Stop 1: Mesa Road overlook
Set the stage for this wonderful tour with an awe-inspiring and often overlooked (pun-intended) vantage point. Mesa Road sits in an elevated position above the visitor center and offers a sweeping view of the northern end of Garden of the Gods, Kissing Camels, the Rampart Range, and Pikes Peak.
Getting to the Mesa Rd. Garden of the Gods overlook
The easiest way to find the small overlook parking lot is to head north of the visitor’s center on 30th street. Soon after, will be a right-hand hairpin turn onto Mesa Rd. — take it. The overlook parking lot is up the road on the right.
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/sjYV2SoXjwN2
Stop 2: Garden of the Gods visitor and nature center
Head down from Mesa Road to newly renovated Garden of the Gods visitor and nature center. Inside the center, you will find beautiful exhibits (the wildlife display is a personal favorite), gifts, food, Geo-Trekker theater, an observation deck, and clean bathrooms.
Besides presenting a fantastic photo opportunity, the observation deck offers a wonderful photo opportunity and even the ability, sometimes, to view Bighorn sheep.
The visitor center is a great place to get any questions answered by knowledgable staff/volunteers.
Getting to the Garden of the Gods visitor and nature center
The visitor center is easily found on the east side of north 30th street.
1805 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/vCnzAiDdiYL2
Stop 3: Kissing Camels walking tour
It’s time to get some exercise and go on a walking tour of the central Garden on the Perkins Central Garden Trail. This part of the tour is an absolute must. There are so many marquee features along the walk, and the way is paved (smooth-walking, wheelchair accessible).
See the famous Kissing Camels formation along this route, and encounter plenty of opportunities for memorable photos.
Getting to the main North parking lot and the Perkins Central Garden Trail
Cross 30th Street from the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center onto Gateway Rd. and head west into the park. Gateway Rd. will t-bone Juniper Way Loop, go right on the one way road. After rounding the bend, the parking area will be the first big pull-off on the left.
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/phg9Ht756q72
Stop 4: Pull-off
After enjoying a stroll through the fantastic formations near Kissing Camels, catch your breath with a brief drive up the hill and around the corner on Juniper Way Loop. The road leaving the central Garden parking lot is one way so you can’t miss this pull-off. When you see a small pull-off overlooking a view straight from the world of Dr. Seuss, you’ve arrived!
Stop 5: Siamese Twins
The Siamese Twins formation is located near the southwestern part of Garden of the Gods and frames an incredible view of Pikes Peak. The two spires leave a perfect window through which to capture fun photos of the peak, pets and people.
The formation can be accessed from a couple different directions. For the tour, we recommend parking at the Spring Canyon parking area, and hiking the Palmer Trail — up to the formation.
This route does involve some climbing and uneven terrain, so it should only be attempted by those in decent shape. Expect a roundtrip of about 1/2 mile.
Getting to the Siamese Twins Spring Canyon parking area
As you head W/SW along Garden Drive, look for a parking area on the right, not long after the “Y” in the road and at the bottom of a hill.
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/7XHPFN2iUQE2
Stop 6: Balanced Rock
Near the southern end of Garden Drive is the always popular Balanced Rock. A massive red rock perches at a precarious angle over the road and gives plenty of angles for creative photography.
Getting to Balanced Rock
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/efCCjFtq6NM2
Stop 7: Garden of the Gods Trading post
Besides countless natural wonders, the park has another wonder: the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. A perfect way to finish a self-guided highlights tour, the trading post boasts a wide range of gifts, art, books, food, clothing, and even panning for gold.
Trading posts in the West are often full of junk souvenirs. While the Garden of the Gods Trading Post does have its share of trinkets and novelties, it also has many wonderful and unique offerings. Original art and jewelry are always on offer, and for a wide range of budgets.
This is a wonderful place to find a gift, but it’s also a fun place to grab a snack or bite to eat. Grabbing a ice cream and relaxing in the courtyard, while the kids pan for gold is always a hit.
Getting to the Garden of the Gods Trading Post
From Balanced Rock, head north on Garden Dr. — back the way you came from and then take the first right on to Garden Ln., the trading post will be on your right.
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/VGVREdqfTtJ2
There’s more to do at Garden of the Gods, but after this self-guided highlights tour you may want to look into some lunch or lodging.