Go Climbing at the Garden of the Gods

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Rock Climbing at the Garden of the Gods

C.J. Sidebottom having Pig Dreams (5.10a) high on the Finger Face.
The towering sandstone formations at the Garden of the Gods offer lots of great vertical adventures in one of Colorado's oldest climbing areas. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Garden of the Gods: Colorado Springs' Top Attraction

The Garden of the Gods, a 1,368-acre Colorado Springs city park nestled against the mountains below Pikes Peak, offers numerous routes up towering sandstone formations and towers on the western edge of the city. The park, visited by over a million visitors every year, is not only popular with today's climbers but is one of the oldest established rock climbing areas in the United States. Most of the routes at the Garden, as climbers call it, are protected with drilled pitons and bolts, while a few require a rack of trad gear.

About Climbing at the Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods, despite its popularity, does not appeal to all climbers. If you climb here, expect soft sandstone, loose flakes, crumbling edges, runouts between fixed gear, and rotten rock sections , especially on the old-school routes which are rarely climbed. If you stick to the classic well-traveled routes, however, you'll find crisp edges, friction smears, huecos and pockets, and large potholes on generally clean sandstone. The length of routes varies from 40 feet to 375 feet. Most of the routes are face climbs although a few cracks are found and from one to five pitches long.

Major Garden of the Gods Formations

Climbing at the Garden of the Gods is on the faces of the major formations as well as on a few free-standing towers. The main rock formations are North Gateway Rock, South Gateway Rock, Grey Rock (AKA Kindergarten Rock and Cathedral Rock), and Keyhole Rock (AKA Sleeping Indian). The towers are Montezuma Tower, The Three Graces, Red and White Twin Spires, and Easter Rock. All of the major faces generally face either east or west, allowing for either shade or sun, depending on the season.

Climbing Equipment

Most routes at the Garden of the Gods require only a rack of a dozen quickdraws, a couple slings with free carabiners, and a 165-foot (50-meter) rope. A 200-foot (60-meter) rope is great for running pitches together. Some routes might require double ropes to rappel off. If you're climbing any trad routes, bring a basic rack that includes medium to large Stoppers or other wired nuts, a set of cams like Camalots or Friends, quickdraws, and several two-foot slings.

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Garden of the Gods Geology and Rock Formations

The uplifted and tilted sandstone formations at the Garden of the Gods offer both great scenery and superb rock climbing. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Garden Geology: Lyons Sandstone

Climbing at the Garden of the Gods happens on two main geologic formations-the white and red Lyons Formation and the Fountain Formation-that form the park's largest cliffs and towers. The 800-foot-thick Lyons sandstone forms the Garden's main climbing features, including North and South Gateway Rocks, Keyhole Rock, and Grey Rock. The Lyons Formation is composed of well-cemented, cross-bedded pink sandstone that was deposited in great sand dune fields along the Pangean coast during the Permian age or about 280 million years ago.

Garden Geology: Fountain Formation

The Fountain Formation, over 4,000 feet thick, covers the western part of the park and forms a few climbing formations, including Montezuma Tower, The Three Graces, and Balanced Rock. The Fountain was deposited as conglomerate and pebble sandstone from runoff along the eastern edge of Frontrangia, an island mountain range in the Ancestral Rocky Mountains during the late Permian to middle Pennsylvanian over 300 million years ago.

Garden Geology: Uplifted with Rockies

The Garden of the Gods' sandstones were originally deposited as horizontal layers but were tilted into the vertical hogbacks seen today during the Laramide Orogeny between 60 and 30 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains were uplifted. Erosion later attacked the rock as it slowly lifted up, dissecting and excavating it to form today's towering formations.

Don't Climb After Rain or Snow

Like all porous sandstones, the rock at the Garden of the Gods is affected by rain and snow on the rock surface. One of the cementing agents in the sandstone is salt and when salt gets wet, what happens? It dissolves, freeing the sand grains. Do not climb on the Garden's rocks after heavy rain or snowfalls when the rock surface is saturated. The sandstone is fragile when wet, causing crucial holds to break off and flakes to snap. Wet conditions can alter the climb, causing irreparable damage. The sandstone surface is also sandy after rain. Some Garden climbers carry a small brush to sweep off crucial holds or blow them off. Spring rain and summer thunderstorms are the most common times for heavy rainfall. Winter snows tend to be dry and light, but the snowmelt afterward dampens the rock.

