The Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark, is located in Colorado Springs CO and is completely free to visit. Set at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the main draw of the park is to marvel at the red sandstone rock formations scattered throughout. There are 17 different formations altogether and many different hiking trails totalling 21 miles. The Visitor Centre is a good place to start, you can pick up a free map which is helpful as there isn’t a huge amount of signage out on the trails.
Garden of the Gods Hiking
The Visitor Centre also has one of my favourite views in the park. You can see North Gateway Rock, South Gateway Rock and Gray Rock in front of the Rocky Mountains. I like the contrast of colours, from the orange/brown in the front to the green of the lower mountains and then the white of the snow capped Pikes Peak.
Driving into Great Sands Dunes National Park, it’s hard to believe the beauty of what you are seeing as you get closer and closer to the landscape. Miles of sand dunes; the tallest in North America, with a sweeping backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It doesn’t get more picturesque than this folks. This spectacular area has it all…wetlands, forests, tundra, mountain views, trails, and even sand sledding! I highly recommend adding this stop to your travel itinerary if you are in Colorado! Great Sand Dunes is located about 4 hours south of Denver, or 3 hours south of Colorado Springs.
This unique water playground makes its appearance on average from April to June, with peak flow being in May, but it depends on precipitation and snow melt for that year. We had an absolute BLAST playing in the water here and taking in the background views. Exploring here was probably the highlight of the trip for the kids, despite the mosquitoes (see safety section at end of post).
High Dune Trail: This trail is around 2.5 miles, and if you make it to the top, it is WELL worth the hike. You will have a 360 degree view of the dunes along with the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. It is absolutely breathtaking! Hiking to the top is a little over a mile, but is a bit arduous due to the fact that you will be hiking in sand, at elevation. This hike starts behind the visitor center at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, and climbs almost 700 feet to the top. Take it slow, and bring plenty of water. Hiking down is much easier! You can have a bit of fun with it! If you rented a sandboard or sled, you can slide down, or you can roll down it! Or run it! Whichever you choose, your descent will be MUCH easier than the hike up! I suggest beginning this hike earlier in the morning, especially if you are hiking in the summer, because the sand won’t be nearly as hot. Also, you will have a better shot at taking some awesome and dramatic shots of the dunes due to the position of the sun in the morning. After the hike, if you visit between April and June, you can cool off in Medano Creek!