Cañon City is a unique desert oasis nestled in Colorado’s scenic southern foothills. Here, you’ll find the convergence of thrilling adventure, pure relaxation, and natural beauty. It offers an array of experiences to perfectly accommodate a family vacation, romantic escape, or an adventurous weekend away from the city.
Cañon City hosts one of Colorado’s most iconic natural landmarks — the Royal Gorge. There are several incredible ways to see it, including by railroad, hiking, whitewater rafting, and even via amusement park. Afterwards, relax at a luxurious hot springs pool, next to your private fire pit, or at a fun western-style restaurant.
So, let’s start planning your adventure! We’ll cover what to do, where to stay, and where to eat in Cañon City, Colorado.
Cañon City F.A.Q.s
Where is Cañon City Colorado?
Cañon City is in the southern part of Colorado’s front range. It’s about 40 miles west from Pueblo in the Arkansas River Valley. It’s the most populous city in Fremont County.
What is the weather like?
Cañon City has a semi-arid climate. It’s typically warm, dry, and sunny. Weather tends to be mild year round, but overall iit varies by the season.
Spring & Fall is the best time to visit: Daytime temperatures stay in the 50’s to 70s making it perfect for getting out and exploring. Average temperatures change quickly through the season. Expect 50s in March and November and 70s–80’s in May and September. For more intense hikes, consider visiting in the early Spring or late Fall. The cooler temperatures will feel nice with the intense sun.
Even though it stays pleasant during the day, the high-altitude causes large drops in temperature overnight. Which is why…
Summer is the best time for camping: The average high temperature is in the 80s with overnight lows dropping into the 50s and 60s. The landscape is generally quite exposed so bring plenty of sunscreen!
Winter: The average high temperature stays around 50° and drops into the 20’s overnight. It’s a great spot to go to try to escape the snow (with exceptions!) further north.
How far is Cañon City from Colorado Springs?
Cañon City is about an hour drive from downtown Colorado Springs. As of spring 2023, there is quite a bit of construction along highway 115. Travel time may get shorter after construction is finished and the road expands from two to four lanes.
How far is Cañon City from Denver?
Cañon City is about two hours from downtown Denver. However, anyone familiar with drive from Denver will know that drive times can vary greatly by location and time of day. I recommend looking up the driving directions from the part of Denver you’ll be driving from and the approximate time for the most accurate results.
What is Cañon City’s elevation?
Cañon City’s elevation is 5,300 feet above sea level.
What county is Cañon City Colorado in?
Cañon City is in Fremont County, Colorado.
What river runs through the Royal Gorge in Cañon City?
The Arkansas River runs through the Royal Gorge and next to Cañon City. It’s breathtaking to see, especially from the Royal Gorge. There are also trails along the Arkansas River, such as the popular Tunnel Drive Trail.
Visit the Royal Gorge Mountain Park
The Royal Gorge Mountain Park is the biggest attraction in Cañon City. It’s a world famous park featuring the highest suspension bridge in the United States. Additionally, the park has several fun rides based on the gorge, making it a fun destination for kids and adults alike.
Royal Gorge Mountain Park Tickets
Tickets are required to enter the Royal Gorge Mountain Park. This includes access to:
- Walking the Royal Gorge suspension bridge
- Riding the Aerial Gondola
- Plaza Theater
- Children’s Playland
- Breathtaking views
Tickets can be used anytime for up to one year after purchasing. You don’t have to choose a specific date. To get the most affordable tickets, visit between 9 and 10 am. Early Bird admission is offered for a discount, but you have to leave by 10am when the rides and visitor center open.Military discounts are also available.
Keep in mind, the most popular rides require payment in addition to your park entry tickets. This includes:
- The Skycoaster
- Via Ferrata
Royal Gorge Mountain Park Hours
The Royal Gorge Mountain Park opens at 10am every day. Additionally, Early Bird admission to walk the bridge starts at 9am. (10am is when the rides open up!)
Closing times vary throughout the year and range from 4pm to 7pm. During summer, which is the most popular time to visit, the park closes consistently at 7pm. For other months, visit their website for up-to-date information.
Visit the Royal Gorge Bridge
The Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge is the highest in the country. It sits almost 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. It’s about a quarter of a mile long. Visitors can walk across the bridge and marvel at the breathtaking sites around and below.
Royal Gorge Gondola
The Royal Gorge Gondola is included with a general admission ticket. Most people will walk across the bridge one way then take the gondola back. Like the bridge, the gondola hovers nearly 1,000 feet above the canyon floor.
