Royal Gorge Region Activities
Ditch the Crowds, Experience the Adventure
For those who want to experience real, rustic Colorado in all its bluebird-sky, whitewater, big adventure glory, the Royal Gorge Region is the perfect destination. Combine the striking natural landscape with year-round mild weather and laid-back local vibe, and you’ve got the ideal Colorado vacation. From hiking and biking, to ATV rides and Gold-Medal fly fishing, your next adventure is waiting.
Feel the power of the Arkansas River on one of the country’s most sought after whitewater rafting experiences as you paddle between the sheer rock walls of the Royal Gorge, or float the family-friendly Bighorn Sheep Canyon. The Arkansas is also home to some of the country’s best fly fishing. Stop by a local outfitter for a guided outing.
High above the river, cross America’s highest suspension bridge at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, where you can zipline and feel the free-fall rush of the Skycoaster (www.royalgorgebridge.com). Soar above the valley in a helicopter tour, or zip across the bridge on a thrilling Segway tour. Take to the trails on foot or on bike and journey into the backcountry of our beautiful region.
Climb aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad for an unbelievable journey through the steep and narrow 10-mile-long canyon. Be sure to visit the open-air car for wildlife viewing. Jeep and ATV tours are also available for scenic tours of the Gorge and surrounding areas.
After your adventures, browse the many art galleries along Main Street in both Cañon City and Florence. For a peek into local dinosaur, mining, and geologic history, peruse local museums including the Florence Pioneer Museum (www.florencepioneermuseum.org), and the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center (www.rgmhc.org). Check out the local wineries beginning with The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (www.abbeywinery.com).
As you continue your journey, drive the scenic Gold Belt Tour, walk discovery trails, and search for fossils.
From the forest to the canyon, the rushing river to our charming Main Streets, the Royal Gorge Region promises to feed your spirit and create everlasting memories.
The Arkansas River is the fourth longest river in the United States, and within those 1,469 miles is a wealth of scenic and recreational opportunity. Kayakers, rafters, and stand-up paddlers will find a section that is perfect for every adventure level. For those with limited experience, you’ll find plenty of whitewater outfitters ready to help you craft your perfect rafting experience.
Upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon
This scenic stretch of river, located between Salida and Cañon City, is family-friendly. Rapids range from a calm float to small waves. Watch for bighorn sheep as you pass through the heart of southern Colorado’s high desert environment.
Bighorn Sheep Canyon
Located before the start of the famed Royal Gorge, Bighorn Sheep Canyon is the perfect stretch for families and first-time rafters looking for some waves and challenges. Tackle such rapids as Spikebuck, Five Points, and Shark’s Tooth, class III rapids that will keep any paddler on their toes!
The Royal Gorge
World-class whitewater in a stunning environment is the main draw for whitewater enthusiasts who flock to the Royal Gorge. Class III-V rapids challenge kayakers and rafters as they battle Sunshine Falls, Boateater, and other rapids sitting over 1,000 feet below the rim of the gorge and the famed Royal Gorge Bridge.
Whitewater Kayak and Recreation Park
Centennial Park features surf waves adjacent to the city’s Centennial Park. Located on 3rd St., the park offers onlookers the chance to watch body surfers, kayakers, and others enjoy the play waves. At moderate water flows, there is a wading pool built into the river’s edge. The park hosts the annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival in the last weekend in June. Kids and families will love the Splash Pad, which is a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Hiking & Biking the Royal Gorge Region
Add some adventure to your visit by heading out on the Royal Gorge Region’s trails. From challenging singletrack bike rides to quiet riverside strolls, you’ll find something for everyone in the area. Unique geology, wildflowers, and stunning views await!
Royal Gorge Park
The Royal Gorge Park trails offer incredible views of the Royal Gorge and the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Trails range from relatively easy to advanced. The Canyon Rim Trail, including Elk Horn Loop, offers up breathtaking views, but be aware of exposed areas. East Ridge Campground connects to a multitude of trails, including S’Mores – a popular option for young bikers.
Arkansas Riverwalk Trail
The Riverwalk Trail runs through some of the most scenic parts of Cañon City. Along the 7-mile stretch of trail, you’ll track the river’s course through the city, passing farmland, cottonwood groves, and city parks. The Riverwalk Trail is mostly a flat, maintained trail that is open during all seasons-perfect for families and cruiser bike rides. Don’t miss the historic tunnels on Tunnel Drive at the westernmost end of the trail.
South Cañon Trails
From the Eagle Wing Trailhead near the Riverwalk, try Mutton Bustin’ for an easy rike or walk. Those looking for a challenge (and inspiring views) can head up Hard Time to The Great Escape. This trail system connects to Cañon City’s B.F. Rockafellar Park, commonly known as Ecology Park – a popular hiking destination.
Oil Well Flats
One of the most popular and extensive trail systems in the area, Oil Well Flats includes 12 miles of singletrack trails. Cruise through high desert as you ascend Unconformity or Fire Canyon toward Island in the Sky for spectacular views of Cañon City and beyond to the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo range.
*For complete maps and directions to trailheads, grab a free copy of FAR’s Recreation & Trail Guide, available at the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, Red Canyon Cycles (410 Main Street, Cañon City), and several other locations throughout the Royal Gorge Region. See www.joinfar.org/adventureguide for more information!
The Royal Gorge Region has some of the best trails in Colorado for ATV and 4-wheel fun at the Texas Creek Recreation Area. Detailed maps are available at Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, and the Visitors Center Cabin.
Clearance varies on these routes, and the network links some ATV sections with 4-wheel drive. There are miles and miles of trails and tracks. Among the most popular 4-wheel drive routes are Bull Gulch (606), Fremont County Road 27 (27), Fernleaf Gulch Connector (6020) and Reese Gulch Bypass (6024). Popular with ATVers are East Arkansas River Overlook (6025), Cut Off (6036) and Tucker Trail (6035).
Always consult maps, check weather forecast in advance; and be aware of the BLM regulations.
The Royal Gorge Region also has several guide services – a great idea for novice riders or folks unfamiliar with Rocky Mountain terrain. Visit the combined BLM/USFS regional office at 3028 E. Main Street, Cañon City for regulations, trail maps and other outdoor recreation information.
The Royal Gorge Region is no stranger to rock climbing. Boasting one of Colorado’s largest sport climbing destinations, Shelf Road, the region is a year-round destination for rock climbers. With a wealth of cliff options at Shelf Road, you will find plenty of sunny or shady climbing areas at most of the climbing sites.
The lesser-known but still awe-inspiring Tanner Dome offers adventurers single and multi-pitch climbs as well as sport and traditional/mixed routes. You’ll find the climbing area by heading south on Oak Creek Grade Road, and approach via the East Bear Gulch Trail. Please note: The Tanner Dome area is closed to climbing from April 1st to August 1st for peregrine falcon nesting.
Road rides across the Royal Gorge Region offer up the opportunity to traverse some of the area’s most scenic roads as you take in iconic vistas. If hitting the pavement is your thing, the Royal Gorge Region has a ride for you. A locals’ favorite, the 30-mile Red Canyon Road Ride will treat you to historic ranches with sweeping desert views. The Hardscrabble Loop is a century test piece, taking you all the way up to scenic Westcliffe and back. Lastly, consider the 68-mile Phantom Canyon/Shelf Road ride to travel along part of the Gold Belt Byway. For complete information and maps of these rides, grab a free copy of the 2017 Recreation & Trail Guide by Fremont Adventure Recreation at the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, Red Canyon Cycles, and other area locations. Or see the web to download your own copy: www.joinfar.org/adventureguide