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Garden of the Gods Climbing Regulations

Pete Takeda jams the finger crack of Kors Korner at the Garden of the Gods, Colorado.
It's a privilege to climb at the Garden of the Gods. Follow all the park climbing rules to keep it open for climbing for future users. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

The City of Colorado Springs Park, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has specific climbing regulations that all climbers must follow:

  • All climbers must register annually with the park and carry their permit. It's easiest to register by going to the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center at the east side of the park ad filling out a registration form at either the main desk or at the Front Range Climbing Company kiosk.
  • Only technical rock climbing and bouldering are permitted in the Garden of the Gods as well as other city parks that allow climbing.
  • Scrambling and free-soloing is prohibited. This is considered climbing without ropes and proper gear. All routes to the summits of the formations are considered technical climbing routes.
  • Sport rappelling is prohibited.
  • Climbing is not allowed higher than 10 feet above the ground without climbing equipment.
  • Use of white chalk is not allowed in the park. Only approved colored chalk that matches the rock color can be used.
  • All slings left at belay or rappel anchors must match the color of the rock surface.
  • Some routes and faces may be closed for nesting raptors. Check at the visitor center for current closures.
  • Night climbing or overnight bivouacking is not allowed in the park. Climbers need to climb and descend from all routes during daylight hours.
  • Do not climb on wet rock or frosted rock. Climbing after precipitation hastens erosion of fragile sandstone.
  • A registered adult climber must accompany any climber under age 12.
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Garden of the Gods Trip Planning Information

Climber Susan Joy Paul rappels down West Point Crack at the Garden of the Gods.
The Garden of the Gods offers lots of great classic routes like West Point Crack, which was first climbed by 10th Mountain Division climbers in the 1940s. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Location

Colorado Springs, Colorado. Garden of the Gods is on the west side of Colorado Springs below the mountain front.

Garden of the Gods GPS Coordinates: N 38.878303 / W -104.880654

Distances to Garden of the Gods from major cities:

  • Denver CO: 70 miles.
  • Boulder CO: 85 miles.
  • Moab UT: 398 miles.
  • Salt Lake City UT: 602 miles.
  • Dallas TX: 731 miles.
  • Phoenix AZ: 795 miles.
  • Chicago IL: 1,073 miles.

Management Agency

Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

Climbing Seasons

Year-round. Climbing is possible all year at the Garden of the Gods. Summers can be hot, with daily highs up to 90 degrees. Watch out for regular afternoon thunderstorms and lightning. Autumn is perfect with sunny days and pleasant temperatures. Winter can be cold but many warm sunny days are found, even in January. Spring weather is all over the map with warm sunny days but also windy days with rain or even snow.

Guidebooks and Websites

2nd Edition by Stewart M. Green, FalconGuides 2010, has a comprehensive chapter to Garden of the Gods and nearby Red Rock Canyon Open Space Park with its 100 bolted routes. Rock Climbing Garden of the Gods by Bob D'Antonio, FalconGuides 2000, is a detailed guide to the Garden.

Camping

There are no public campgrounds near the Garden of the Gods. The closest Pike National Forest Service campgrounds are north of Woodland Park, about 25 miles away. All are fee areas that are open seasonally. Private campgrounds are in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. The closest is Garden of the Gods Campground on West Colorado Avenue southwest of the park.

Climber Services

All services in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.

Climbing Guide Service and Climbing School

Front Range Climbing Company, 866-404-3721 (Toll Free), 719-632-5822. FRCC is the exclusive climbing guide concessionaire at the Garden of the Gods. Visit their kiosk at the visitor center for climbing permits, info, closure info, and guided climbs or call toll free.

For More Information

Garden of the Gods City Park, Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, 1401 Recreation Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. 719-385-5940.
 

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Your Citation
Green, Stewart. "Go Climbing at the Garden of the Gods." ThoughtCo, Jul. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/climbing-at-garden-of-the-gods-755455. Green, Stewart. (2017, July 1). Go Climbing at the Garden of the Gods. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/climbing-at-garden-of-the-gods-755455 Green, Stewart. "Go Climbing at the Garden of the Gods." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/climbing-at-garden-of-the-gods-755455 (accessed November 22, 2017).