Hello fellow adventurers! Thanks for stopping by my article on the best things to see, do and experience at Colorado’s Garden of the Gods. It’s my pleasure to give you some insight into this incredible destination, as well as introduce myself and share a little bit about my history as a photographer.
My name is Marco Valdez (@marcoavaldez). I grew up and still reside in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is well known for a few interesting things such as Cadillac Ranch, The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Amarillo by Morning.
Growing up, I was always fascinated with drawing. I have vivid memories of drawing Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z and other characters. This eventually led me to studying Graphic Design at my local community college.
Once I graduated with my Associate’s degree, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. I didn’t finish – leaving with a few semesters to go. This was due to a loss of motivation and just being tired of it.
I was working in a design job at the time that was not much fun. The owner of the establishment wasn’t someone that was empathetic or willing to promote a positive work environment. So I quit that job and went back to a normal nine to five which is what I’m currently still doing.
In order to not go crazy, I needed something to keep me creative. That is when I decided to pick up a camera and just have fun. I shot everything I could think of: portraits, products, street photography, macro and then landscapes. I fell in love with shooting landscapes the most.
There is just something magical about getting to photograph a beautiful location and capturing that moment, forever frozen in time. Growing up, I never thought I would get to travel due to money. I’m grateful to have that chance now and also for photography coming into my life. Photography has made me more adventurous and it has inspired me to travel more.
My Trip to the Garden of the Gods
I was planning a trip for October 2020 and was telling a friend of mine that I wanted to visit Colorado. They suggested I visit Colorado Springs with the Garden of the Gods being one of the places that came up. The first thing I did was jump on Instagram to see it for myself. That is when I knew I had to make a trip there. Overall, my trip to Colorado lasted for four days.
The Garden of the Gods is a magical place. Being surrounded by the mountains makes you feel at peace. This place should be on everyone’s bucket list (especially those in Colorado) simply to witness the beautiful rock formations, different colors and to learn about the history of the park.
I remember arriving at the Garden of the Gods and immediately seeing the beauty of the rocks and the various different colors on display. It’s even better when you go at sunrise, trust me! I’m not a morning person at all but it was totally worth getting up at sunrise for this experience.
Best Adventures at the Garden of the Gods
As soon as you drive into the Garden of the Gods, I recommend stopping at the first parking area and getting off to explore the entire park. As mentioned earlier, I suggest arriving there early for sunrise for two advantages. Firstly, you will be able to see the park in majestic sunrise colors and secondly because you will secure a really good parking spot.
Once you explore the entire park, you have to go on the scenic drive. There are a few spots along the drive where you can stop and see the Garden of the Gods but also all the mountains surrounding you in Colorado Springs. It’s beautiful! Another bonus to the scenic drive is eventually you end up at the Balanced Rock. I’m not sure how this works but it’s incredible to see!
Favorite Memory from the Garden of the Gods
One funny moment from my visit to the Garden of the Gods was waking up for sunrise but being very moody from the early morning wake up call! I remember being visibly upset for having to wake up so early. However, once I stepped out of my truck, walked into the park and saw the beautiful rock formations being hit with the sunrise light – I became instantly happy.
That moment made me appreciate the beauty of the world and also made me realize that some things are worth waking up early for. Although, to this day, I still tend to hit the snooze button a few more times than I should!
Where to Stay at the Garden of the Gods
There are plenty of places to stay around the park. Personally, I stayed at Home2 Suites by Hilton in Colorado Springs. It was great! But there are many more amazing places to stay around the area. Once you find your hotel, Airbnb or campground, I recommend visiting Manitou Springs.
This is a town located just outside of Colorado Springs with a bunch of unique shops and restaurants to enjoy. Manitou Springs is a fantastic place to take your significant other after having adventures in the outdoors.
Other Points of Interest in the Area
By far one of our favorite locations in Colorado Springs was Seven Falls. You are surrounded by mountains along the trail and eventually end up seeing a mountain with, well, you guessed it: seven waterfalls! The neat thing about Seven Falls is that you can climb up the mountain through its staircase. But it’s 224 steps. It’s a tough climb but if I can do it, anyone can!
Pikes Peak was another epic spot. This might be a tough hike but it’s totally worth it. You can either drive up 14,115 feet or join some sort of expedition or tour. I will say though that being up there (regardless of how you get up) is very scenic. You will want to stop everywhere to take photos.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings should also be on your bucket list. These date back 800-1000 years and they are truly an incredible sight to see. History abounds at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. You will get to learn a lot of history.
Need to Know Before you Go
Get to the Garden of the Gods early. You will thank me later! Parking can become almost impossible later in the day. Be like me and get up for sunrise (without the grumpy mood). Also, the Garden of the Gods is not like other trails where you need to climb up many feet. This place has paved pathways, so you don’t have to worry about wearing hiking boots and such.