Royal Gorge Zipline
Thrill seekers will LOVE the Cloudscaper zipline in the Royal Gorge Mountain Park. Riders are sure to get an adrenaline rush as they soar 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River, making it America’s tallest zipline. Guests who are 10 years and older can ride it.
An additional ticket is required to ride the Cloudscraper zipline. You can check prices and buy online tickets here.
Royal Gorge Skycoaster
If the zipline isn’t thrilling enough, check out the Royal Rush Skycoaster. You’ll freefall from 1200 feet above the Arkansas River at speeds up to 50mph. Yeah, there’s a good reason the Royal Rush is nicknamed “the world’s scariest skycoaster”.
Again, an additional ticket is required to ride the Royal Rush Skycoaster. You can check prices and buy online tickets here.
Tommy Knocker Playland
Young kids will love the Tommy Knocker Playland. It’s an old-west style playground with climbing, slides, a 20 ft tunnel, splash pad, and more. Kids can pan for gold, ‘shoot muskets’, or ride a vintage carousel.
Can you see the Royal Gorge without paying?
Yes! You can see the Royal Gorge and bridge without paying. However, you won’t be able to cross the bridge or join in on any of the activities. My favorite way to see it for free is from the Elkhorn Loop Overlook.
Elkhorn Loop Overlook
The Elkhorn Loop Overlook provides a spectacular (and free!) view of the Royal Gorge and Bridge. It’s easy to get to, and fairly close to the mountain park (here’s the exact spot on Google Maps!)
When you arrive, walk to the part of the loop closest to the gorge. From here, you can kind of see the bride but the view is obstructed by trees. So, what you’ll want to do is to walk down the path in the same direction as the bridge. It won’t take long until you get breathtaking views of the Royal Gorge and bridge plus the Arkansas River and train tracks below.
**CATION: Walking down to the lookout point can be dangerous. You’ll be walking alongside steep drop offs into the canyon. I don’t recommend attempt this with kids. But, if you’re a fairly healthy adult with decent balance, you’ll likely find it a lot of fun! I didn’t think it was too scary or narrow, but the big concern would be kids who want to run around or get close to the edge.
Hiking in the Royal Gorge Park
Royal Gorge Overlook Loop
If you’re looking for a short nature walk to the best free view of the Royal Gorge, this is it. The Overlook Trail takes you to the Elkhorn Overlook (mentioned above) with an added nature walk.
Head to the Canyon Rim Trailhead lot on the main road to the park. The trail is an easy and scenic 1.5 mile loop.
Arkansas River Canyon Rim, Cañon Vista, and Far Out Loop
For a longer hike, check out the Arkansas River Canyon Rim, Cañon Vista, and Far Out Loop. It’s a long yet easy nature walk through Royal Gorge Park spanning 6 miles. It starts with the Royal Gorge Overlook Loop (mentioned above) then takes you further east into the park. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the beautiful semi-arid landscape..
The hike to the tallest point in Cañon City begins in the Royal Gorge Park. Although the trail is only 3.2 miles, expect some scrambling towards the end. You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Royal Gorge and the surrounding landscape.
Alta Vista Loop
The Alta Vista Loop is a scenic trail leading to a lookout point west of the Royal Gorge bridge. It begins at Buckskin Joe, which used to be an Old West-style theme park and movie set. You’ll walk along an old railroad track to start. However, when you get to the loop, you’ll get to walk along the contour of the Royal Gorge. If you time it right, you may even get to see the train!
Ride the Royal Gorge Train
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad is one of the prettiest train rides in Colorado. It’s a relaxing 2-hour trip through the bottom of the Royal Gorge. In addition to spectacular scenery, you can enjoy delicious food and a great selection of drinks.
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad offers four different ticket classes and a variety of unique experiences. Before we get into that, here’s what you get with ALL tickets:
- Access to delicious food and drinks
- A full-bar with wine and micro-brews
- Access to the open air car. This is my favorite spot to be when not eating to be honest. It’s standing room only, but it gives unobstructed views of the canyon.
Unique Dining Experiences
One of my favorite things about the Royal Gorge Train is the variety of experiences offered. The most unique being the Murder Mystery Dinner Train.
First Class Lunch or Dinner train
The First Class Lunch and Dinner Trains are the most upscale experiences offered by the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. Tickets include a luxurious three course meal in an elevated train car setting. You’ll be greeted with a glass of champagne on arrival and begin with salad and french rolls. You can choose from a variety of high-quality entrees, including prime rib, Red Bird chicken, and the chef’s selection of fish. Finish with a decadent dessert. Additional drinks and appetizers are available for purchase.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
The Murder Mystery Dinner Train is the most unique and lively experience offered by the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. You’ll get to enjoy the same three-course fine dining menu listed above but with a live “Who-dunnit” murder mystery show.
