Colorado’s Garden of the Gods

November 27, 2023

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Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

The tilted and sculpted landscape of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado, exposes eons of geologic change, as illustrated in this panoramic photograph, from an image taken atop an observation deck at the park’s Visitor and Nature Center on October 7, 2023. The region bears evidence of multiple versions of the Rocky Mountains, and features deposits laid down by both a vast dune-covered desert and submergence by the shallow Western Interior Seaway, which bisected the continent of North America from today’s Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico during the Cretaceous Period.

As pictured, the toothy red, pink, buff and even white sandstones, conglomerates and mudstones that form the spine of Garden of the Gods include Gray Rock, on the left; South Gateway Rock, in the center; and North Gateway Rock to the right. The weathered and eroded outcrops represent units of the Lyons Formation, deposited in or near an ancient marine shoreline. Although formed horizontally, of course, the now mostly vertical sedimentary layers and rocks were uplifted, tilted and exposed with the rise of the nearby mountains during the Laramide Orogeny. During and after the Pleistocene Ice Age they were further eroded to what we see now. Pikes Peak, the tree-less alpine summit in the distance, is one of Colorado’s best-known “Fourteeners,” rising to 14,115 feet (4,302 m) above sea level.

The Garden of the Gods isn't a national or state park but Colorado Springs’ most-visited city park, with a network of paths and looping roadways. The core of the property was given to the community in 1909 by the children of businessman Charles Elliott Perkins, after his death. It was his wish that access remain free to the general public. In the century since, the city has purchased additional parcels while expanding and improving the remarkable site.


Garden of the Gods, Colorado Coordinates: 38.8718, -104.8862

Related Links: 

Autumn on Laramidia’s Ancient Shore

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve 

Siamese Twins in the Garden of the Gods