Explore Garden of the Gods by Horseback

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Even the littles can enjoy horseback riding at Academy Riding Stables on pony rides, supervised by the wrangler. Photo: Academy Riding Stables
Even the littles can enjoy horseback riding at Academy Riding Stables on pony rides, supervised by the wrangler. Photo: Academy Riding Stables

Want an elevated view of Garden of the Gods Park near Colorado Springs? Then experience the breathtaking scenery as it was meant to be enjoyed…on horseback! Here’s how to go riding in Garden of the Gods, plus plenty of fun things to do in nearby Manitou Springs.

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Where is Garden of the Gods?

I’m lucky that I live near Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, and this is one of my family’s favorite destinations in Colorado.

It’s a 90-minute road trip from Denver, and there are so many things to do and see in Colorado Springs that we visit often.

The Pikes Peak region is a destination touched by Mother Nature with incredible attractions. To name only a few, don’t miss the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cave of the Winds and Royal Gorge Bridge & Peak.

Garden of the Gods Horseback Riding

sweeping view seen from horseback of green with mountain in background at Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods Park is a unique biological melting pot where the grasslands of the Great Plains meet the pinon-juniper woodlands characteristic of the American Southwest and merge with the mountain forest of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. Photo credit: Pixabay

Elevate your Colorado Springs family vacation by booking a Garden of the Gods horseback riding experience. It’s one of the best things to do in Colorado with kids.

Take it all in – rugged, plush landscape, dramatic views, 300-foot towering sandstone rock formations with a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak, while riding a horse matched with your experience, whether beginner or expert.

The Horseback Riding Experience

Academy Riding Stables is just minutes from the family-friendly, historic Manitou Springs. This small town is tucked between the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, America’s most famous mountain.

Once you’ve checked in for your equestrian experience, your horseback tour begins at the barn. This is where you’ll be paired with the perfect horse based on your skills and personality.

I am a more experienced rider, so the cowboy assigned me to a horse who was a bit more adventurous but not too much!

My traveling partners from England were a little afraid of horses. But the wranglers quickly put them at ease, assigning each of them a patient, friendly horse who loved beginner riders.

Highlights of a Garden of the Gods Horseback Ride

Rear view of several riders on a Garden of the Gods horseback ride
Your Colorado Springs family vacation will be even better by adding Garden of the Gods Horseback riding experience. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

During our two-hour tour on a scenic horseback ride through the beautiful Garden of the Gods, the storytelling cowboy guides pointed out interesting facts.

We immediately noticed the massive red rock formations along the trail ride, and the guides showed us the Sleeping Giant, Kissing Camels and Balanced Rock. We heard stories about how the Garden of Gods might have been a beer garden.

The real cowboy guide also told us that in 1879 at the urging of his friend General Palmer, Charles Elliott Perkins, head of the Burlington Railroad, purchased 240 acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home. He later added more property, but never built upon the land.

Perkins loved the natural state of his land. He ultimately bequeathed it to the city to become a public park, known forever as the Garden of the Gods.

His only stipulation for this gift: “where it shall remain free to the public…” This perhaps is one of the few parks of this size that still remains free.

All Ages Horseback Riding

Open year-round (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), Academy Riding Stables caters to the whole family.  Riders 8 years or older are welcome to enjoy guided horseback riding on your own horse, up to a 2 hour tour in the Garden of the Gods. However, a shorter one-hour tour is also available.

Kids under 8 can still enjoy the experience with a 15-minute ride in the enclosed “pony carousel” with a cowboy or cowgirl wrangler nearby. Kick up your special occasions a notch by hiring their hay wagon, surreys or stagecoach.

Why You Should Visit the Garden of the Gods

view of hikers in Garden of the Gods Park
One of the things to do at the Garden of the Gods is to hike its many trails. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Admission is always free at the Garden of the Gods Park, Visitor & Nature Center.

Open year-round, Garden of the Gods is a registered National Natural Landmark (not a national park) located in Colorado Springs. An American icon, Garden of the Gods features 300-foot rock formations against one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers, Pikes Peak. For the uninitiated, a 14er is a mountain of at least 14,000 feet elevation.

During the park’s most visited months, enjoy a free public shuttle in Garden of the Gods Park.

Within the park, families should stop at the Visitor & Nature Center and Museum for educational activities.  Be sure to pick up a free map here of its hiking and biking trails, or take one of their guided walks.

Other Things to do in the Garden of the Gods

In addition to horseback riding, other things to do in the Garden of the Gods Park include:

  • Hiking – 15 miles of trails including the 1 1/2 miles paved Perkins Central Garden trail, both wheelchair and stroller accessible, perfect for all levels of hiker.
  • Biking – Mountain biking is permitted on select trails in the park, or book a guided electric bike tour provided by Amp’d Adventures, who also rent e-Bikes and standard mountain bikes.
  • Birding – A variety of birds can be seen in Garden of the Gods Park.
  • Rock Climbing is permitted in the park, but a free registration form must be completed, and of course, you’ll need to abide by all rules. Want to learn how to rock climb? Consider booking a local outfitter to teach you how in the Garden of the Gods Park.
  • Other Ways to See the Park – Explore Garden of the Gods on a Segway or on a Jeep tour! Short and long tours are provided by Adventures Out West.

Visit Historic Manitou Springs, Colorado

view of downtown Manitou Springs near Garden of the Gods Park
After your Garden of the Gods horseback riding experience, explore historic Manitou Springs, Colorado, and its shops and restaurants. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Explore the historic Manitou Avenue (Main Street) of Manitou Springs before or after your horseback ride. Manitou Springs offers year-round activities and attractions. and the main street is lined with boutique shops, souvenir stores and restaurants. Here are more fun things to do in Manitou Springs:

  • Keep the adventure going and take the kids to Balanced Rock Café or Castaways, the Pirate Restaurant. Book another cowboy adventure at Flying W Chuckwagon Suppers & Western Stage Show.
  • On Main Street, be sure to stop at Old Tyme Photography to create your own “historic” photos.
  • Stop by the Manitou Springs Visitor Center for a free map and tasting cup. Taste the mineral springs, fed by the snows from Pikes Peak.
  • Ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad to the highest heights of Pikes Peak at 14,000+ feet.
  • Visit a place where history is frozen in time at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

Where to Stay Near Garden of the Gods

Manitou Springs’ lodging caters to all budgets, ranging from historic motels, many still family-owned, lining the busy Manitou Avenue.

One of my visits included a stay at the historic Cliff House at Pikes Peak, built in 1873 before Colorado became a state! The Cliff House at Pikes Peak has just 54 hotel rooms.

On a separate trip with my best friend, we choose the Blue Skies Inn, a unique Colorado B&B in Manitou Springs.

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