No matter the class, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast in the Royal Gorge on the daily 9 a.m. train. Choose from classic breakfast fare like pancakes, fresh fruit, breakfast burritos, and more. Pair it with your favorite breakfast cocktail, like a mimosa or bloody mary.
More Things to Do in Cañon City
White Water Rafting in the Royal Gorge
Out of everything to do in Cañon City, white water rafting reigns supreme for thrill seekers. Prepare to be captivated by the raw power of the Arkansas river while you navigate the swirling waters and crashing waves. The rapids plunge through the narrow base of the Royal Gorge. Gorge. With walls reaching heights over 1,000 feet, the gorge offers a dramatic and picturesque backdrop to your rafting adventure. Rapids range from Class II to Class V, so there’s something for every kind of adventurer.
Royal Gorge Helicopter Tours
Experience the thrill of soaring above one of Colorado’s epic natural wonders. Royal Gorge Helicopter Tours have been delighting adventurers since 1989. So buckle up and prepare for an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Take in the breathtaking views of the towering cliffs and iconic Royal Gorge Bridge from the comfort of a sleek helicopter. With expert pilots and incredible aerial views, this unforgettable experience promises unparalleled vista’s and memories that will last a lifetime.
Tunnel Drive Trail
Nestled towards the entrance to the Royal Gorge, the Tunnel Drive Trail offers a leisurely, four mile nature walk alongside the Arkansas River. This unique trail features three beautiful tunnels that provide unbeatable nature and portrait photo opportunities. As you explore, keep your eyes peeled for the majestic Bighorn Sheep. They’re known to frequent the area to relax and graze alongside the canyon walls. If you time it right, you can watch the iconic Royal Gorge Route Train go by from across the river.
Located in the heart of Cañon City, the captivating Skyline Drive offers spectacular panoramic vistas and a taste of the region’s natural splendor. This scenic road travels along the top of a narrow ridge overlooking Cañon City. Visitors will be impressed by the sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and distant peaks. With every turn, you’ll discover incredible new angles of the rugged terrain. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking an exhilarating drive, Skyline Drive promises and unforgettable journey.
Desert Reef Hot Springs
This hidden desert oasis offers a tranquil escape backed by rugged mountain peaks. The lovely blue pools stand in striking contrast to the surrounding beige sand. Boasting natural mineral hot springs, this local gem received a tasteful renovation in 2022 that’ll have you questioning if you’re actually in Palm Springs. It’s an idyllic destination for a girls trip, with clothing-optional relaxation. Men are welcome when accompanied by their partners. After days of thrilling adventures, Desert Reef Hot Springs is the ideal place to unwind.
Camping, Glamping, & Cabins in Cañon City
Desert Reef Hot Springs
In addition to soaking, Desert Reef Hot Springs offers indulgent overnight experiences. Elevate your desert retreat with their luxe glamping accommodations. Choose from a selection of renovated airstreams and tiny homes that exude a modern, hygge-inspired ambiance. Sink into a luxurious Queen sized bed and bask in the thoughtfully designed interiors. You’ll be questioning if you’ve been transported to the trendy enclaves of Palm Springs. For an extra touch of opulence, the tiny homes offer a private hot spring pool for two (coming soon), ensuring an intimate soak amidst the serenity of the desert oasis. With the main pool just a stone’s throw away, your stay includes ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural hot springs.
Royal Gorge Cabins
The Royal Gorge cabins offer two exceptional accommodation options:beautiful modern cabins and furnished glamping tents. The cabins feature impeccable Scandinavian-inspired design, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, private patios, and well equipped kitchens. Experience luxury camping in the glamping tents, complete with comfortable queen beds, towels, and linens. Enjoy evenings by your private campfire pit. Conveniently located off the highway near the Royal Gorge, this comfortable and clean retreat is perfect for couples and families. Nearby restaurants and tour guide offices make exploring effortless.
Royal Gorge Park East Ridge Campground
If you’re looking for a classic camping experience, consider staying at the Royal Gorge Park East Ridge Campground. It offers tent and trailer sites equipped with fire pits and tent pads. Amenities are minimal, but expect a close-up experience with nature. Immerse yourself in the lovely, semi-arid landscape and enjoy the incredible views of the distant mountains. Watching the sunrise and sunset here is a treat.
Conveniently located in the Royal Gorge Park, it’s the perfect base for exploring the area. Hop on the hiking trails next to camp. They’ll lead you to the canyon rim up to the summit of Fremont Peak. Online reservations are a must from April 1st to Octoer 31st.