Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is one of the most beautiful small parks in America and a favorite subject for local photographers. The park offers 1,367 acres of towering red rocks and magnificent views of Pikes Peak.
There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails that weave their way through the park, offering access to formations with names like the Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins, Sleeping Giant and the famous Balanced Rock.
Garden of the Gods is a popular location for hiking, rock climbing, biking and horseback riding, and it’s an amazing location for photography. Best of all, the park is free to visit! Garden of the Gods was donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliot Perkins, who wished for the park to remain free and accessible to the public. The City has maintained it for public enjoyment ever since!
The Garden of the Gods Visitors Center is located across the street from the north park entrance and offers hands-on exhibits, tours, a café, and more. Admission to the visitor center is also free.
Before You Go:
Visit the Garden of the Gods visitor center web site at http://www.gardenofgods.com. The park has seasonal hours and you can check the current opening and closing times by visiting this site.
Check the sunrise and/or sunset times and plan to arrive at least 45 minutes early to scount out a location and set up.
When To Go:
This is one place where getting out of bed for sunrise pays serious dividends. The rocks are especially beautiful in the glow of the early morning light, and with Pikes Peak to the west, you can get terrific images in the morning.
If you’re not a morning person, you’re still in luck! This park is also fabulous at sunset! In fact, the park is stunning during the golden hour, when the setting sun basks the red rocks and deepens the color.
Seasonally, this park provides terrific images at any time of the year. Wildflowers can be found in the park from May until September. Yuccas begin blooming in June and last for about two weeks. Snowstorms yield beautiful photos of white snow against red rock, while Fall offers golden aspens. Occasionally stormy weather will also offer dramatic results.
Daytime temperatures range from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Summer and Spring, and Fall temperatures generally range from 50 to 70 degrees F. Winter is unpredictable in Colorado, ranging from unbearably cold to extremely mild, sometimes in the same day!
More than two million people visit the park each year and as you can imagine, there are times that are busier than others. We try to avoid the park on weekends during the summer months because parking is scarce and it’s harder to avoid people in your shots. However, if you arrive around sunrise, you’ll find that you only have to share the park with a few other people (mainly photographers!) no matter what day of the week it is.
The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail, is a paved, 1.1 mile wheelchair-accessible that begins at the North Parking lot. The trail will take you through the heart of the Garden formations.
Other accessible areas to photograph from include the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center terrace and the Gateway and Balanced Rock parking areas.
Other Useful Information:
A local company offers horseback trail rides through the park. It’s a unique way to experience the park and will provide some interesting photo opportunities.
There are plenty of places to picnic on the grounds, and you can also purchase food at the trading post or the visitor center.
A medium range lens will cover most shots
Long telephoto lens to compress the foreground and the background, and to capture wildlife
Head lamp for hiking before sunrise
Sturdy hiking boots
If you’re shooting in the middle of the day, you may want to add a warming filter to give a nice warmth to the red rock. We can’t emphasize enough how beautiful the natural light is at sunrise and sunset though!
You can get a beautiful photo from nearly any point in the park, so composition and light become the key elements. The more you hike around the park, the more likely you are to find a unique angle or view.
Visiting at sunrise and sunset will yield the best light under normal circumstances, but one of our favorite times to visit is on an overcast day, when the light is diffused and the clouds offer some additional drama.
Twice a year, you’ll be able to witness a full moon setting over the park. The best months for this are April and October. You’ll have to arrive before sunrise and park off 30th street to shoot this from the visitor center parking lot. Bring a tripod and a 300-500mm lens. If you’re fortunate, you’ll be able to capture the full moon setting over the Kissing Camels, which is an iconic shot of this park.
Use the trees in the park to frame your shots, or to give an interesting foreground element to your photo.
The visitor center is located at 1805 N. 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The north entrance to the park is located directly across the road from the visitor center.
The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitor Center are free to the public.