Garden of the Gods Park is a natural National Landmark in Colorado Springs which is about an hour drive from Denver, Colorado. The park has dramatic views of 300 feet towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes peaks. Rufus Cable, a surveyor, first saw these gigantic towering fins of rock formation near Pikes Peaks back in 1859 and with great excitement he declared that it was a perfect place for the Gods to assemble. From here on, it is known as Garden of the Gods.
There is NO entrance fee for both the park and Visitor & Nature Center. The park opens daily from 9am to 5pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s Day. The Visitor & Nature center have wonderful exhibits that explain the history of this beautiful natural landscape. The park offers hiking trails, rock climbing, scenic driving, biking, and horseback riding. Allow at least 2 hours to stroll on some pretty trails that take you between the towering Gateway Rock Formations and into the heart of the Park. There are 21 miles of trails to explore and free trail maps are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information desk.
These photos are from our visit to Garden of the Gods on October 1st, 2019. We stopped and spent a couple of hours at the park on our way to Denver. It is worth visiting if you are around Denver or Colorado Springs area.
Mt Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved byway in North America that climbs more than 7,000 feet in just 28 miles. This scenic byway passes through different climate zones and reaches an altitude of 14,130 feet. The 60 mile one way road trip from Denver takes up to 2 to 3 hours with many zig-zags, hair raising hairpin curves, sudden drop offs, and stomach churning twists up the mountain summit. Driving on Mt Evans road is somewhat adventurous and terrific, but is definitely a thrilling and memorable experience. When the clouds are rolling, it creates an illusion of driving on the clouds like flying cars. This exciting drive up to Mt Evans summit offers the breathtaking views of Mount Evans peaks, the highest peak in the Mt Evans wilderness area in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains along with sparkling alpine lakes, massive granite walls, ancient bristlecone pine, and carpet of seasonal wildflowers.
These photos are from our drive up to Mount Evans on 30th September, 2019. Although the summer brings the best of the summit with breathtaking views of gorgeous lakes in the backgrounds of snow capped peaks and colorful wildflowers valleys, we thoroughly enjoyed our drive.
Quick Facts and Tips for driving up
- Best time to visit: Late May to early September
- Fly Into: Denver International Airport which is approximately 84 miles away
- Mount Evans Scenic Byway is generally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day depending on weather conditions.
- The Mount Evans Byway starts at the beautiful Echo Lake and climbs 14 miles to the summit
- Snow can fall at any time, even in the summer. Dress in layers and bring jackets
- Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms
- The road can get over crowded on summer weekends with cars and bikes. Avoid weekends and start early for best views and more elbow room.
- The road is narrow, has no guardrails, no shoulder and there are serious drop-offs and hairpin turns. Drive with caution, follow speed limits and traffic
- There is a $10 fee to drive up to summit and additional $5 to park at Summit Lake
- Watch for Mountain goats and bighorn sheeps which are often spotted along the road
- Summit: Summit is at 14000 feet elevation. A short hike to the actual summit from the parking lot offers magnificent views of the mountain peaks, sparking lakes, and jagged aspen valley
- Summit Lake. Take a short trail from the parking lot to a spectacular viewpoint. The trails offer a stunning sparkling lake surrounded by seasonal wildflowers or orange hue alpine thunda with a snow capped peaks in the backdrop
- Mount Goliath Natural Area: The trail winds across tundra, purple fringe, and trunks of the bristlecone pine trees.
- Walter Pesman Alpine Garden lookout: Offers massive view of 1,700-year-old Bristlecone pines
- Echo Lake: There are some nice trails that offer the gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding peaks. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and an authentic log building Echo Lake Lodge
Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado, is the most photographed place in the U.S.A. It’s perfect reflection of the glowing giant snow-striped Maroon Peaks during sunrise on the Maroon lake is truly magical. People stand shoulder to shoulder, even in the freezing cold to experience and capture this phenomenal moment every day. The first sun rays falling on the snow capped peaks set them on fire and make them glow golden yellow while competing with the shimmering surrounding Aspen trees valleys. During sunrise on a calm and clear day, you can see the beautiful reflection of the magnificent peaks on Maroon Lake. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak are separated by less than half a mile and are two Peaks in the Elk Mountains. No matter what the season is, the Maroon Bells mesmerizes with its remarkable views. The Maroon Bells Wilderness area also offers many wonderful hikes. It is approximately 10 miles from downtown Aspen which is known as the year around destination for outdoor activities, high-end restaurants, boutiques, ski resorts, and hotels.
