Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs worth the trek

Budding scientist Bridgitte Haggerty explains to her younger brother, Austin, how sedimentary rock layers have been tilted upright and exposed in dramatic fashion at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.


Garden of the Gods

Drive time and distance: 5 hours 4 minutes; 309.76 miles

Length: Numerous short hikes

Hiking Time: 15 minutes to one day

Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous

Did you know beer played a vital role in the naming of Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs?

I knew Coors beer was vital in the creation of Golden, but who woulda’ thunk that here at the World Headquarters of Focus on the Family, a group that handles so much mail it has its own zip code; here in the back yard of Ted Haggard, former pastor of the 11,000-member New Life Church and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals; here in the hotbed of conservatism, beer — not wine — was the divine nectar that led to the naming of this spectacular place.

“It was August of 1859 when two surveyors started out from Denver City to begin a town site, soon to be called Colorado City,” reads the literature at Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center.

“While exploring nearby locations, they came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach, who related this incident, suggested that it would be a ‘capital place for a beer garden’ when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, a ‘young and poetic man,’ exclaimed, ‘Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods. It has been so called ever since.’ “

Well, I’ll be dipped in hops.

But here’s the deal with beer, wine or any other intoxicating liquor. It was never to be “manufactured, sold, or dispensed here.”

According to historical accounts preserved at the Nature Center, “By the 1870s, the railroads had forged their way west. In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer founded Colorado Springs while extending the lines of his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.

“In 1879, General Palmer repeatedly urged his friend, Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, to establish a home in the Garden of the Gods and to build his railroad from Chicago to Colorado Springs. Although the Burlington never reached Colorado Springs directly, Perkins did purchase two-hundred and forty acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home in 1879. He later added to the property but never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public.

“Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park, although it had been open to the public for years. In 1909, Perkins’ children, knowing their father’s feeling for the Garden of the Gods, conveyed his four-hundred eighty acres to the City of Colorado Springs. It would be known forever as the Garden of the Gods ‘where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park’.”

Now where else will you find this information, other than in today’s edition of your Daily Sentinel?

Well, you could visit the park. It’s only about 300 miles away, and you need a trip to the dark side of the Continental Divide anyway.

Take Interstate-70 east toward Denver. Just as you get into the big city, you’ll see the C-470 east exit, No. 260. Take that exit toward Colorado Springs.

In 25.9 miles, merge onto I-25 south, still heading toward Colorado Springs. If you are in your wife’s vehicle, it may have a tendency to merge toward Park Meadows Shopping Mall, but hang onto the steering wheel tight — and merge right.

In 48.4 miles, take the Garden of the Gods Road, Exit 146. Keep right at the fork and travel on West Garden of the Gods Road for 2.3 miles. Turn left onto North 30th Street and travel 1.5 miles to the park.

Besides beer, what makes this place so spectacular? Garden of the Gods is composed entirely of sedimentary rock layers that have been tilted upright and exposed in dramatic fashion. Each ridge and valley represents a different period from the past 65 to 300 million years. Erosion has sculpted these rocks into fascinating shapes.

A number of ecosystems also meet in this ecotone. The Plains Zone (cool desert) extends from 3,500 feet to 6,000 feet above sea level. Within this Plains zone, two ecosystems are illustrated within Garden of the Gods: the cottonwood-willow ecosystem and the prairie-grassland ecosystem.

The Foothills-Transition Zone extends from 6,000 to 8,000 feet. Three distinct ecosystems are found within this zone inside the park: The pinyon-juniper ecosystem, mountain shrub ecosystem, and ponderosa pine ecosystem.

You don’t need beer, wine or other liquor to become intoxicated with Garden of the Gods. Save it until you get home and view the photos you took of this spectacular place.


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