The behemoth red and orange towers that jut from the foothills of the ancient Rocky Mountains are an impressive spectacle and a must-see on a Colorado itinerary. The Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark represents a rich slice of Native American, Western, and geological history, and its unique perch between the Great Plains and the foothills gifts it a varied and interesting ecology.
While the area surrounding the visitor center is typically a tangle of tourists, the Palmer Loop Trail provides a bit of a reprieve from the heavy foot traffic. Following the juniper forested hills on the western edge of the park, the trail is a moderately steep out-and-back style trail that connects the main parking lot by Gateway Rocks with the Siamese Twin Rocks 1.6 miles away, but can also be made into a loop hike by connecting with the numerous other trails within the park. Travel by horseback is allowed.
Views of the snow-dusted Rocky Mountains are a constant on this moderate hike, and the Garden of the Gods is always in sight. An estimated 65 million years ago (about 100 million years after dinosaurs meandered about the area), the old Pacific plate slammed into the North American plate, tipping the orange and rust colored rocks that were once behemoth sand dunes like the Great Sand Dunes found in southern Colorado.