott Perkins, head of an upcoming railroad, wanted to establish a home in the Garden of the Gods and to build his railroad out to Colorado Springs. He died in 1907, before making arrangements for the land to become a public park, although the land had been open to the public for many years. Knowing how Perkins felt about the Garden, his children donated his 480 acres to the City of Colorado Springs with the stipulation that the park remain free to the public.

Today Garden of the Gods is a treasure for the city and for all who wish to visit.

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