We here at TWW try to avoid writing about obvious features in an effort to avoid putting more people into already crowded parks and recreating areas. The gigantic redstone formations that jut from the ground in shark like fashion make the Garden of the Gods hard to miss. But the park is such a scenic and accessible place to run and ride that ignoring it eliminates one of the best places to get outside in the Manitou/Colorado Springs area.
First, the bad. This park is a hotspot for RVs, families, slow walkers, motorcycles, and photographers. They clog the roadways, they meander down the trails and they add traffic and noise to a pristine environment that is better enjoyed with minimal noise pollution. On top of that are the horse tours that bring their mounts through some of the trails and liberally deposit fertilizer within sneaker striking distance.
However, there is good. Thanks to the deluge of tourists in the area, and the need to maintain the park’s geographic features, the city undertook a project that rerouted the roads, eliminating the ability of cars to drive through the park’s middle and regulating traffic to a loop that winds around the perimeter of the park, leaving the more pristine areas of the park inaccessible via car. The roadways are smooth, incredibly wide and run in only one direction around the park, cutting down on cross traffic and reducing car speed. The center of the park, its most scenically striking area and once a car thoroughfare, has been reclaimed and now sports numerous trails. Additionally, most tourists stick close to the roadways and parking lots, leaving a lot of the trails empty. And parking here is abundant, with each lot allowing easy access to the trails that ring the park.
For runners, the park sports a number of dirt trails that are mostly rolling, winding through low foothills and open meadows, with everyone allowing views of the park, the mountains to the West, and Pikes Peak. The trails are well marked and hard packed, and generally well maintained. Running along the road is another good option, as the roadway’s bike lane is wide enough for both runners and cyclists. The loop here is not long enough for a good ride, but the park is a great way to start or end a longer cycling loop. Some of the hills in the park are steep enough for climbing intervals, allowing for a tortuous, yet scenic, workout.
The Garden’s location makes it easy to loop it into longer runs or rides in the area. Check out the Intemann Trail/Red Rocks Canyon Loop and the Cheyenne Canyon Loop for routes that run through or near the park, and run our Siamese Twins Loop to explore some of the Garden’s hidden formations. The park’s location, and perhaps one of its best features, is its location near Manitou Springs and the West Side of Colorado Springs, making a long run followed up by a cold beer possible without hopping in a car, or RV.
Trail Map here (PDF) and here (also PDF).
View Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, CO in a larger map