Colorado Living | Garden of the Gods | 8 Tips
I'm all about a good day trip. Especially since we moved from Virginia to Colorado and we have so much to learn and see here! We've been to Garden of the Gods a few times--it's under an hour away from our house and it feels like a Colorado staple. The Texas BBQ joint we regularly haunt on our way back home may also play a small part in our regular visits.
Garden of the Gods' red rocks are the result of an upheaval on a fault line millions of years ago. Many indian tribes camped and lived there, as well as prehistoric people dating back to the 1330 BC.
NOTE: The park has a paved path and is wheelchair and stroller-friendly. You can make a quick visit (30-45 minutes), or an all-day visit. Either way, it's a fun thing to do with the entire family!
Because Garden of the Gods is over 6,000 feet above sea level, it's usually about 10 degrees cooler than our house near Denver. This makes it pretty cold in the winter, but when you're there in the summer in the middle of the day with the sun blazing down on you, that works against you. My theory is that the rocks are absorbing a lot of that heat and then raising the temperature of the park. Don't quote me on that.
On our most recent trip, we went on a chillier day--which I recommend. Other tips for visiting Garden of the Gods:
8 Tips for Visiting Garden of the Gods
1. Get there EARLY
Like, no later than 7:30/8am during the spring and summer months. The first parking area you hit when you enter the park is the closest to the bathrooms and the main trail. Parking further down the park requires a lengthy trek just to get to the main trails near the gorgeous rocks. Doing that with kids and a dog taught me the hard way.
We were all exhausted by the time we actually got to the rocks! That's part of the fun and the point for some people, so you do you. For us, we'll be getting our booties up a little early and on the road.
2. Use the restroom near the park or at the entrance
There is only one restroom on the trails, so it's a good idea for you and especially the kids to try and go before you head out on your adventure. Otherwise, you'll be staring at the park map hoping a restroom icon will materialize.
3. Sunscreen and a hat are a must
Garden of the Gods is closer to the sun and you can feel it. That's something I've noticed since moving to Denver. The sun is intense. I've been meaning to invest in some regular, day-to-day hats for running errands!
During winter, it's not as blazing as it is in the summer, but I don't take any chances. A hat and sunscreen are non-negotiable.
4. Pack snacks and plenty of water
Most of the main part of the park is flat, but there are some hiking loops that have pretty good inclines. You'll definitely get a good workout even if you are a casual visitor/hiker. There are no water fountains or snack machines. Plan ahead.
5. Don't wear your brand new white sneakers
There are a lot of opportunities to go 'off trail' and the red dirt is messy. It's fun to climb and explore in these amateur/beginner areas. There are a lot of places for climbers with licenses and appropriate experience, too. It's always fun to see someone high up on these rocks. It gives you a good idea as to just how tall they are.
We always tell Townes that he'll probably be back to climb here one day.
6. Keep Your Dogs on a Leash
Dogs are welcome at the park as long as they are leashed and you have poop bags. We've taken our big dog there twice, but there are usually so many other dogs that it ends up making the visit a little too stressful. We've opted to leave our dogs home the past two visits and it made the trip a lot more smooth.
7. Watch Out for Rattlesnakes
No joke. There are signs everywhere for this, but I didn't take it seriously until there was a rattlesnake ON THE PAVED TRAIL two visits ago. It was crazy! That's why you should always follow the directions and read the signs posted around the park.
8. Make Time for the Visitor's Center
The rocks themselves are stunning, but make time for the visitor's center--it's like a mini-museum. It has a lot to offer, including 30 exhibits, a brief film, lookout binoculars, and a gift shop. We loved it and it's a nice reprieve from the hot rocks if you go in the summer.
Bonus Tip: Save Room for Awesome BBQ
Garden of the Gods is a really fun half-day or full-day trip depending on how far you drive. And if you like good ol' Texas BBQ, make sure you swing by Rudy's Country Store and BBQ (at a gas station).
Yep, it's a barbeque joint at a gas station that started in Texas, just north of San Antonio, and it's so darn good that they've spread them around the Southwest.
Lucky for us, they opened one up here in Colorado Springs. (I hear that there are a lot of Texas transplants in Colorado, but I've met more New York and Chicago people. Who knows?)
I know lots of Denver residents who make the drive down to Colorado Springs just for some Rudy's BBQ. It's really that good. Plus, it's a little place from home for Joe. It always reminds me of his family--especially his grandparents. When they were still alive, we ate there a couple of times in Austin, so I always think of them.
I get my brisket 'moist' with side of coleslaw and I have my own bottle of their "Sissy Sause" stashed at the house. Their brisket is almost as good as Joe's...but with none of the effort!
Enjoy your visit to Garden of the Gods--it really is a sight to see!