On a rare rainy day this summer, I rode with Carmen, also known around these parts as “Diamond Lil,” on her route as a driver for the Garden of the Gods Park Shuttle. Carmen has driven the shuttle, operated by Adventures Out West, pretty much since day one of this inaugural season.
The Shuttle has been in operation since Memorial Day weekend and will run until August 26. It will also run through Labor Day Weekend.
“It’s been pretty popular,” Carmen tells me as we wait at the Visitor Center for riders. “It’s a ½ mile ride from here to the drop-off at Gateway” and to the web of trails that wind their way through the Park.
“We run two shuttles throughout the day,” she says, “so people are not spending too much time waiting.” She mentions that the mornings and the late afternoon are a bit slower, but there’s often “standing room only in the middle of the day.”
The route has three stops: the Visitor’s Center, the overflow parking at Rock Ledge Ranch, and the intersection in the Park where Gateway Drive and Juniper Way Loop meet. Signs at the stops give basic logistics, such as time and route info. The signs at the Rock Ledge Ranch offer a welcome to visitors and some history of the Park.
Carmen says that the shuttle definitely helps to “relieve the pressure” of cars in the Park. Trip Advisor ranks the Garden of the Gods as the #1 site to see in the Colorado Springs area.
“This Park is loved to death.” By reducing the traffic through the Park, the shuttle helps move people from the Visitor Center and overflow parking to the central trails system in the Park.
With its wheelchair lift, the shuttle helps people who might not otherwise have the pleasure of seeing the great close-up views of the rock formations. “I usually have three or four people a week use the lift. And I think that’s true for the other drivers, too.”
The free shuttle is an optional way to access the Park. Visitors may still drive their cars or bike through the Park, and some choose other means through different vendors to see the beauty. Horseback riding, e-bikes, and Segways are all popular ways to get up close to the red rocks.
The shuttle, though, is a great way to reduce congestion. As a side benefit, it offers riders a chance to hear some of the history of the area as well as a quick intro to the Park’s geology. “Diamond Lil,” and the other drivers, provide some cool insights to the Park – even in the three to four minute ride from stop to stop.
When visiting the Park, the real pleasure is seeing the Garden of the Gods from the paths through the formations. The free Garden of the Gods Park Shuttle makes that just a little bit easier for the visitor and is easier on the Park itself.