Not Just Another Whitewater Paradise!
Colorado is a vast abundance of adventure that awaits and welcomes you. If you’ve visited Garden of the Gods and San Isabel National Forest, it is time to head toward Canon City, and the Colorado Royal Gorge region. There is abundant Hiking, ATV trails, Mountain biking, Whitewater Rafting and Fly Fishing. The region boast’s a great winery and a train tour which cuts through the sheer granite/gneiss cliffs of one of the most thrilling geological features in the region, the Royal Gorge.
1. The Best Places to Hike and Camp
Hiking Trails and Camping Near You:
From Canon City heading south towards Westcliffe on 143 you find there are trails that head up into a slightly higher, cooler elevation, such as the Thompson Mountain trail. These are great afternoon and evening hikes. Some areas, such as East Bear Trailhead in the Wet Mountains, are steeper and require a Little more adventure ready spirit. These are the trails that you get to decide your own turnaround point, or bring a tent and spend the night among the stars.
2. Where to Mountain Bike for Views Like This
Mountain Biking Temple Canyon South of Canon City:
Some great mountain biking can also be found south of town at Temple Canyon Park, which has a number of trails with great “flow.” If your looking for some great technical bike trails, the Oil Well Flats, up County Rd 9, is a good bet. Be sure to know your limits when descending out here, and bring a friend and water. The gnarliest and rockiest trails will be found at the back of the trail system.
You can pick up a great guide and trail map at the bike shop on the main street in Canon City. The single track sections of the Rainbow Trail off highway six behind Coaldale provides for some steep uphill and downhill mountain biking. There is also a four wheel drive road there that will take you over the Sangre de Cristo’s and into the San Luise Valley.
3. An Offroad Adventure’s for the 4×4
See the Area with an ATV or Your Own Rig:
Some of the above-mentioned trails are allocated for motorized use, but the best ATV and dirt biking will be found upstream, on Highway Fifty at Texas Creek. Here there are many hundreds of miles of motorized trails, and plenty of spots to Post up in a camper for a few days. This is all Bureau of Land Management; (y)our land. Be sure to bring a small five-gallon tank of gas so you can make it back for dinner.
There are also ATV rentals in the area if you didn’t trailer your own ATV’s. For hotter summer days, try the Rainbow Trail in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which runs 100 miles from Salida to Westcliffe, sometimes double track, sometimes single track. (You can combine a rafting + ATV trip with our Adventure Packages).
4. A Relaxing and Chill Afternoon
With Your Choice of Canon City Red or White:
For a family adventure with kids, or just something easy, there are a few nice, mostly flat, walks in the area to finish the day. Tunnel road is just outside of Canon City. It follows the old narrow gauge railroad as it makes it’s way upstream from the outlet of the Royal Gorge. There is a free pioneer museum in Florence, a ten-minute drive from Canon City. This town was booming in its coal mining days but now is just peppered with quaint little houses and antique shops. Another great walk, but with an entry fee, is the Royal Gorge bridge. From here you can stand between the gaping two thousand foot cliffs of the Royal Gorge.
If you’d like to bring your parents or grandparents along for a rest day, there is The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Enjoy a flight of reds or whites, dry and sweet. Their pasture setting will lull you to comfort while your taste buds sizzle.
See the Royal Gorge the Way You Were Meant to See It:
Once rested up, you’ll want an adventure. The second(and most exhilarating) way to see the Royal Gorge is by boat. Here our guides will paddle with you through the rock-strewn channels. Difficulty varies widely depending on the time of the year, the middle of June typically being the fastest water and biggest splashes.
You can wait to July when the Colorado snowmelt is slowing, or take one of the more mellow trips upstream of the Royal Gorge, such as rafting Bighorn Sheep Canyon (class III-IV). If you want to test your hand fly-fishing the Arkansas River’s gold medal waters, guides will paddle you down the slower water upstream and even tie a fly or two on for you.
Another great way of seeing the Gorge is by train, where instead of just seeing a snippet of it, you see the entirety of the river scoured canyon. The train leaves three times a day and has dinner trains selectively. There are several museums that are worthwhile to visit as well, including the Colorado Prison Museum, Royal Gorge Dinosaur Museum, Freemont County Heritage Tours, and the Canon City Queen Ann Tea House.
Planning your next Southern Colorado Trip and Adventure?
Don’t miss out on this exciting and underutilized part of Colorado. This is one of those places tourist seek out but never find. This is “locals secret” There is a reason that whitewater guides such as myself have chosen to settle down here and call it home. Come explore it with us, check out our whitewater rafting and fishing trips, and let us know how we can help!