Places I like: Garden of the Gods

Think of the greatest city park you’ve been to in your life. All the things that make it great, fun and healthy. Then wrap your mind around this: It’s not as good as a certain city park in Colorado Springs.

Sorry, but it’s probably not even close. All the designs of man cannot hold a candle to the contours created by the ancient geological forces that pushed Pikes Pike heavenwards.

Welcome to Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods is, by definition, a public park owned by the city of Colorado Springs. A lot of people drive through it. Many more walk around or hike its paths. But the park is best seen and enjoyed with a much more vigorous exploration.

The city has taken time to preserve the park’s amazing natural features, but also has included 15 miles of trails for hikers, trail runners, cyclists and horseback riders.

And let’s not forget about the climbing.

The massive walls, towers and needles that shoot up with nearly unfathomable verticality seem radically out of place here. Such formations – rusty sandstone, pale limestone and a slew of other sedimentary rock – appears as they were plucked out of some desert wasteland in Arizona and plopped down in the semi-arid pine forests of Colorado’s east slope. They practically beg climbers to explore them.

Such formations beg the question: How did they get here? And this is where the history lesson comes in.

These vertical formations were once buried deep under the soil as horizontal plates of compressed soils from primordial times when the high plains of eastern Colorado were under water.

But the massive forces that thrust Pikes Peak to more than 14,000 feet also unlocked the high plains’ geological secrets, breaking up those old sea beds and pushing them into the air. Wind, rain and time further carved them into the dramatic formations we see today.

And these gifts of time and geological movement blessed the park with some of the best climbing routes any single city could ever hope to possess. From near-ground bouldering problems to multi-pitch walls, visitors can challenge their skills without ever leaving the city limits.

Climbing. Running. Cycling. Hiking. Horseback riding. All within a single city park. That’s why Garden of the Gods is better than any park in your city and likely any other park where you’ve ever been.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088