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Royal Gorge-Cañon City

Explore a death-defying gorge and an Old West town in one trip

Carved by the Arkansas River over the course of millennia, breathtaking Royal Gorge plummets 1,250 feet in places and offers recreation galore. Less than 10 miles to the east, Cañon City is a gem of a town with a Wild West past and a heart for outdoor adventure. Explore both southern Colorado attractions in one trip to get a full taste of this rugged region.

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BK Thomson

Going Deep

Head out to Royal Gorge Bridge and Park for splendid views of the landscape and the river at the chasm’s bottom. Built in 1929, America’s highest suspension bridge rises nearly 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River and spans nearly 900 feet.

Many visitors find it’s not enough to simply traverse the bridge on foot, so they hop aboard an aerial gondola to glide above the river. And true daredevils will strap themselves in for a zip line ride across the gorge. Be sure to browse the nearby Plaza Theater and Historical Expo for a lesson in the history of the park and the railroad. Little ones can burn off some extra energy at the three-story Children’s Playland, too.

Once you’ve experienced the gorge from great heights, head back down to the floor of this geological wonder and take a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad. The train’s 17 cars glide between the gorge’s granite walls and provide views of the river and the underside of the bridge along a route that’s been in service since 1879.

Riding the Rapids, Hitting a Highway

The frothing whitewater of the Arkansas River can be daunting, but even first-time rafters will enjoy a day on the rapids alongside knowledgeable guides. The river boasts plenty of calm stretches for anglers and casual hikers who want to enjoy their time on the water at a more leisurely place. Drop your line for wild brown and rainbow trout at the Parkdale Recreation Area near Royal Gorge.

Cañon City’s scenic highway, Skyline Drive, travels a gradual incline up U.S. Highway 50 until it crests, then winds down toward a scenic spot that’s enjoyed by legions of travelers each year. The high razorback ridge overlooks the city and provides for some hair-raising moments—as well as views of dinosaur tracks embedded in the face of the cliff.

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Back in Time

About 20 miles north of Cañon City, Colorado’s prehistoric past is revealed at Garden Park Fossil Area. It was here that dinosaur bones, eggs and tracks were first discovered in the 1870s, and today Garden Park also home to two rare plant species—Brandegee wild buckwheat and inch milkweed. Learn about these discoveries through interpretive exhibits.

Back in Cañon City, a sprinkling of local culture and a dash of ancient history come together to create a unique experience in the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. From the story of how paleontology helped bring recognition to the region, to the tales of Cañon City’s founders, the museum is a treasure trove of exhibits and artwork.

At the Royal Gorge Museum and History Center, guests can see the wood cabin where settler Anson Rudd and his family lived. Rudd served as the first sheriff of Fremont County and the first warden of the territorial penitentiary. The furnished Anson Rudd House includes a rope-turned bed, spinning wheel and other items common for the time.

Take a casual stroll along the Arkansas River for stunning views of the waterway. Bordered by mature cottonwoods and paved with crushed gravel, the path accommodates biking and horseback riding, as well as pets on leashes.

Going to Jail

See how the West was tamed at the Museum of Colorado Prisons, where a building once used as a correctional facility for women welcomes guests to spend some time behind bars. Museum exhibits are housed in cells and depict prison life in Colorado from its earliest days to the present through informative displays and artifacts. The building sits adjacent to the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility—which has been in active use since 1871.

Cañon City Cuisine

The Cañon City landscape may seem unrelenting, but it supports such tasty crops as apples, pears, peaches and grapes. Each spring, the city celebrates with the Music and Blossom Festival, a tradition dating back to the 1860s. The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey turns its cash crop into a handful of award-winning varieties, including Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and apple blossom. Harvest Fest in the fall lets guests sample the abbey’s wines alongside locally sourced cuisine while enjoying live music.

For More Information

Royal Gorge Region in Colorado

800-704-6743

www.royalgorgetravel.com

 

Colorado Tourism Office

800-COLORADO

www.colorado.com