These pictures are from our one morning at Maroon Bells on 30th September, 2019.
Quick Facts and Tips
- Best time to Visit: June to September
- Fall is great with clear and crips air, blue sky with aspen trees turning golden, but prepare yourself for very chilly morning and evenings
- Summer is most comfortable, but be ready to beat the crowd
- Spring is unpredictable as the weather varies and many trails are still covered with snow
- Fly Into
- Nearest: Aspen Airport (ASE) which is 12 miles away; Eagle Airport (EGE) in Veil is about 40 miles away; Montrose Airport(MTJ) in Montrose is about 63 miles away
- Good Deals: Colorado Springs (COS) which is 125 miles away and Denver International Airport which is approximately 135 miles away
- Summer: Casual t-shirts, shorts, tank tops, capris, rain jackets, comfortable hiking shoes, light jackets or long sleeves for the cool morning and evenings
- Fall and Spring: Long sleeves, fleece and warm jackets, vests, scarf, cap, gloves and comfortable hiking shoes
- Accommodation: Downtown Aspen is the base to visit Maroon bells. It is recommended to book accommodation in advance due to high popularity
- Check Maroon Bells Scenic Area for trails conditions and road closure
- Free shuttle labelled as Castle/Maroon runs every 20 mins from Rubey Park Transit Center in downtown Aspen to Aspen Highlands Visitor Center
- Maroon Bells wilderness area is closed for private vehicles between 8am to 5pm from June to October and it can only be accessed by public bus. The public bus is operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA)
- The Maroon Bells guided public bus runs every 15 mins starting from 8am to 4:30pm from Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. The ride is about 20 mins and a $16/person ticket can be purchased at Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. The last bus leaves Maroon Bells at 5pm from Aspen Highlands Visitor Center
- Parking is limited at Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. Parking is free for the first hour, then $5.00 for each additional hour up to a maximum of $30.00
- Private vehicles can drive up to the Maroon Bells before 8am and after 5pm for the standard $10 cash/check per vehicle. Reservations needed for overnight parking to backpack into the Maroon Bells Wilderness. More info here
- It is worth getting up early and drive down there for best lighting, best photo op, more chance of wildlife, convenience of your own vehicle and also not to pay extra money for shuttle and parking
- It is really hard to get a parking spot at Maroon Bells during the sunrise; It would be lucky to get a parking spot even before an hour early to sunrise
- Getting a good spot or squeezing yourself to capture the magical Maroon Peaks during sunrise could be a bit challenging. Try to be there really early before sunrise to secure your spot
- Stay on designated trails and try to hike in the morning to avoid unpredictable afternoon thunderstorms
- The air is dry and there is less oxygen at higher elevations, so hydrate yourself if you go hiking
- Weather changes quickly, be prepared and dress accordingly
- No cell phone service around the wilderness area
- Bring food and water as there are no food stations/vending machines at Maroon Bells
- Restrooms are located at the shuttle pick-up/drop-off place
- Best Things To Do
- Experience the magical moments of glowing Maroon Peaks during the sunrise
- Take a stroll along the Maroon Lake to get a closer look of the alpine meadows, the Maroon Lake and the Maroon Peaks. The Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is a short and easy 1 mile round trip trail that begins at the parking lot/bus stop. The trail along the lake offers breathtaking views of the Maroon peaks, the active beaver pond, aspen forest and seasonal wildflowers meadows. On a clear and calm day, the reflection of the peaks on Maroon Lake makes a perfect and truly phenomenal vista. Continue walking further and cross the wooden bridge to hike another scenic trail: the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail
- Enjoy hiking the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail. This easy 1.5 mile loop trail starts from the upper end of the lake just past the wooden bridge. The trail opens up to the wilderness and offers cascading waterfalls, rushing streams, mountain meadows, aspens forest in the backdrop of stunning Maroon Peaks
- Hike the adventurous trail Crater Lake Trail. This 3.6 mile round trip trail is considered as moderate and begins at the Deadly Bells Kiosk from Maroon Lake Trailhead. The trail is steep and rocky, but offers breathtaking vistas of bushy aspen woodlands and a gorgeous Crater Lake
- Do an enjoyable hike on the Maroon Creek Trail. This 3.2 mile one way trail that goes along the Maroon Creek and winds through rocky slopes, mountain meadows, and aspen forests