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Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.

Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background.  The Ute Indians often wintered at the Garden and had a tradition of ascending the Peak.

Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background. The Ute Indians often wintered at the Garden and had a tradition of ascending the Peak.

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods was one of my favorite places to run, bike, hike and walk. I had several college classes there, studying the four eco-zones that characterize the area. My cross-country team in high school frequently came to train on the trails, and is one of the most popular attractions in Colorado Springs.

A closer look at the Garden of the Gods.  I took this photo only a few days before the Waldo Canyon fire started nearby.

A closer look at the Garden of the Gods. I took this photo only a few days before the Waldo Canyon fire started nearby.

Touring Garden of the Gods

If you get to the park early in the morning, you can avoid the crowds that swell throughout the day. I don’t mind all the people who want to see the wonder and beauty of the beautiful rock formations. However, I particularly enjoy visiting in early morning when there aren't as many people - it's still quiet and awakening to another day. It’s a spiritual experience for me.

I feel fulfilled when I come to the Garden. Perhaps it satisfies a spiritual craving and stirs my heart when I am close to these vibrant rocks. I believe many others feel the same. As you walk the trails, you can’t help but feel a sense of calm.

Even when I was younger, I could be in the worst of moods, but when I took in the views of the piñon pine, and the prickly pear cactus, I always felt better. The plants, animals and sky all combined against the dramatic backdrop of the rocks jutting up from the earth, and the tranquility of the scenery seemed to reach into my soul and deliver me to a calmer place.

The Cathedral Spires at Garden of the Gods.  I thought it looked like a hand reaching up to the heavens.

The Cathedral Spires at Garden of the Gods. I thought it looked like a hand reaching up to the heavens.

A Little History

The rocks at Garden of the Gods have a long, incredible history. When the ancestral Rockies began to erode 250 million years ago, their sediment collected in streambeds and in other places downstream from the mountains.

The material included mud and clay that formed shale, sand that turned into sandstone, and other small pieces of rocks and sand combined to form conglomerate rock.

These materials formed in layers that made up the Fountain Formation. These rocks and layers were not immune to the effects of erosion, either. Eventually, they eroded away. The sand and sediment from the Fountain Formation collected into dunes. Over time and with external pressure from the buildup of these materials, sandstone formed again.

Sandstone is what makes up the rocks in the central part of the park. Eventually the flat layers of rock became vertical. This was due to ever-shifting land and mountains. The foothills of Colorado Springs and even Pikes Peak formed this way.

Because the rocks at Garden of the Gods formed as a result of the forces of erosion, they, too, are vulnerable to it. They won’t be there forever. We as humans, however, can help curb that erosion by acting responsibly while in the presence of these magnificent rocks.

"Kissing Camels" I'd always heard that one of the camels lost its humps in a lightning strike. One of my readers recently let me know that it's an urban legend. It IS! You can see both "humps" from the visitor center.

"Kissing Camels" I'd always heard that one of the camels lost its humps in a lightning strike. One of my readers recently let me know that it's an urban legend. It IS! You can see both "humps" from the visitor center.

The Ute Indians

I am fascinated by the Utes.

According to their history, as long as there have been people, the Utes have frequented the grounds at Garden of the Gods. They had lived there for thousands of years before white settlers reached the region in the 1700s.

In the early part of the 18th century, the Utes were the only American Indian tribe in the area. The Apaches lived out on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Due to forced relocation of a number of tribes, eventually the Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes moved into the region, as well.

The 14,000-foot mountain of Pikes Peak stands to the west.

When the Utes inhabited the area, they called it “TA-WA-a-ah-gath” or “Sun Mountain.” They made a ritual of sending members of their tribe to the top of Pikes Peak as a special rite. It wasn’t until 1820 when Edwin James became the first white man to summit the peak.

The Utes only lived at the Garden of the Gods for part of the year, usually in winter. Sometimes they would head farther south, down to the San Luis Valley.

They considered the rocks to be very sacred and held many ceremonies near them.

This is the South Gateway Rock.  The Central Garden Trails go between this and the North Gateway Rock.

This is the South Gateway Rock. The Central Garden Trails go between this and the North Gateway Rock.

The Gold Rush of 1857-60

Garden of the Gods was en route to a number of places where gold had been discovered. Melancthon Beach and Rufus Cable debated what to call the wondrous rocks. They finally thought about it being a garden fit for the gods, and the name stuck.

