One of the West’s unique geological sites, the 1,300-acre Garden of the Gods is a giant rock garden composed of spectacular red sandstone formations sculpted by rain and wind over millions of years. Located where several life zones and ecosystems converge, the beautiful city-run park is a can't-miss attraction for Colorado Springs visitors.

Highly recommended are a number of hiking trails—mostly easy to moderate—that offer an opportunity to get away from the crowds. Leashed dogs, horses, and mountain bikes are permitted on some trails. There are trail maps at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, which also offers exhibits on the history, geology, plants, and wildlife of the area; a cafeteria; and other conveniences. A short multimedia theater presentation ($5 adults, $3 children 5–12, free for children 4 and under) is an excellent introduction to the geologic and cultural history of the area. In summer, park naturalists lead free 45-minute walks through the park and conduct free afternoon interpretive programs. You can also take a van or jeep tour of the park for $10 per person, or a Segway tour for $75 to $105 per person. You may spot technical rock climbers on some of the park spires; they are required to register at the visitor center.

Also in the park is the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site ([tel] 719/578-6777; Admission is $8 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children 6–17, and free for kids 5 and under. Allow two hours, longer if you want to hike or bike.