March 26, 2012.
About 7 miles of casual walking through the park…trails ? ?
On day 3 of my Colorado vacation, Sue and I drove down to Colorado Springs to have lunch with my grandmother and then explore Garden of the Gods Park.
This free city park has 15 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, a visitor’s center and extensive “Trading Post” as well as gorgeous desert scenery in all directions. We left the car at the Visitor’s Center and walked along the Gateway Trail to the popular central area of the park. From there we joined up with the Central Garden Trail, which was teeming with visitors. Red, orange and white rock formations rose into the sky around every corner. Rock climbers scaled these vertical walls while casual tourists slowly ambled beneath them. We escaped the crowded loop and continued southwest along the Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail with the intention of traversing the park.
Cool rocks beckoned off-trail visitation. One of these rocks had a piton shoved into a small pocket. I am sure the local climbers have explored every inch of the rocks out here. As the sun shone and the wind blew, we continued our journey with the Siamese Twins trail. The Siamese Twins was a rock formation that contained a small window; on a clear day we would have gotten a view of Pikes Peak through there. But, the haze from the wildfires blurred any distant vistas today.
A little more walking brought us to the Trading Post. We went inside to look at all the trinkets and treat ourselves to ice cream. We hung out in the sun for awhile, wishing we could store the Vitamin D for our inevitable return to gray Portland.
The last stop was Balanced Rock, which we drove past on our way into the park. This place was under attack by tourists big and small. Sue patiently tried to get a person-free shot of Balanced Rock while I explored the features on the other side of the street. I discovered an old stairway built into the adjacent rock feature, which must have led to some old view point or gift shop. The bottom of the staircase must have been removed to prevent people from climbing up there. Nearby was a sign warning of the dangers of climbing without knowledge or gear, referring to the fatalities that have occurred at the park. With all sorts of tasty rock so accessible to the average person, it’s not surprising that many accidents happen there.
We’d now seen all the major features of the park and simply had to make our way back to the car. We took essentially the same way back, except that we followed the other side of the Siamese Twins Loop and took the trail to the west of the driving route to connect back with the Central Garden. We got slightly different scenery and a bit more shade this way.
The crowds had died back a bit so it was slightly more comfortable to weave our way through the main rock features and take pictures.
Although it seems the park encourages people to drive from parking lot to parking lot in order to see all the sights, Sue and I had a wonderful tour of the park on foot. We actually got quite a large stretch of trail to ourselves once we walked away from the major points of interest. This is a gem of a park that I would love to visit again if I find myself in this part of the world in the future.
See the photos from the entire trip on Picasa.