Around this time, people were migrating to the region in search of fortune. Places to the north and west of the rocks were reputed to have gold. Many camped in the area and helped it to grow.

A number of people “owned” Garden of the Gods – either through finding riches in the region or after finding wealth elsewhere.

However, after a man named Charles Perkins passed away, his family donated the land to the state of Colorado in 1909. They wanted the park to be free to the public. Now, the park boundaries were at 480 acres.

The park expanded greatly when the city acquired land from Curt Goerke in 1932. Then the last of commercial properties was removed only in 1998, expanding the park to its current 1,367 acres.

The Central Garden Trails leading out to Gray Rock and the Sleeping Giant Rock.

The Central Garden Trails leading out to Gray Rock and the Sleeping Giant Rock.

Garden of the Gods Trails

The park has a number of trails. Some are for mountain biking, others are for hiking, and still others are open to horses.

The pictures I took of the Garden of the Gods were primarily from the Central Garden Trail. This trail was appealing because though it is paved, it offers the closest views of the rocks.

You also can see incredible flora and fauna around, as well. The paintbrush and prickly pear are two beautiful plants that put out colorful flowers in the summertime. Yucca plants also dot the landscape. Gambel oak, pine and other bushes and shrubs abound, providing food and shelter for many animals. Birds constantly fly around the top of the rocks. You can also see some non-native plants such as Creeping Jenny and Mullein.

Indeed, these rocks are spectacular and a natural treasure. If we all tread lightly and respect them, they will be here for posterity. Though they are subject to erosion, we can do our part to keep them as long as possible.

I wanted to include this picture only because I liked it.  This is near the North Gateway Rock.

I wanted to include this picture only because I liked it. This is near the North Gateway Rock.

I would like to dedicate this article to all my friends and family who were affected by the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

Comments

Patt Smith on August 03, 2020:

The lightning strike on the kissing camels is not an urban legend because I remember when it happened. The hump on the camel to the right used to have a much bigger hump and it did get struck by lightning.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 13, 2015:

Hmm...thank you Bob. Well, I seem to recall a newspaper article about that in The Gazette, but I'll look into it. Thanks!

Bob on August 12, 2015:

Your note that one of the Kissing Camels lost its hump is false. That is nothing but an urban legend. The camels have not changed in over 100 years.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on April 03, 2013:

Audrey - hehe, thank you. I do love that place!

Sgbrown - Yes, the Garden is worth the trip. It's beautiful. :)

Vicki - thank you! I didn't know you've been to Colorado! That's awesome!

KrisL - thank you - I'm glad you've been able to see Colorado's beauty. :D

nArchuleta - yes, Red Rock Canyon? ALL the time. Though I live in NC, I grew up less than a mile from there, always riding my bike. Haha. I make it back around twice a year. :)

Nadia Archuleta from Denver, Colorado on April 02, 2013:

Wonderfully written. I love Garden of the Gods -- if for the name alone! -- but I don't get down there as often as I'd like. Did you ever go to Red Canyon down in Colo Springs?

KrisL from S. Florida on April 02, 2013:

Beautiful hub, CC. Like Victoria, I visited Colorado as a kid and still treasure the memories.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on April 01, 2013:

So beautiful, CC! Love the photos. I visited Colorado as a kid and still remember some of the beauty we saw. My mom and I took lots of pics! :-)

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 01, 2013:

Beautiful hub! I have been to Colorado twice now, but hubby has never been there. I would really like to make a trip there sometime and this would be a great place to see. Your pictures are beautiful with great information. Voted up and more! :)

Audrey Howitt from California on April 01, 2013:

Written with a lot of love Cyndi! Just beautiful!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 13, 2012:

Mr. Archer - sure! I grew up there, so I know all the fun haunts and great sights. :) Thanks for coming by again. Cheers!

Mr Archer from Missouri on August 13, 2012:

Thanks for the heads up on this additional falls. I will look into them and take my wife there, for sure. Best of luck, and keep at it!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 13, 2012:

Mr. Archer - I'll probably see you out there in CO next summer! I go back every year to visit family and I ALWAYS have to stop by at G of G to infuse my soul with a little bit of this majestic beauty. Yes, Seven Falls is beautiful, but LOTS of people go there. Nearby is Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Canyon and they are as beautiful - if you want to stay away from crowds. The whole area is spectacular. :) Thank you for the votes and everything ~ Cheers!

Mr Archer from Missouri on August 13, 2012:

I have (almost) convinced my wife we are taking a trip to the mountains next summer. I am planning it now, and Garden of the Gods is on my list. I was showing her pictures last night, and she began to get excited about it, and asked some questions involving some falls she seemed to remember from a trip as a child, Finally figured out she's speaking of Seven Falls. My aunt and uncle live in Security, Co. Gorgeaous area. Great hub, voted up and everything else. Great job,

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 02, 2012:

Stephanie - thank you so much for your kind words and insights. I'm so glad you were able to see these places. The beauty is breathtaking. The fires are almost contained now, thank goodness. My family is safe, but I am keeping in touch with them daily to get updates. I think about those fires and I know that though there will be a charred aftermath, at least everything will one day grow back. As for the houses, I know that the Springs is a vibrant community and will reach out to those who have lost a home. Hubhugs to you! :)

Stephanie Henkel from USA on July 01, 2012:

Your beautiful photographs and writing are a real tribute to this amazing place. I was fortunate to have visited Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak twice, and each time I was awed by the beauty of this area. I do hope that your family and friends are safe. I am saddened to think of the destruction these fires are causing. Sending good wishes and hugs your way!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 30, 2012:

teaches - hehehe, great to see you! I'm definitely loving the idea of sharing many of my adventures with the HP community. :) Thanks again for your warm compliments and comments. I appreciate you. Hubhugs!

Dianna Mendez on June 29, 2012:

I have never been out that way but I hope to some day. Your photo of the paintbrush plant is amazing in the color and clarity. This garden is very interesting with all the rocks and history. Thanks for sharing a new adventure with us.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 29, 2012:

Vicki - aww, thanks so much for comin' by. :) I love that "hand" one, too. It was an accidental shot, but I ended up loving it! Thank you for your feedback on the photos. I got a new camera and I'm REALLY having fun with the pictures. :) Hubhugs!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on June 28, 2012:

This is great. I love the photo that looks like the hand reaching to heaven. So cool! Well done on the hub--info and photos. Keep us posted as to how the fires affect the park. Great job, sis. Many votes! A really beautiful hub.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

Rose - hey there! Great to see you! Thank you for the compliments on the pictures. I appreciate your feedback. The fire is definitely perturbing, but I think things will settle down soon. Interestingly, the park has been unscathed throughout the whole ordeal. :) Hubhugs!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 28, 2012:

Gorgeous photos as always! It's so sad about the fire. Hopefully it will pass and the park can reopen soon.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

aviannovice - great to see you around the Hub! This place is truly wonderful and, yes, the rocks just say, "come here and be at peace." :) Hubhugs!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 28, 2012:

This truly is a sacred place, Cindy. Look at all the rocks that just scream it.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

Margie! Hugs and love, cuz!! Thanks for coming by and commenting on my hub. Aww, I'm sorry I missed you when you were in Asheville - I was out taking these photos in Colorado. Do put this on your bucket list. You're welcome to stay with my family, too, when you make it out there. ;) Hugs!

Margie on June 28, 2012:

Very interesting read.... Beautiful pictures. I can see why you love this place so much. One day Bob & I will make our trek out there! A bucket list for sure!

Cheers,

Margie

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

Levertis Steele - so far, this beautiful park has survived unscathed by the fire. I hope it continues to do so. This is a wondrous place and I'm glad you have great pictures, too. I really think the park will be fine and that people will be able to visit for years to come. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on June 28, 2012:

How sad about the fire. I was there about three years ago and did enjoy these breathtaking sites. I also have nice pictures. I hope they are not destroyed and in place for others to continue to enjoy.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

sgbrown - Indeed, the beauty nature can create is unparalleled. Thank you for your feedback and for the compliments on my pictures. I definitely tried to capture these rocks at their finest and at different times of the day. Thank you also for the votes. I hope you have a wonderful day, as well. Hubhugs!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on June 28, 2012:

This looks like such a beautiful place! It's amazing what beauty nature can create. You pictures are beautiful as well as your descriptions. I would love to visit this place in person. I do hope the fires stay away! Voted up and more. Have a wonderful day!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

Hi, Vellur! Great to see you! Thanks for your feedback on the photos. I really tried to capture the essence of what those rocks make me feel like when I'm there. Thank you for your kind words and I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. Hubhugs!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

