On a recent fall morning I headed south to Colorado Springs to ride the Garden Of The Gods park. If the gods of Olympus were ever looking for change of locale for their mythical adventures, I can imagine Zeus, Apollo, and crew waging battles and breaking hearts in this remarkable red rock park. Plates of sedimentary rock that were upended millennia ago form striking formations around every corner astounding gods and mere mortals alike.
GOTG is a road cyclist’s dream, not only because of the stunning scenery, but also due to the too good to be true road conditions – one-way road, pristine pavement, separated dedicated bike lane, and wide shoulder. Follow the one-way route and ride counter-clockwise linking several of the smaller loops for about a 15 mile overall loop. Ride the loop multiple times and you’ll notice something new each time around. This is a hilly course with short, punchy uphill climbs and quick, curvy downhills. On this particular day with hardly any cars, there were lots of riders out enjoying one of the last sunny 85 degree fall days so we pretty much had the road to ourselves and treated ourselves to the full lane on the downhills. (NOTE: you do not want to get stuck following the park trolley which tops out at 5mph through the park.) The pros rode this route in the first stage of this year’s Colorado Classic and lapped it six times.
There are touristy things to do here as well as the riding. I stopped in the Visitors Center to get the lay of the land and pick up a map. The center is well kept, informative, and offered a 12 minute movie about the park. The first lap around the park I stopped an inordinate number of times just to take pictures of the rocks which are reminiscent of Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver but on a smaller scale. I stopped at the Trading Post in the middle of the park to check out the Native American art and sample the free fudge (pretty darn good even though I hadn’t ridden hard enough or far enough to warrant it:) There are also numerous hiking and mountain biking trails through the park and around the rocks. When I reached the southern entrance/exit I made it a double-shot and rode another mile or so to Manitou Springs, a cute, little western town with Victorian flare. If you’re in the mood for a bite, a brew, an ice cream, a T-shirt, a trinket, or a ski chair Manitou Springs has you covered.
I had a fun afternoon here; however, make no mistake, Garden Of The Gods is a tourist area so it is best ridden off season or off hours (i.e. early mornings or early evenings.)