Garden of the Gods has been many things:  a tropical haven; an inland sea; a field of sand dunes; and, even a vast swampy floodplain.  Dinosaurs once grazed on the ferns and other tropical plants.  Sea serpents swam in shallow waters and mammoths trudged through deep snow in May.  The rocks reveal secrets of ancient environments to those who know their language.

A billion years ago, molten rock cooled to create Pikes Peak granite and the Ancestral Rockies.  Approximately 310-270 million years ago, the ancestral Rockies were worn down bit by bit.  About 250 million years ago, Garden of the Gods had sandy beaches and an inland sea.  The 300 foot orange sandstone rocks in the Garden of the Gods were once sand dunes.  They may have looked similar to those at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in southern Colorado.  An inland sea once again covered Colorado about 225 million years ago.  Around 155 million years ago (the Jurassic period), dinosaurs roamed the Garden of the Gods.

About 65 million years ago, mountains rose and tipped the rocks that today we see today vertical and beyond.  This was an intense period of mountain building caused by the old Pacific plate slamming into the North American plate.  As the Front Range Mountains rose, the overlying sedimentary rocks were bent upward. Over time, the softer rocks eroded and valleys were created leaving harder rocks standing as the tall ridges in the Park.  These distinctive formations draw millions of people annually who come to enjoy the beauty of the Park and learn the secrets of this unique place.


Garden of the Gods is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain’s eastern Front Range. All five of Colorado’s life zones can be viewed from the Park’s unique vantage point.  Distinctive vegetation is found at different elevations.

The plains are dominated by drought-tolerant grasses; the foothills have shrubs and scrubby trees; and the middle elevation, the montane, exhibits increasingly thick forests and lush meadows. The two highest life zones, the subalpine and alpine, are recognized by stunted plant growth and alpine tundra. The changes are so dramatic that a trip from the grasslands east of Colorado Springs to the top of Pikes Peak shows ecological changes comparable to a trip from the Great Plains through the Canadian woods to the Arctic tundra.

The Garden of the Gods rests in the foothills - a zone of transition. The overlapping life zones make up a crossroads for plants and animals from the plains to the mountains, thus creating a natural wonder that many visit every year.

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