Garden of the Gods Hiking: 7 Unmissable, Breathtaking Hiking Trails

Heading to Colorado’s Garden of the Gods? Read on to discover 7 unforgettable hikes in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This article covers everything you need to make your trip to this true geological wonder a hit.

Gavin Michael Avatar
Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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Colorado’s Garden of the Gods Park is one of the most unique hiking destinations in Colorado, if not the US as a whole. 

Where else, after all, do you get to hike in the presence of “deities” (the park’s massive, iconic sandstone formations) and visit a handful of historical sites en route? All while enjoying, that is, stunning views of a stately fourteener (Pikes Peak, aka “America’s Mountain”) and the surrounding high alpine desert…

It’s easy to understand why this place is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Natural Landmark. And after a Garden of the Gods hiking trip, you’ll also understand why around 4 million people visit this park – and take to its trails – every year. 

Ready to discover the best of those trails? Read on!

Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs: Our Top 7 Hikes

1. Siamese Twins Trail

Siamese Twins Trail
It’s easy to see where this hike gets its name from!
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Rating: Easy

The Siamese Twins Trail is a relatively easy hike with only 150 feet of elevation gain. While this is one of the shorter and milder hikes in Garden of the Gods, it isn’t stroller-friendly in certain sections, so keep this in mind if you’re hiking with your little ones in tow. 

The route begins at the far north end of the parking lot, specifically at lot 14. As you make your way down, you’ll eventually come across the Siamese Twins rock formation. This quirky formation also offers a picturesque view of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – and if you find the right angle the mountain will align directly between the “twins”.

To extend the trail, you can hop onto the Cabin Canyon Trail, which lets you view the twins from a different angle and extends your hike by 0.7 miles. Alternatively, hit the Palmer Trail and return via the Strausenback Trail, adding roughly a mile to your route.

2. Palmer Trail, Chambers Trail, Bretag Loop

Palmer Trail, Chambers Trail, Bretag Loop
View of Cheyenne Mountain from the Palmer Trail
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Rating: Moderate

These trails offer one of the longer routes in the area and serve up beautiful views of the surrounding terrain and various rock formations along the way. You can shorten or lengthen the route, however, by skipping or adding side trails.

This loop involves around 320 feet of elevation gain, which is something to consider if you or anyone in your group has mobility issues.

This section of Garden of the Gods can be a bit confusing. If you get disoriented, look out for the Gateway to get your bearings. There’s a large gap between the southern and northern Gateway Rocks, which will lead you onto the Central Garden Trail, then onto the Susan G. Bretag Trail. 

On your way out you’ll come across a fork where you head left onto the Palmer Trail, which will take you back to the parking lot. 

3. Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail
Sleeping Giant rock formation at the end of the Ridge Trail (Cropped Photo by J Dimas / CC BY 2.0)
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Rating: Easy

This mellow half-mile loop is lined by a wealth of cool rock formations that are fun for a spot of scrambling. The easy climbing is sure to prove popular with your kids and lets you take in unimpeded views of the surrounding area. (Just don’t let them climb above 10 feet, as this will incur a $500 fine!)

The trailhead sits right across the street from the southern parking lot, where you’ll find a crosswalk to get across the road safely. If you’re visiting during a busy time, make sure to be extra careful while crossing due to cars and cyclists. The Ridge Trail will eventually lead you to the bottom of the magnificent Sleeping Giant rock formation, and then back to the parking lots.

4. Perkins Central Garden Trail

Perkins Central Garden Trail
View overlooking the stunning Perkins Central Garden Trail
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Rating: Mild

The Perkins Central Garden Trail is an easy, one-mile round trip hike named after Charles Elliott Perkins, whose children conveyed the land on which Garden of the Gods sits to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909. 

