A dark red and yellow sunset and a foreboding sky hangs over a walled road at Garden of the Gods in Colorado
Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock.com

Can you drive through Garden of the Gods?

Published by Dianne Titos on September 13 2023

A journey through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs will take you through some of the most amazing rock formations anywhere in the world. These incredible sculptures of nature were formed during the Ice Age, initially being mountains that have eroded over time to leave the impressive geological structures that exist today.

The drive around Garden of the Gods Loop is a 4-mile journey that takes around 20 minutes. Explore the many walking trails along the way to get a close-up view of the stunning rock features including the Tower of Babel, Kissing Camels, and Montezuma Tower.

Driving through Garden of the Gods gives a stunning insight into the unique sandstone formations that have evolved over 270 million years. Read on to discover more about the park and how to get there, and let our useful guide help you plan your adventure through the park.

Can you drive through Garden of the Gods?

The good news is you can drive through the Garden of the Gods around the popular one-way loop. The route takes you around the park passing many of the popular features on offer, and there are several parking lots available to leave the car and take one of the hiking trails to get up close to some of the amazing rock features.

You can also drive through Garden of the Gods in a northwest-east direction following the Rampant Range Road if you have already done the loop or if you prefer to have a longer drive to savor the views. Following this route, you will only drive through the south end of the loop.

Driving through Garden of the Gods on the Juniper Way Loop

The Juniper Way Loop is a 3.7-mile route around Garden of the Gods and can be accessed from the south, or from the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, an excellent place to learn all about the park and its attraction, and pick up a map before starting your adventure.

From the Visitor Center, the route heads west along Gateway Rd, passing Rock Ledge Historic Site before reaching Juniper Way Loop.

A view of the South Gateway Rock formation at Garden of the Gods, framed by twisted Juniper Trees with a blue sky behind
The South Gateway Rock is one of our favorite features of Garden of the Gods, and is one of the first stops along the Juniper Way Loop.
John Hoffman/Shutterstock.com

From here, you'll head north, passing South Gateway Rock and Chuckwagon Pavillion as you head towards the Main Parking Lot. You can park up and take the trail up to Kissing Camels in Perkins Central Garden, before continuing along the Loop, which then heads south towards Garden Drive and Three Sisters Plaza.

The route then passes Ridge Trail Loop and Easter Rock, before passing the southern entrance and Ridge Road, then heads north to the South Garden Parking Lot.

Again, you can choose to embrace the trails and explore the park on foot before continuing north passing Kindergarten Rock and then turning right back onto Gateway Road and the short journey back to the Visitor Center.

Driving through Garden of the Gods on the Alternative Route

Our alternative route around Garden of the Gods doesn't involve a Loop and begins at the Visitor and Nature Center. The route follows the Juniper Way Loop around the one-way system before heading along Garden Drive.

The route takes you past The Scotsman Picnic Ground, the perfect place to stop and have lunch, before joining Garden Lane and continuing past the Garden of the Gods Trading Post.

Taking Rampart Range Road leads you past Balanced Rock and Garden of the Gods Lookout, where you'll witness the most amazing views out across the park, before heading north as the road weaves its way through the park to Lone Tree Lookout.

As its name suggests, there is a lone tree, a Ponderosa Pine, and the lookout gives a beautiful panoramic view over the park. The drive to Lone Tree Lookout is partly on unpaved roads, and we strongly recommend a 4WD vehicle for attempting this route.

How long does it take to drive through Garden of the Gods?

A drive around the Loop road through Garden of the Gods is only a short journey. But you'll want to stop and view the attractions in person rather than simply driving past, and it is easy to spend a whole day taking in as many of the iconic rock formations in this incredible landscape.

Travel route options through Garden of the Gods
RouteStarting PointEnding PointSeasonal availability
Main Loop RouteGarden of Gods Visitor and Nature CenterGarden of Gods Visitor and Nature Center (Loop)Open year-round
Alternative RouteGarden of Gods Visitor and Nature CenterLone Tree LookoutOpen year-round. NB. However, unpaved roads can be difficult in snow and ice

Which entrance should you arrive at in Garden of the Gods?

There are two entrances to the Garden of the Gods, and the one you choose will depend on where you are traveling from.

If you approach from the south, Highway 24 runs past the bottom of the park from Colorado Springs, and you can reach the southern entrance by taking the exit north, opposite Red Rock Canyon, onto Ridge Road, which will lead you to Balanced Rock Entrance.

A red rock boulder that looks like it might tip over at any point, sunny day
Balanced Rock is a fantastic starting point for your tour of Garden of the Gods - and a great photo spot, too!
John Hoffman/Shutterstock.com

Alternatively, you can take the entrance close to the Visitor Center on the eastern side of the park, which is easily accessible from I-25, which links Denver and Colorado Springs. The proximity to the Interstate makes it a popular attraction from wherever you are driving from.

There is no admission fee to enter Garden of the Gods, and the park is open all year round, making it a popular attraction throughout the year.

