Colorado has so much to offer that if you are visiting for just a couple days, it can be hard to narrow down your list. There are a few red rock areas great to visit, but with limited time you might be wondering which two spots to visit: Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks. I’ve visited both (multiple times) and can give you a quick rundown on each so you can decide which will be worthwhile for your family to visit!
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So take a quick look at the breakdown of the two areas: Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.
If you want a closer, more detailed look, check out:
Where is Garden of the Gods?
Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s on the northern side of the downtown area in the West Colorado Springs area.
If you are planning to stay in Colorado Springs for your trip, then Garden of the Gods is the most convenient choice. If you are staying in Denver, it’ll take up to an hour-and-a-half to get to Garden of the Gods.
Where is Red Rocks?
Red Rocks is on the southwest side of Denver in the city of Morrison, Colorado. It’s easy to access as it is right about at the corner of C-470 and I-70.
If you are staying in Denver, Red Rocks is much more convenient to visit. Red Rocks is roughly 20-30 minutes from the city.
The Big Attraction of Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods has trails all over, a visitor center where you can sign up for special events and programs (like nature walks), and of course beautiful and large red rock formations around the park.
The formations most popular at Garden of the Gods are Balanced Rock, Siamese Twins, and the Kissing Camels. These are some of the most popular rock formations in Colorado.
But the most popular thing to do is just walk the Central Garden Trail. This is an easy, paved sidewalk that walks through a dense rock formation area. Kids of all ages (and strollers or wheelchairs) can navigate through this area and see many highlights of the park.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
While Red Rocks has trails you can hike around on, the main event here is the amphitheater.
Many artists have come to perform on the stage of Red Rocks, which gets its rich sound carried throughout the venue by the surrounding sandstone walls on the sides.
It’s THE best place I’ve ever been for a concert, so if you have the opportunity, you definitely should check out a show here.
Hiking in Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks
Garden of the Gods
Once again, Garden of the Gods main trail is a paved trail through the rock formations Central Garden. So if you are traveling with strollers, Garden of the Gods is definitely the better option.
Besides the main Central Garden, there are trails around the park that are not paved but take you pas other formations or just through the natural areas. You can park right at the entrance of the park and hike your way around for more mileage.
The Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks is the most popular. It’s just one and a half miles through red sand through the natural areas. There are a few exciting formations, but not as many as you’ll get at Garden of the Gods.
Besides Trading Post, there are two other trails (one under a mile to a look out and another over two miles to see Mount Vernon). ALL trails at Red Rocks are easy, but make sure to bring extra water as shade is lacking.
Most Affordable: Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks
This is a bit of a trick question. They are BOTH very affordable as both are free to visit if you are just going to hike around.
Of course, if you participate in any events at Red Rocks (movie night, concerts, shows, Yoga), then there is an admission you must pay. But if no event is going on, you are free to walk up and see the amphitheater (or even run the stairs!)
There is no parking fee at either park.
Other Things to do Nearby
Garden of the Gods
As Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, there is SO MUCH to do in the area.
Visit the famous Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, the Science Discovery Foundation, or so many other fun activities in Colorado Springs.
Red Rocks is not too far from Denver, so you’ll have a whole downtown area nearby for typical activities like the Zoo, aquarium, Science Museum, city parks, restaurants, and more.
But if you’d like to stay closer to Red Rocks, there are a lot of great natural areas to discover. Start at Dinosaur Ridge, which is free to visit ($ for optional shuttle ride). Here, you’ll walk up a steep slope alongside a mountain filled with dinosaur fossils and prints. The interpretive walk is interesting and exciting for the kids to get close up.
You can also do some easy hiking at Lair O’ the Bear (and see the Dunafon Castle from the trail at the end!)
Here is a quick-look chart to comparing the two attractions:
Where to Stay: Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks
Garden of the Gods
There are a lot of great places to stay nearby. For more luxury accomodations, check out:
The Broadmoor – an iconic hotel in Colorado Springs with awesome pools, golfing, waterfalls…really a whole adventure in and of itself.
Garden of the Gods Resort- another great place with golfing and great pools, but not as high of a price as the Broadmoor.
For more affordable accommodations:
Best Western- just a couple miles away from Garden of the Gods. It’s highly rated and has an indoor pool for year round fun.
While there aren’t as many places to stay super-nearby, there are still some great options around the area.
The Ritz Carlton is about 15 miles/20 minutes away in downtown Denver. It’s name says luxury, as does its 5-star status.
Fairfield Inn and Suites is located in Lakewood, just a tad closer but a lot more affordable (and yet still highly rated!)
Origin Red Rocks is priced in the middle, rated among the top, and under a 10 minute drive to Red Rocks.
Which to Visit: Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks
Having visited both many times, personally, I would visit Garden of the Gods IF you are going just to hike and see pretty formations. I love that there are so many other things to do in the area, I love that the trail is easy and kid/stroller-friendly, and I love how gorgeous it is with the giant, red rock walls.
IF you are wanting pure entertainment and fun, then going to a concert at Red Rocks really is a bucket list item you must fulfill. Or, if you are time-crunched and staying in Denver, then Red Rocks is a great place to take a quick hike.
Hopefully this rundown has helped you make your decision between Garden of the Gods vs Red Rocks. Both places are beautiful no matter what you choose.
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