It is very easy to customize a loop of any distance you might want to undertake in Garden of the Gods. With many trail options to choose from, you can change the route to suit your needs, while exploring a (somewhat) less-crowded area of the park. No matter which route you choose, you'll still be afforded views of the various famous rock formations along the way. The combination of vibrant red rock, beautiful trail, and scenic stopping points make this a lovely loop in the Colorado Springs area.
Starting at the main parking lot, cross the road and hop on the Palmer Trail
. You can go clockwise or counter- clockwise, the hills and obstacles will be fairly similar in difficulty in whichever direction you choose. This route begins by following the Palmer Trail
as it meanders first west and then south. You'll enjoy the well-maintained trail as it brings you ever closer to the Three Graces formation, and the Giant Footprints shortly after.
Continue south, taking in the views until the Scotsman Formation comes into view. Here, you'll cross the road to head towards the Scotsman Trail
, and the rock formation of the same name. There's also a picnic area in the vicinity with restrooms available in the summer months. Keep right/south at a fork in the trail, and you'll soon pass Hamp Hut. Owned by the Girl Scouts of Colorado, the hut is a fun stopping point where you may catch a glimpse of Girl Scouts practicing their camping skills. Continue on the Hamp Trail
, and the Eastern Hamp Trail
to continue the tour of the park.
You'll make a right onto the Buckskin Charley Trail
, which leads visitors on a winding route among open pine stands, and through meadows before crossing Juniper Way Loop to connect with the Niobrara Trail
. The Niobrara Trail
defines the Southeastern boundary of the park, providing hikers with some spectacular views of the prominent rock features that lay to the north. Eventually, this trail will turn to the north, to start the journey back to your vehicle. Please be aware the mountain bikes are permitted on this section of trail.
As you continue north, you'll be afforded incredible views of the Sleeping Giant, Gray Rock, and the Cathedral Spires. The trail is quite gentle, providing you with plenty of time to look up nd admire the view. Eventually, you'll take a short connector trail to the Ute Trail
to continue heading north. At this point, most of the rock formations that you were admiring from afar have transitioned into the foreground, and you'll likely be glued to the western views in this portion of trail!
As you continue on, you'll eventually cross Gateway Road, where you'll catch the Susan G. Bretag Trail
. From here, almost all of the most famous rock formations can be seen to the west, including the White Rock with Signature Rock behind it, as well as the Kissing Camels
, and North Gateway Rock. Since you'll be nearing the parking area that you started from, there will likely be more visitors in this section. Luckily, the red rock formations, open prairie, and blue Colorado sky provide ample scenery for all. Eventually the Susan G. Bretag Trail
transitions to the Palmer Trail
, which you'll only follow for a short while to return to the parking area.
There are many opportunities to cross the road into the main paved trails of the park if you need to bail for whatever reason. Most of the trails in the park are very well marked and maintained, but some trails in this area can become a little obscure and less traveled. If you do get lost, however, the main rock formations are pretty much always visible, so just find a trail that goes toward them, and you'll find your way back to the parking lot.