Travel times and distances from major cities in the US to Garden of the Gods
Origin CityRecommended entranceTotal DistanceTotal Time
Denver, COGarden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center70 miles1 hour 15 minutes
Cheyenne, WYGarden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center170 miles2 hours 45 minutes
Albuquerque, NMSouth (Garden of the Gods Trading Post)380 miles5 hours 30 minutes
Kansas City, MOGarden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center590 miles8 hours 40 minutes
Phoenix, AZSouth (Ridge Road at High Point Overlook)800 miles12 hours
Las Vegas, NVGarden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center810 miles12 hours 10 minutes

Things you need to know about driving through Garden of the Gods

The drive through Garden of the Gods is a straightforward trip around the one-way Loop and is an excellent way to witness the jaw-dropping sandstone creations that nature has created.

The route takes you through the heart of the park and has ample signage to ensure you don't miss any of the attractions and you can enjoy the incredible scenery without having to worry about oncoming traffic. That said, do be aware of vehicles ahead of you slowing or stopping suddenly to catch the view.

Garden of the Gods is situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, making it home to various mountain animals and wildlife.

Bighorn sheep, black bears, mule deer, and mountain lions all call the area home, along with over 130 species of birds, so it's important to respect their habitat and also keep a safe distance from certain species, and look out for them wandering in the road.

A herd of Bighorn Sheep stand atop the rugged rocks in the Garden of The Gods park, with green trees obscuring them slightly, and a blue sky above
So many species call Garden of the Gods home, including Bighorn Sheep, who you're not unlikely to meet on your trip.
John Hoffman/Shutterstock.com

Garden of the Gods is busiest during the summer months, and with temperatures averaging around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it's ideal weather for exploring the trails and enjoying the great outdoors. This can mean the journey around the park takes longer, and parking places will be at a premium.

During winter, the park is much quieter, and it's a great way to experience its serenity. There is a chance of snow and ice, giving a different perspective to the rock structures, but extra care should be taken when driving.

If the weather becomes too severe, then the park may close temporarily, so always check the forecast in advance before beginning your journey.

The speed limit throughout the park is 20 MPH, but in a one-way system, you can only go as fast as the traffic flow allows, so always remain courteous to other visitors and respect the speed limits at all times.

Tips to drive through Garden of the Gods in the shortest possible time

A drive through Garden of the Gods is a straightforward journey around the Main Loop, but it can get busy at peak times of the year, and as with any road trip close to mountainous regions, the weather can be very changeable.

Red rocks tower over a road winding through the park and shrubbery in Garden of The Gods, Colorado
The distinctive red rocks of this region mean that your views will always have a warm, earthy tone.
Gary Reinwald/Shutterstock.com

With that in mind, here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a drive through Garden of the Gods:

  • Begin your journey through Garden of the Gods at the Visitor Center, and discover more about the history of the area before picking up a map and planning your adventure in the park.
  • The park is blessed with many excellent trails, making it popular with hikers and cyclists alike, so keep your eye out for them on your drive.
  • The weather can change quickly, close to the mountains, so dress accordingly. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and your walking shoes for heading out on the trails.
  • For an alternative journey around the park, you can take a trolley or jeep tour or take a segway. A guided tour will provide information on the rock formations and the area, allowing you to keep your eyes on the view and not on the road.
  • The park is open to visitors from 5am - 10pm over the summer months and 5am - 9pm during winter. The visitor center's opening hours are 9am - 6pm during the summer, and it closes slightly earlier at 5pm over the winter months.
  • The park is popular with visitors at any time of year, so visiting early in the morning, or in the early evening will be less crowded, and parking will be easier. You can also witness incredible sunsets over the incredible red rocks.

Things to see on a drive around Garden of the Gods

With so much to see at Garden of the Gods, you'll be spoilt for choice of things to do. Below is a list of some of our favorite activities and attractions to help you plan your itinerary:

  1. Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center - The ideal place to start your visit. Learn about the park's fascinating geology and history, and learn about the wildlife that live there. Grab a souvenir or some last-minute hiking gear at the gift shop, along with a map to aid your exploration.
  2. Balanced Rock - A gravity-defying giant rock giving the impression it could topple over at any second! A must-see photo opportunity for social media.
  3. Siamese Twins - Located near Balanced Rock, the twins are two rock spires connected at the base, creating a frame. In the gap, you can see the famed Pikes Peak. The Twins are one of the most photographed in the park.
  4. Kissing Camels - See the whimsical rocks resembling two kissing camels. Take a walk along the Perkins Central Garden Trail to capture the best view, or see them at night when spotlights light them up.
  5. Central Garden Trail - A popular paved trail that meanders through the heart of the park. It'll take you to up-close views of rock formations and an easy, accessible walk.
  6. High Point Overlook - You can enjoy a panoramic view from another perspective at High Point Overlook. See the Garden of the Gods and surrounding landscapes, including Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains.
Road running between Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, Colorado, with snowy mountains in the background
Yes, you definitely can drive through Garden of the Gods, and it's a beautiful little trip.
John Hoffman/Shutterstock.com

A visit to Garden of the Gods will leave you in awe at the majestic formations that were once shelters for the Native Americans that inhabited the park. The towering sandstone creations are awe-inspiring at any time of year so get planning your trip today!