This is one of the best hikes Garden of the Gods has to offer. It takes you directly through the center of the park and allows you to see a lot compared to other hikes. It offers views of the North Gateway Rock, Tower of Babel, Sentinel Rock, and the Kissing Camels rock formations along with the famed central valley and the ever-present Pikes Peak

Once you’re in the parking lot, you’ll head south on the main trail. Soon enough, the entrance to the central valley will open up. The true loop begins after passing through the gateway, and if you go left the path takes you on a clockwise loop around the central valley. After a while, it will start to move south again before looping round to the main parking area.

It’s well worth carrying a map on this hike as there are a lot of stunning side hikes to explore from the main trail. You can pick up a free, full-color map at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.

5. The Scotsman Trail and Buckskin Charlie Trail Loop

The Scotsman Trail
The Scotsman and Cheyenne Mountain from the Dakota Trail
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.1 miles/2.2miles
  • Rating: Moderate

Both of these trails can be found south of the main Central Gardens area. As these are both popular hikes, parking can be slim on summer days. We recommend trying to begin your hike early in the day to guarantee a parking spot in the main parking area.

We highly suggest you bring your free map along for this one, as it can be disorienting at certain forks in the trail.

The Scotsman path ends after 1.1 miles, but you can double the mileage of your hike by hopping onto the Buckskin Charlie Trail if you’re keen to continue onward. This trail, which offers outstanding views of the Central Garden area, veers north at the Juniper Way trail junction before rejoining the Scotsman just over a mile down.

6. Balanced Rock Loop Hike

Balanced Rock Loop
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Rating: Easy

The Balanced Rock hike is a short 0.7-mile route that takes you within close viewing distance of the awesome Balanced Rock, one of the area’s most iconic rock formations.

If you enter through the southwest corner of the park, the rock will be one of your very first stops on the trail and you’ll finish up at the Trading Post. However, we think the best way to do this hike is from the north side of the Trading Post parking lot or the south parking lot, also known as lot 14.

From both parking lots, you’ll find a connecting trail that crosses the roads. Shortly after crossing, you’ll reach the Balanced Rock trailhead. If you’re only interested in seeing Balanced Rock from the car, however, instead of hiking up there, there is a great viewpoint next to Steamboat Rock on Garden Drive.

7. Niobrara Trail

Niobrara Trail
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Rating: Moderate

The Niobrara Loop is a moderate 1.3-mile hike that offers stunning views of the Ute Valley. This is one of the less frequented hiking trails in the park because it is slightly out of the way. So if avoiding crowds is a priority, definitely consider the Niobrara Loop.

The loop winds through old piñon juniper woodlands characteristic of the area before ascending a rocky ridge, from where you’ll also catch a glimpse of Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. 

The hike starts at the South Garden parking area, where it forks off the Ute Trail. You’ll eventually cross the dam of the 2nd Valley Reservoir. As this trail comes to an end, it drops down a ridge before rejoining the Valley Reservoir path. 

Tips for Hiking in Garden of the Gods

1. Remember the Altitude

garden of the gods altitude
The Garden of the Gods will take your breathe away in more ways than one!

Garden of the Gods lies at over 6,400 feet, so it’s wise to take some time to acclimatize before tackling a long, tough day on the trails. 

2. Hydrate

This area isn’t only high, but can be pretty hot in summer, too, with average daily temperatures pipping the 80-degree mark. Most of the trails here have very little shade, so you can expect plenty of exposure to sun and heat. The altitude and exposure will dehydrate you faster than normal, so be sure to carry adequate supplies of H2O.

3. Grab a Free Map! 

These are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. Most of the Garden of the Gods hiking trails are easy to follow, but this will allow you to explore side trails or prolong your hikes by hopping onto other trails in the vicinity.

Garden of the gods entrance sign

4. Head to Colorado Springs for Hotels and Manitou Springs for Camping

For hotels, we would recommend places such as the Garden of the Gods Resort which would be a great option for convenience and trying to get the most out of your stay. Colorado Springs has a plethora of alternate hotels to choose from that will be cheaper but in a less convenient location.

We don’t recommend tent camping at the RV park or near the park. It will be crowded, loud, and it won’t be the camping experience most people hope for.

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs have some great campsites. Other camping options include Woodland Park (and nearby South Meadows Campground), which is about 25 minutes away, or at “The Crags” which is a 45-minute drive. 

It’s also worth checking out the designated campsites in Pike National Forest, which all lay on Highway 67 just north of Woodland Park.

5. Places to Eat

Here are our favorites:

  • The Black Bear Diner is a great option for American food if you want something familiar and is also extremely convenient, located off of the main GotG Road.
  • For Mexican cuisine, you can look towards Tlaquepaque in Colorado Springs and Crystal Park Cantina located in Manitou Falls.
  • Some other notable mentions would be Paravincis, Atmosphere Gastropub, Monse’s Pupuseria, and Julie’s Kitchen.

6. Protect the Natural Environment! 

Stay on the trail, keep your pets on a leash, take your trash out with you, and finally don’t carve on the rocks or uproot local plants. Following these basic LNT principles will ensure everyone can enjoy the beauty of the area.

trail in garden of the gods
Stick to the trail and always follow LNT practices!

If you’re new to the area, head on over to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. It has a nature center nearby where you can learn about the natural landscape, local plants, and wildlife. It is open from 5 am to 9 pm Monday through Sunday. It also has a gift shop to pick up snacks and trinkets and public bathrooms to use before you begin your hikes.

7. Parking Problems?

Availability for parking will always fluctuate depending on the time of day, time of the year, weather, and holidays. 

Generally, the parking will be more accessible on weekday mornings and afternoons. All parking is free. We recommend the main parking lot at the northern end of the park for easy access to the Central Gardens area and the most scenic Garden of the Gods hikes. From the Visitor Center, head west on Gateway Road before heading north. 

From here, you’ll be within short walking distance of the Palmer Trail, Kissing Camels, Tower of Babel, North Gateway Rock, and Sentinel Rock. 

8. Dabble in Other Activities

Garden of the Gods isn’t only an awesome hiking destination, but a great spot for rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

Garden of the Gods Geography and History

The area we now know as the Garden of the Gods has taken many forms throughout its history, from ancient seas to an expansive swampy floodplain. 

trail in garden of the gods 2
The area is chocka with natural beauty and history.

The park’s impressive geological features, such as the Sleeping Giant formation, Siamese Twins formation, and South Gateway rock, are the result of millions of years of erosion on what used to be sand dunes. These are ancient sediment beds, made up of sandstone and limestone giving the entire park a mystical feeling and insight into Earth’s history.

This unique part of Colorado was connected or home to several Native American tribes, including the Apache, Comanche, Lakota, Pawnee, and Ute. Several Ute petroglyphs have even been found throughout the park, and remain visible to this day.

All of this makes Garden of the Gods not only one of the best hiking destinations in the state of Colorado, but a site of unique cultural, historical, and geological significance. 

Garden of the Gods: The Perfect Playground for Humans and Deities Alike

Now over to you! 

We hope the above article has supplied all the inspiration and info you need to add this unique little corner of Colorado to your hiking bucket list. With so much to see and do, we’re sure that Garden of the Gods won’t disappoint!

What did you think of our article? If you’re planning a Garden of the Gods hiking trip, we’d love to hear from you! And if you have any other comments or questions, please post them in the box below.  

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Gavin Michael Avatar

I'm an avid backpacker, hiker, skier and climber currently living in Summit County, Colorado. All of my days off are spent skiing in the backcountry or on the resort - and when there's no snow I'm always looking for new peaks to climb and new trails to explore.

I moved to the Rocky Mountains from the East Coast to have the opportunity to do even more in the outdoors. One of my most memorable hikes was completing 3 peaks in 2 days - Crystal Peak, Fletcher Mountain, and Pacific Peak which all sit at above 13,800 feet! I ended up spending the night in a little gully that was well protected by the wind, and had perfect blue skies the next morning.

Whether I'm gearing up for a snowshoe hike or throwing on some climbing shoes for a new route - I'm always excited and passionate to be in the outdoors doing what I love.


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