Garden of the Gods - Colorado Springs, Colorado

Garden of the Gods is a scenic public park located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Entrance to the park is free because of the wishes of Charles Elliot Perkins, whose children donated the land to the city in 1909. The park is full of trails designed for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, and all offer beautiful views of the surrounding red rock landscape. One of the park's most popular trails is named Perkins, and has been paved in an effort to combat erosion of the park's central garden caused by the hundreds of thousands of visitors that travel to the park each year.

Due to Garden of the Gods' unusual steep rock formations, it is also an attractive challenge for seasoned rock climbers. An annual permit from the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is required for rock climbing in the park. The only rules regarding rock climbing in the Garden of the Gods are proper equipment, following posted rules, staying on established climbing routes, and climbing alone is prohibited. Due to the instability of the local sandstone, particularly following periods of heavy rain, a number of fatalities have occurred over the years.

Garden of the Gods is also a very popular training ground for competitive mountain bikers due to its scenic views, safe, one-way roads, and healthy clean air. The beautiful geologic features at Garden of the Gods are comprised of ancient sedimentary beds of red, blue, purple and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone. These sedimentary beds were originally deposited horizontally, but have since been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Pikes Peak massif.

Garden of the Gods features abundant evidence of past ages, ancient seas, eroded remains of ancient mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and sand dune fields. A spectacular shear fault is also evident at the spot where the Tower of Babel meets the Fountain Formation. The name Colorado, is said to come from the color of the sandstone seen abundantly throughout the Garden of the Gods. The park is also home to a wide range of fossils, from marine forms to plant fossils, and even a number of dinosaur fossils.

Within the Garden of the Gods there are a number of formations known as hogbacks, so named because they look like the spines of a pig. These formations are ridges of sandstone whose layers are tilted. Some of these layers are vertically oriented, instead of lying horizontally, making for interesting formations. Some of these hogbacks stretch several hundred feet in length, and the tallest, known as North Gateway Rock, rises some 320 feet in the air. This hogback also features one of the more notable red rock features of the park, known as Kissing Camels due to its resemblance to two camels sitting face to face with their lips touching. Another popular formation in Garden of the Gods is an enormous rock called Balancing Rock.

Near the entrance to the park lies the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. In addition to housing a gift shop and cafe, the Center also offers free daily nature presentations. There are also a variety of natural history exhibits covering minerals, geology, plants, local wildlife and Native American cultural history. Other offerings at the center include nature hikes, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tour of the park, film presentations and other special programs. Proceeds from the center fund park maintenance, and expenses.

Not far from the Visitor Center is an open-air museum called the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, a re-creation of typical life in Colorado Springs from a number of historical periods. On the walking tour of the site visitors will encounter a restored ranch house, a one room log cabin, a tipi, demonstrations of smithing and facts about the cultures of Native American civilizations that have lived in the area. Rock Ledge Ranch is not technically a part of Garden of the Gods, but is located right next to it. It is only open on certain days and a modest fee is charged for entrance.

The name of Garden of the Gods dates back to August 1859. As the story goes, two surveyors working on setting up nearby Colorado City were exploring, and came across the area. One of the men, M.S. Beach, suggested that the area would be a suitable place for a beer garden. The other, Rufus Cable, exclaimed "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods." A beer garden never materialized at the location, but the name stuck.

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