Visiting heaven and hell in Colorado: 5 places where the names reveal a divine or devilish nature
Visitors take advantage of nice weather to take photos at Balanced Rock in Garden of the Gods in December 2017.
A telltale sign you’ve arrived in a special place is when the name is peppered with religious references. Maybe it’s a geologic landform so miraculous its name compares it to the heavens. Or a trail so rugged and recreationally indulgent it could be the devil’s own handiwork.
Throughout Colorado, weekend getaways are beckoning you to choose your own destiny: Ascend to the heavens or dance with the devil. Either way, a good time is guaranteed.
Garden of the Gods
In 1859, when a poetic land surveyor, Rufus Cable, came across the dramatic, crimson rock formations jutting 300 feet into the sky, he exclaimed: “Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” It stuck. Today, the park boasts 15 miles of trails, free guided nature walks and spots to rock climb.
At the park’s Geo-Trekker Theater, visitors can learn about the dinosaurs that once wandered the park and how erosion and other geological forces, over millions of years, converted sand dunes into the now-iconic sandstone fins. (Sorry, but absent from the story is any mention of Zeus or Aphrodite.) For those fixated on the beauty, book a stay at Garden of the Gods Collection, a resort nestled at the base of the park. The resort’s west-facing rooms show off the red rocks and a heated infinity pool is the ideal spot to watch a sunset.
Garden of the Gods: 1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-6666, gardenofthegods.com
Garden of the Gods Collection: 3320 Mesa Road, Colorado Springs, 800-923-8838, gardenofthegodsclub.com
Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Let Berthoud Pass lead you straight to temptation: Devil’s Thumb Ranch, a hedonistic retreat filled with outdoor adventure. Ziplining, mountain biking, horseback riding and stand-up paddleboarding are all activities bidding for attention at this rustic but luxe ranch that’s just north of Winter Park. (The Devil’s Thumb itself is a nub of rock in the mountains east of the ranch.)
After a day of adventure, repent at the spa with a Remedy Soak and Massage that includes sinking into an oversized copper tub with mineral salts followed up by a full-body massage. We should clarify: Heck’s Tavern on the property didn’t make any deals with the devil. The tavern’s name, rather, is a nod to geometry: It’s housed in a hexagonal room and is a replica of The Timberline Lodge, a national monument located at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch: 3530 County Road 83, Tabernash, 970-726-5632, devilsthumbranch.com
Other heavenly and hellish destinations in Colorado:
When it’s hot as hell, cool off near the Devil’s Punchbowl, which is southeast of Aspen in the White River National Forest, off of Colorado 82. The watering hole is formed by the Roaring Fork River, which pours into the natural rock bowl. With 20-foot-high rock formations, it’s a popular spot for cliff diving — though be forewarned, taking those plunges can be dangerous and the waters can be unpredictable. A safer way to enjoy the area is by hiking one of the nearby trails.
Together, North Apostle, Ice Mountain and West Apostle make up the Three Apostles in the Sawatch Range. We’re mixing metaphors here, but the Three Apostles is located in Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, a nod to the Ivy League peaks also in the area (such as mounts Harvard, Yale and Princeton). The apostles themselves are technical climbs. For something more moderate, follow the Lake Ann Trail (6.6 miles round-trip) to the aquamarine lake surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Three Apostles.
Strap on your hiking boots and experience the thrill of crossing Devil’s Causeway, a narrow ridge that’s near Yampa. Its scary stats: The ridge is 11,800 feet high and just 4 feet wide in some places. Once you make it to the other side, you’re spoiled with panoramic views of mesas and valleys.
Originally posted by Brittany Anas at The Denver Post on Jul 9, 2018.
Image courtesy The Denver Post