“In the know” tips from a Coloradoan are great for first-timers

Quick notes:

  • Make a plan for the hiking trails you want to tackle

  • Diners have plenty of options, both inside and outside the park

  • Try new things like outdoor rock climbing or photography

Colorado is full of naturally formed western wonders. What else can you expect of a state that has the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, ghost towns and mining camps? One of the most beautiful and often forgotten attractions, however, is the Garden of the Gods located in Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods takes full advantage of its proximity at the base of Pike’s Peak which is the tallest mountain in the Southern Rocky Mountain range. The mountain’s incredible views inspired Kathryn Lee Bates to write the lyrics to the song America the Beautiful.

What kinds of things should visitors expect to see? The park features stunning rock formation, natural views, hiking trails and access to wildlife. If you’re visiting for the first time, we’ve got the scoop on some things that help you make the most out of your visit.

Prepare to take stunning photos

With the beautiful red sandstone formations, mountain views, wildlife, and clear blue Colorado skies, there are infinite possibilities for gorgeous pictures. Do yourself a favor and refresh your knowledge of your camera, and photography basics, before you go. Then be prepared to have fun experimenting with shot framing, color composition, and more. Dawn and dusk are especially strong times to take pictures.

Take the time to understand your dining options in advance

There’s a wide range of dining options both within and outside of the park. Are you looking for fresh food or international cuisine? You can find it. Do you just have time for a fast food stop? You can find that too.

There are plenty of dining options in the Pikes Peak region where Garden of the Gods is located. On-site is the highly-rated Garden of the Gods Market and Cafe, and the Cafe at the Garden for burgers and basic lunch fare. There’s also the Balanced Rock Cafe at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post.

In addition to dedicated cafes and restaurants, there are a number of options in the surrounding area. These range from specialty food restaurants like the Caspian Cafe Mediterranean Food to Chick-Fil-A Fast food.

Research your hiking trails in advance, start early in the day

There are a ton of options for incredible hiking trail experiences when you go to Garden of the Gods. Some of them are paved and can be easily traveled on foot. Some, such as a hike that takes you to the summit of Pikes Peak, more than 14,000 feet above sea level, require experience and a heavy degree of mountaineering prep.

Whatever trail you choose, start early and check the weather before you go. You’ll want to be prepared with the right clothing, including firm, comfortable shoes. Also, manage your timing so that you’re finished well before any dangerous afternoon lightning storms roll in. Also, be sure to stay hydrated by bringing plenty of your own water. It can be hard to find H20 refill stations once you’re on a trail.

Catch a view of balance rock


One of the most iconic sights in Garden of the Gods is their balance rock. A great photo op, the red sandstone formation is beautiful and easy to access from the trail. However, insiders know that this isn’t the only balanced formation of its kind on the trail. If you take the nearby walking trail, you’ll see more.

One last note: If you’ve been wanting to try out outdoor rock climbing, try it here

If you’re tired of limiting your climbing to the climbing gym, the Garden of the Gods is a great place to try your skills outdoors. Be warned, however, to limit your climbing areas to those deemed safe by the park. A little advanced research can help you know where you want to go.

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