Thinking of visiting Garden of the Gods with kids? Don’t miss this family friendly guide to one of Colorado’s most epic places.
Garden of the Gods Park, rightfully so, makes every list of must see places in Denver and/or Colorado. Completely free for public enjoyment, it is the most visited site in the Pikes Peak area and the top attraction in Colorado Springs.
With 1300 acres of sandstone formations, trails accessible to hikers and bikers, and rock climbing, it’s no wonder tourists flock to the site to witness the iconic red rock formations. Can you believe the rocks are 250 million years old…
Visiting with a four and two year old, I hooked them with a quick one liner: did you know these rocks are older than the dinosaurs?! Instead of rolling their adorable little eyes at yet another family hike, they were smitten to hike through something prehistoric.
Sometimes I’m winning at the whole travel with kids thing… other times my toddler eats ice in his airplane seat.
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Visiting Garden of the Gods with kids is thrilling – for adventurous parents and for kids. It’s a perfect day excursion for travelers who don’t want to miss the must see sites, but are needing something not too strenuous and demanding.
Read on for our quick but comprehensive guide to visiting Garden of the Gods with kids.
We’ll cover which trails are stroller friendly and which are easy enough for little feet to hike? Plus, how much time should you leave to explore with littles, and is there an ideal time of year to visit? And you’ll find tips for older kids and teens who might want be up for a bit more of an adventure.
A Guide to Visiting Garden of the Gods with Kids
When to Visit Garden of the Gods with Kids
The best time to visit Colorado Springs in general is March through May, or September through October. This is when you’ll find ideal temperatures, though it may not coincide with a long school break.
If you’re planning a visit during the summer, we always suggest walking or hiking earlier in the morning when it’s cooler. The park is open daily from 9am to 9 or 10pm.
I suggest leaving half of a day to explore the park. Consider bringing a picnic lunch and going at your leisure.
Start with the Paved Trails
Whether you park at the visitor’s center or the overflow lot, you’ll head to the Gateway Trail, and on to the Central Garden Trail. Both are paved and both wheelchair and stroller accessible.
You know I love babywearing, but it’s nice to have the option of letting the stroller do the work for you.
The Central Garden Trail is a super easy 1.5 mile trail with less than 30 feet of elevation gain. It’s the heart of the park and sits at the base of most of the must see rock formations, like the kissing camels and three graces.
Add Additional Hiking Trails if You Wish
While you’ll see many impressive towering red rocks from the paved trail, the vantage points from some of the additional trails are exquisite and worth the extra effort.
Some short, easy trails for hiking in Garden of the Gods with kids are:
- Upper Loop Trail: .4 miles, less than 100 foot elevation gain. An easy loop, but with a bit of climbing, to add to the Central Garden Trail as it’s right there with exception photo ops.
- Ridge Trail: .4 mile loop, less than 100 foot elevation gain. Not located in the main Garden area, so less crowded.
- Siamese Twins Trail: .5 mile roundtrip, 123 foot elevation gain. Displays unique views of Pikes Peak through the natural window.
- Cabin Canyon Trail: .7 mile loop, less than 100 foot elevation gain. A great trail to couple with the Siamese Twins Trail if you’re up for a longer hike through Garden of the Gods with kids who are experienced hikers.
- Balanced Rock Trail: 1 mile, less than 100 foot elevation gain. Another flat hike to add to the Siamese Twins Trail, or, obviously, for exception views of Balanced Rock.
Bring a Picnic Lunch
There are two picnic areas within the park: Scotsman Picnic Area, which has 5 tables, and Spring Canyon Picnic Area, which has 6. There are no reservations on the picnic tables but you are able to bring in propane to grill.
Spring Canyon is near the Ridge Trail loop, Siamese Twins Trail, and Cabin Canyon Trail, making it a great starting point or pit stop. You can also access the Strausenback Trail, which heads off separately. The Scotsman Picnic Area provides access to the Scotsman Trail and the Bretag/Palmer Trails, which are a bit longer.
