Almost-arches at Garden of the Gods
It’s not easy finding a place of solitude in Garden of the Gods, a place free of the masses. We’re not recommending one here. You won’t be alone here, especially in the summer.
But in the fall and winter, you just might have this hide-away overlook to yourself. Also, you might find some of the park’s rock formations that you never knew existed.
We’re calling them almost-arches for how the sandstone pillars almost connect, forming a gateway. Walk through, and you’ll find yourself in an enclave perfect for short scrambles. Maneuver yourself atop the great slabs and find yourself with 360-degree views of the entire park: the red monoliths jutting from the woodlands; the city fading with the plains out east; Pikes Peak looming large over the foothills, every signature promontory and canyon in sight from Cheyenne Mountain to the south, Mount Herman to the north.
Yes, for tourists, this might be an even better photo op than Balanced Rock. That outcrop’s parking lot, at the Garden’s southwest quadrant, is the starting point here. What used to be the private commercial site of Goerke & Son Photography in the 1890s continues to be overrun by visitors. For a pleasant surprise, they can explore behind that gravity-defying rock, following Rampart Range Road going west.
Don’t drive on the road with the expectation to park. Simply walk or ride your bike about 0.15 miles up, coming to that soaring gateway.
Watch your step going through, as the ground tends to be muddy. The rocks, too, are dangerously slick for climbing. Continue through the next naturally formed passage ahead, walking over the shelf-like rocks that seamlessly rise to the overlook.
Trip log: 0.32 miles round trip (out and back)
Getting there: Going through the park’s main entrance off 30th Street, follow the signs for Balanced Rock on the looping road. Parking lot also reached by taking Manitou Springs exit off U.S. 24 west, turning right onto El Paso Boulevard and following to Garden Drive.
FYI: Dogs on leash. Icy in winter; use traction.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE