Tourism has always been part of the picture in Colorado Springs, from the very first--so it hasn't deformed things much. And if there were nothing else here but the Garden of the Gods, people would flock here to see it. As it is, it's just the biggest headache for the City Parks Department.
The sudden upthrust of the Rockies left the entire front range with huge spires of red sandstone. Down in New Mexico, it gives a name to the Sange de Christo range. Up by Boulder you know it as Red Rocks Amphitheater, the most imposing natural music venue in the country and site of U-2's 'Under a Blood Red Sky' video. Around Colorado Springs the rock spires thrust up all over the place--in Glen Eyrie there are obelisks of stone 70 feet high and only 5 feet thick. As a boy (very impressed by the huge brilliant red Indians that loom over Manitou Avenue) I imagined a red Indian skin lying under the landscape, that pressures under the earth blew up into the sky like flames. Now, in my years, I don't see much to change about that image. And nowhere is that eruption of blood/fire/stone as hallowed and chaotic as in the Garden of the Gods. People come up with these names for a reason.
There is a little something for everyone among these ruddy monoliths. We used to skateboard down through them (leaving more red stains). Now there are mountain bike trails. An old Indian trading post still sells souvenirs. I've seen cheap Taiwan crap come out of there, and some really nice turquoise. There is great climbing, from thrilling to impossible, while all the doves in the wind-scoured holes up above watch, their cooing amplified by the natural curve of the stone. I threw a rock concert in the Garden in 1972 (and did I get in trouble with the city for taking out a permit for a Sunday school picnic and drawing 10,000 hippies who shut the park down on Mother's Day) and at one point raised my peyote-glazed eyes to the huge slabs hanging over the concert stage--and saw dozens of climbers listening to the music while hanging on ropes and hammocks hundreds of feet above.
There are certain famous configurations, the Kissing Camels (now floodlighted, creating a popular makeout zone). Balance Rock, sitting there impossibly poised. Steamboat Rock (okay I have no idea why they call it that, but it's a damned impressive chunk of stone), all located right off parking areas, right off roads. But you can slip off into the trails between the slabs and spires, crawl up into the crevices, stare through crevices at sudden precipices, lope along through the little pines surrounded by the silent clamor of the Gods. And, really, I think you should.