You Can Drive Through Garden of the Gods
No one likes taking kids out of their carseats if it’s not necessary. And while you absolutely want to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of the park, it’s admittedly more difficult to see everything when you’re in and out of the car multiple times.
Fortunately, much of the park is viewable from your vehicle or by utilizing the pull-offs for photo ops.
We opted to hike near the Central Garden Trail, adding the Upper Loop Trail, and then drive towards the southwest part of the park. Simply take the Juniper Way Loop to Garden Ln. Towards the end you’ll witness more rock formations, including the Siamese Twins and Balanced Rock. Of course you can get out and hike here as well, but know that you don’t have to hike everywhere to see it all.
Don’t Miss the Visitor’s Center
Now a world class museum, the Visitor’s Center is an exciting part of Garden of the Gods with kids or without! Learn about geology, ecology, and the cultural history of the park through hands on exhibits.
One of the geology exhibits features the only known skull of an entirely new species of dinosaur, Theiophytalia kerri, which was discovered inside the park and named after the park and the scientist who discovered it.
Become a Junior Ranger
If you’re planning a visit to Garden of the Gods with kids ages seven to twelve, consider the Junior Ranger program.
An activity book can be purchased at the information desk for only $2, and, upon completion, children will earn a badge and certificate. The Garden of the Gods website recommends 1-2 hours to complete the activities.
Book a Rental, Tour, or go Rock Climbing
There are additional adventurous activities families can partake in to enjoy more of Garden of the Gods with kids who are older and more skilled.
Garden of the God’s is one of the country’s most sought after climbing venues, and it’s advertised as “family appropriate.” Though our toddlers are still a bit young for climbing, this is a perfect excursion for an adventurous teen. Climbing tours start at $79 per person for 1.5 hours and go up from there. Some are customizable.
If you’re looking for something less thrill-seeking, consider renting electric our mountain bikes to tour the park. All one way roads have paved bike lanes. Additionally, visitors can book Jeep, Segway, & Trolley tours and enjoy a narrated guide, or simply book a guided walking tour.
Search the adventure programs page, as well, to find nature tours of Garden of the Gods for kids and families.
Respect Leave no Trace Principles
This might be tempting, especially for little ones, but as with most natural and preserved landscapes, take only photos and leave no trace.
Don’t remove any rocks or features, pack your trash out with you, and be mindful of other visitors. Garden of the Gods was bestowed on the city of Colorado Springs so it could be preserved and freely available to the public for generations to come; encourage children to respect that principle and do their part to be kind to nature.
A Sample Itinerary for Spending a Day at Garden of the Gods with Kids
Head straight to the Visitor’s Center after breakfast for an early start to your day – especially if you’ll be hiking in the heat. Grab a park map and, for older kids, a Junior Ranger booklet, and take some time in the exhibits to learn about the red rocks you’ll be exploring.
Then, head to the Central Garden Trail. If you’re parked at the Visitor Center, follow the bridge under the road – no need to re-park. Follow the paved trails through the base of the rising rock formations. If you’re looking for a more terrain-y hike through Garden of the Gods with kids who enjoy hiking and exploring, add the very short Upper Loop Trail here for more views.
To extend the day, head next to the South Spring Canyon Picnic Are via car. Bring a trail lunch and pick a short hike or two accessible from the picnic area. Remember that most hikes through Garden of the Gods with kids are flat and short, so a bit of extra mileage may be more accessible to your family than you think!
Remember that you can finish your tour by driving through the park, which is a fabulous way to ensure you get to see it all even if cranky kids need a nap!
Have you visited Garden of the Gods with kids? Is it on your family bucket list?
Garden of the Gods has been on our bucket list for so long; hiking through it was a check in the box I’ll remember forever. Of course though, we barely scratched the surface. What hikes and activities would you recommend? And if you haven’t been yet, does this guide help make planning your trip easier?