Even if you’ve never been to Colorado, you’ve probably seen the Garden of the Gods. It’s one of those places that tend to show up in the background in car commercials. No matter what you’re driving, you’ll probably enjoy it a little more as you’re looping around this beautiful outcropping of red and white sandstone and limestone.
The Garden of the Gods formed during massive geologic uplifting, which pushed up the horizontal layers of sedimentary rock. When first discovered by surveyors in 1859, one suggested the area would be a great location for a beer garden. The other declared it a fitting place for the gods to gather. The name “Garden of the Gods” stuck.
I arrived at the Garden of the Gods after my trip over Gold Camp Road. The pesky clouds that made photography difficult were now hit-and-miss, occasionally letting bursts of sunlight through, to set the rocks on fire with color.
I didn’t have long before the sun would set behind Pike’s Peak (which makes for a nice backdrop on clear days — though on this day, the mountain was hidden by clouds). I parked and quickly walked down the paths into the middle of the jumble of tilted rocks. It’s not difficult to find good places for photographs here.
The Garden of the Gods is free to the public, thanks to railroad builder Charles Elliott Perkins. He purchased the land in 1879, with plans to build a summer home here. The home was never built, since Perkins decided he didn’t want to spoil the park’s natural state. Two years after his death, in 1909, his children donated the land to Colorado Springs, with a few conditions: the park must be free, no alcohol may be served on the property, and no buildings would be built in the park.
Garden of the Gods will probably be crowded, so your biggest photography challenge might be eliminating people from your shots. There are 15 miles of paths that wind through the rocks, so with a little work, you should be able to escape the crowds.
I had almost given up, and was ready to walk back to the car, when one of the last sunbeams of the day illuminated this monolith near the middle of the park.
Somewhere under those clouds is Pike’s Peak.
Once it was too dark to take any more pictures, I headed back to my hotel. Along the way (on US Highway 24) I spotted a new restaurant called Rudy’s Country Store. It’s a chain of restaurants, based in Texas, but I had never seen one before. Rudy’s has fantastic beef brisket and smoked turkey. I highly recommend you stop here for dinner.
As I left Rudy’s, I glanced at my tires, and discovered that one of them was nearly flat. And by “nearly”, I mean it had about 2 pounds of air pressure in it. I was able to drive to an auto parts store nearby, for a can of Fix-A-Flat. The tire problem meant a slight delay in beginning the next day — I had planned to return to Garden of the Gods for some sunrise photography. As it turned out, the next day started off cloudy, so it didn’t matter much that I had to spend an hour waiting on a tire repair.
But once the tire was properly inflated and ready for more dirt driving, I did return to Garden of the Gods, to begin my first adventure on Day 5: Rampart Range Road.
Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive through Garden of the Gods: