Cañon City and the Royal Gorge: A Rocky Mountain Hidden Gem
While many visitors to Colorado know to make their way to the Mile High City and to western mountain ranges, few people know to head south for Colorado’s secret treasure: Cañon City. This remote area is packed with rich history, outdoor activities, and awe-inspiring views. Brimming with excitement, it’s worth it to take a trip out to the Cañon City and Royal Gorge region.
Cañon City Activities
Cañon City has plenty of activities, from wild adventures to relaxing tours. All this variety makes it easy to plan trips for friends, families, spouses, and even coworkers. Here are a few activities to add to your itinerary.
Exploring the Trails
Cañon City is a short drive from various trailheads where visitors can hike, bike, horseback ride, or ATV around the Rocky Mountains. During the summer and spring, the trails are overflowing with wildflowers. You can also plan your trip during the fall, though, to see the leaves change.
Navigating the Waters
The Arkansas River near Cañon City is an ideal attraction for water lovers. If you love water sports, cool off from the Colorado sun with a kayaking or whitewater rafting trip. Or, if you prefer more laid back water activities, give fly fishing a try!
Half day jeep tours are a memorable way for families to spend the day. The tour takes visitors across the Royal Gorge Bridge and to the top of Fremont Peak, where they can get a jaw dropping view of Pikes Peak.
You can also have a relaxing morning shopping in Historic Downtown. The town has everything from fun vintage stores to gift shops to art galleries. Afterwards, you can even grab a bite to eat at one of the town’s many cozy cafes.
For grown ups, it’s worth it to spend an afternoon at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. The site was once a monastery, but for decades it’s been used as a winery. The wine is made with fruit from the local Fremont County region, so you’ll be getting a little taste of Colorado.
While the Royal Gorge area is stunning year round, many locals suggest visiting in the spring to attend the town’s fun annual events. To get a feel for the Cañon City community, take advantage of these local festivities. Music and Blossom Festival: Every May, Cañon City hosts this quaint carnival. There’s live music from local school bands, a parade, a carnival, a rodeo, and many other activities hosted during the four day festival.
Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival: Starting a decade ago, the town has organized this festival every June. If you or your family love water adventure, this is a staple event. There’s kayaking, rafting, and stand up paddle boarding, all on the Arkansas River. Plus, there’s plenty of food, drinks, and entertainment to satisfy your group.
Mountain Bike and Running Races: Throughout September, you can have your pick of bike races, 5Ks, and half marathons. All races are held along the Royal Gorge Park Trails, so you can soak up the history and views as you run along the famous gorge.
Hot Air Balloon Festival: Every Memorial Day, Holy Cross Abbey hosts the Cañon City Balloon Classic where you can watch the launch of hundreds of balloons. The sight? Spectacular. The food and music? Even better.
Must See Sights
The main attraction of Cañon City is the Royal Gorge, and for good reason. Visitors can see the famous gorge from multiple vantage points. Walk the bridge, zipline, or take the gondola for a stunning view from up above, or travel right along the deep gorge by train or raft. Both high up and down below are sure to leave you speechless. And if that isn’t enough, Cañon City has more local wonders tucked away.
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad: This train runs right along the river, placing you approximately 1,000 feet into the valley. Besides rafting, riding the train gives the best view from the bottom of the gorge. Plus, the train serves drinks and offers snippets of the city’s history.
The Royal Gorge Bridge: Rising 1,053 feet above the river, this bridge is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. If the view from the bridge isn’t enough to give you an adrenaline rush, then the slight movement of the bridge as it sways with the wind will definitely make your heart pound.
Mining Districts: Like many Colorado cities, Cañon City was originally built as a mining town. For a truly authentic look at the city’s beginnings even before the famous bridge was built, sign up for the Gold Belt Tour. It takes you through the Cripple Creek and Victor mining districts for a first hand encounter with history.
Lodging Near the Royal Gorge
The Rocky Mountains are best experienced up close, so it’s worth it to stake out a dwelling that’s close to nature. There are many cabins and campsites in the foothills that can take you away from hectic city life and into the great outdoors.
If you want to be close to nature but aren’t ready to commit to sleeping in a tent, renting a cabin near the Royal Gorge is the way to go. Cabins near the Royal Gorge are both cozy and rugged. They are equipped with wifi, TV, and an indoor fireplace. At the same time, the mountains are literally right outside your front door. It’s the best of both worlds.
If you want to experience the Rockies to the fullest, check out the many campgrounds located in the foothills. At 6,000 feet above sea level and away from the light pollution of large cities, these areas are perfect for stargazing at night. During the daytime, there are countless nearby hiking and biking trails to explore deeper into the mountains.
The Arkansas River isn’t the only part of Cañon City flowing with adventure. Set aside a weekend to explore the rich history of the city and take in the unforgettable views of the gorge. Cañon City and the Royal Gorge are our best kept secret — but we don’t mind sharing.