Balanced Rock, right alongside the Kissing Camels, is one of the iconic rock formations in Garden of the Gods that’s a must-see during your visit in Colorado Springs.
Balanced Rock is just what it’s name says — a rock that has balanced in place for years. But this rock is huge. It rises 35 feet above its pedestal base, and it weighs approximately 1.4 million pounds.
Like the other rock formations in Garden of the Gods, Balanced Rock occurred naturally, probably from an erosional remnant, years ago. This huge red rock is an incredible natural wonder, which, at least for the time being, is still balancing.
Because you can squat on the ledge on the southeast side of the rock, it’s a perfect photo opportunity. I often take my out-of-town friends to this rock, and I’ll snap photos of them ducking underneath it, “holding it up” with their hands. The “I’m holding up Balanced Rock” pose is a classic Garden of the Gods photo.
Getting to Balanced Rock in Garden of the Gods
Balanced Rock is located on the south end of the garden, close to Manitou Springs and Highway 24. If you want to go straight to Balanced Rock, it’d be easiest to enter Garden of the Gods from the south via Garden Drive. After you turn left from El Paso Boulevard onto Garden Drive, Balanced Rock will be on your left about 0.5 miles ahead. There’s several parking spaces right next to Balanced Rock, and it’s literally a huge rock on the side of the road — you can’t miss it.
Directions for entering the park from the south end can get a little hairy, so check out these detailed instructions for ways to get into Garden of the Gods.
Of course, if you’re coming from the Kissing Camels or if you’re wanting to go to the Visitor & Nature Center first, it’s still possible to get to Balanced Rock from these areas too. If you’re coming from the northeast entrance:
- Take a right onto Juniper Way Loop
- Follow it all the way around the Perkins Central Garden on the north end until it forks
- Stay right at the fork to get on Garden Drive
- Stay on Garden Drive for approx. 1.3 miles, then Balanced Rock will be on your right
Planning your visit to Balanced Rock and Garden of the Gods
There’s no cost to visit this amazing rock structure, but there are some park rules you should be aware of:
- Hours: the Garden of the Gods park is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- Stay on the trails!
- Take only pictures (don’t remove or damage any natural features), so future visitors for generations can also enjoy it.
- You can bring your dog, but be sure to keep it on a lease and clean up after it.
- Rock climbing isn’t allowed unless you’ve obtained a permit and have safety gear.
- Videoing the park is awesome, but you can’t use a drone in the park unless you’ve got a proper permit and insurance.
History of Balanced Rock
Today it’s free to visit Balanced Rock (and Garden of the Gods), but that wasn’t always the case. At the young age of 14, Curt Goerke started charging tourists 25 cents to take photographs of them and the rock in the 1890s. Seeing the lucrative opportunity, his father, Paul Goerke, bought Balanced Rock and some surrounding property. He built a tall wooden fence and charged 25 cents for admission to see the wonder called Balanced Rock.
While the rest of the Garden of the Gods had been donated to the city by Charles Perkins’ children and was a free park for local residents and tourists to enjoy, Balanced Rock required a fee. For 20 years, the city of Manitou Springs and the Goerke family fought over ownership of Balanced Rock. Eventually, Georke sold his 274 acres, which included Balanced Rock, to Colorado Springs for $25,000 in 1932. The city tore down the fence and held a celebration as the public once again had free access to this rock formation.
Will the rock ever fall?
This question was a constant nightmare for Paul Butcher, the now retired director of the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department. He was so stressed about this possibility that he once fell for an April Fools’ prank call that the rock had fallen.
Aside from some concrete around the base, which Goerke placed years ago to ensure tourists couldn’t cut out a chunk to take with them, there’s nothing to protect the rock from erosion. Yet most aren’t worried about the rock falling.
Thomas Grose, a geology professor, explained that the rock surrounding Balanced Rock eroded and somehow Balanced Rock did not. The processes of erosion just haven’t been enough to undercut the rock. Read more about the history and speculation of the rock falling.
Short of a major earthquake, it’s believed that Balanced Rock won’t be falling, rolling, or crashing anywhere anytime soon — so you can take your “I’m holding up Balanced Rock” picture without fear!
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