Peggy W - thanks for coming by! From what I can tell, it hasn't burned, thank goodness. Thank you for the compliments on my photos. When I was taking them, I was hoping they'd turn out all right. I'll link back to your Garden of the Gods hub, too. It's definitely a memorable place, isn't it? Thank you also for the votes and shares. Hubhugs!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

alocsin - hey there! Garden of the Gods does feel other-worldly. I have seen plenty of places, but rarely a place that has affected me so much. Thank you for stopping by - as always. Cheers!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 28, 2012:

missolive - hello! Congrats on your 22 years! That's wonderful! I am perturbed by the fires, but I know that C-Springs is a vibrant community. The red dirt is really distinct and yes, it offers stark contrasts against the plants and skies of Colorado. Thanks so much for your warm, insightful feedback. :) Hubhugs!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 27, 2012:

WOW God's wonderous creation, such a beautiful place. The phtos are spectacular. So much scenic beauty. You have showcased the place so very well. Enjoyed reading, voted up. Awesome and beautiful.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 27, 2012:

Such a beautiful place! From last reports it is still being protected from the wildfires...but who knows if that will last. Bless the firemen and everyone living in that area! Your photos and descriptions are wonderful. Going to link this to my Garden of the Gods hub. Unlike you who lived there and got to see it on numerous occasions, my mother and I only vacationed there...but the memories are lasting. All the up votes except funny and sharing.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on June 27, 2012:

Those rock formations make it look like an other-wordly place. I'll make time for this if I'm ever in the area. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on June 27, 2012:

I love beautiful Colorado! Colorado Springs was one of our stops during our Honeymoon road-trip - 22 years ago. :)

I'm sad to hear about these horrible fires and how they have affected such beautiful land. Your pictures and descriptions are amazing and you have certainly tempted me to pay another visit to this lovely state. I vividly remember the red dirt and how it contrasted beautifully with the greenery and rocks. Thanks for a great hub.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 27, 2012:

Dan! You are so awesome to come by to my second hub of the day and comment. I owe you big time. :) I loved growing up in Colorado, but I definitely appreciate the lushness of North Carolina these days. I am bummed out about the fires, but I know that the shrubs and bushes will grow back. Thanks for the pin and I promise I'll be around to your hubs tomorrow to comment and share. :D

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on June 27, 2012:

Awesome Hub! You are are lucky to have grown up out there; I last visited this area about 18 years ago. I agree that it is indeed a spiritual place.

It is a shame to hear that the area is under assault from the current fires, my thoughts go out to those affected and to the wildland fire fighters.

Pinned to my favorite places!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 27, 2012:

Sara - hola, guapita! :D Colorado won, eh? So awesome! :) Whatever you do, you can't miss the Mountains. Summit county is wonderful (with Breckenridge), Grand County is "grand", Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Springs is great with the Air Force Academy, Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods - it's all breathtaking. Now, if those dreaded fires would just fizzle out, that would be awesome. :) Thanks for commenting, chica. :)

Sara Hackett on June 27, 2012:

Cindi,

Great article & very interesting! I especially like the history & reading about the Utes.

So, my mother in law wanted to do a big family vacation in 2012 and gave us 3 options for a destination. We voted between Miami, San Antonio, TX and Colorado.....and Colorado won!!

I mean, I live in FL...why would I want to vacation here??! My husband's family is from Houston, so we're there all the time for holidays. I've never been to Colorado or the Rockies, so Im really excited! Oddly enough, Im not exactly sure where in Colorado we will be staying...my mother in law has a friend whose house/cottage we will be staying in. As soon as I find out more details I will definitely let you know so you can make some great suggestions on where to go/what to see. I hope the fires don't ruin any of our plans!!

Take care!!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 27, 2012:

I missed you too, Big Bro. :) I LOVE writing and all this stuff. Thank you so much for your feedback, too. *blush* Thank you for saying this is first-rate. YES! Indeed, Yellowstone had a similar thing happen - and it just reminds us to be humble and to appreciate the power of nature. There is definitely a plan, maybe not what we think it should be, but one that makes us appreciate another 24 hours to breathe and be alive. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 27, 2012:

Jenn-Anne - thank you for your kinds words in input. Do visit sometime - it is a wonderful experience. :) Cheers!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 27, 2012:

Wow! It's sure nice to have you back among us. These pictures are spectacular and of course, your hub is first rate. I felt the same way the last time Yellowstone had a major fire but naturally it has come back as lovely as ever. Nature has a plan that none of us are privy to and that's probably as it should be.

Great job Cyndi! I missed you lil' Sis!

Jenn-Anne on June 27, 2012:

Nice hub - tons and information and gorgeous pictures. I will add this to my list of places to visit. Voted up!