Garden of the Gods can feel less than natural. It can be hard to escape the crowds, the constant churn of traffic and taste of fumes. However magnificent the sandstone sanctuary, the looping road is never far.
May we suggest some precious dirt that crosses the road.
Ridge Trail can be easy to miss — close but not exactly obvious from the parking lot numbered 10, in the South Garden area. People here are more likely to proceed on Ute Trail, which we previously covered as a loop in this series. It’s a fine way to extend your hike. While brief, Ridge Trail perfectly captures a wild slice of the world-famous park.
From the parking lot, look north, directly across the road from the interpretive signage. We started the loop by going right at the split.
The path gently rises from tall grass to thick greenery of yucca, juniper and pinyon. The view is splendid of towerlike Gray Rock. The big, red fin of Gateway Rock enters the vista atop the ridge, along with Pikes Peak and the foothills.
One feels immersed among the soaring crags, close enough to admire their rugged, ancient details. Here, we realized we were in close vicinity of the Central Garden area. In contrast, there was no one else around.
The trail seems to disappear on the descent over a rock shelf. We kept right near the fencing, coming to a post pointing left. The trail becomes clear at this turn, looping back down to the trailhead.
Trip log: 1/2 mile, 84 feet elevation gain
Getting there: If entering from the park’s main entrance across from the visitor center on Gateway Road, you’ll have to turn right on Juniper Way Loop, following back around to the South Garden parking lot (No. 10), near the intersection with Gateway Road. Alternatively, along U.S. 24, go north on Ridge Road into the park, staying straight to the lot.
FYI: Park open 5 a.m.-10 p.m. May 1-Oct. 31; 5 a.m.-9 p.m. Nov. 1-April 30; Hiking only. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE