Overview. This is the outer loop at the Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark with dramatic views on 300' towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak. This route is completely on trails with the exception of 3 road crossings; while not entering the paved inner circuit across the main attractions of the park, it grants spectacular views from different angles and elevations on some of the most impressive rock formations in Colorado.
Need to Know. No water along the route except at the trading post and at the main parking area at the Northern end; very limited shade.
Description (modified from Trail Run Project to avoid road sections and selecting the nicest trails when multiple options are available). While the name of the trail changes frequently, this loop is very easy to follow as it is the outermost one in most cases and trails are very well marked and maintained. This loop can be completed by starting at any point and in any direction. This description starts at the intersection of the Gateway Rd and Juniper Way Loop and goes clockwise.
Take the Ute Trail and stay on the left at the fork; sharp left to the short climb that brings the ridge of the Niobrara trail; run the ridge until the end (mind that the trail reported on other sites including Trail Run Project is the old track that has been closed - you need to go all the way to the end of the ridge and take the switchback). Take the Buckskin Charley Trail on the left until connecting with the Scotsman Trail, also to on the left. Continue straight into the Strausenback Trail and cross for the paved Garden Ln. Take a very short section of the Siamese Twins Trail to get on the Cabin Canyon Trail. Use the Siamese Twins Trail once more to connect to Palmer Trail that brings all the way to the Northernmost point of the loop before jumping on the Bretag Trail that takes you back to the starting point.
Going to attempt this loop in 2 days on Thanksgiving morning.