We have done quite a few amusing and exciting things while traveling, but sometimes we forget to do things in our own backyard, state, etc. For our anniversary in May of 2017 do something we have wanted to do since moving to Colorado 10 years ago. We finally made it to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Cañon City. It was a spectacular experience in more ways than one.
We had been in Pagosa Springs, and the Pagosa Springs Spa and Resort the weekend before our visit, and getting to Cañon City was also an adventure. The area is so beautiful and we saw many types of animals as we made our way into the city. On the morning of our visit, we stopped in the first parking lot and saw our first view of the bridge. I love bridges and couldn’t wait to get inside and get a better look. It is truly amazing, even from a distance.
We made our way into the Visitor’s Center and started our adventure. Several people had suggested that we take the Aerial Gondola over to the south side of the Royal Gorge, as it is downhill from there to get to the bridge. Happily, we got on one of the gondolas (included with admission) and got our first real look at the Gorge and the Arkansas River below.
The gondolas glide 2,200 feet across the Gorge, over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River, while basking in 360° views of the Gorge, Bridge, Park, and the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is beautiful and deep, lol. It’s a very short ride, and before we knew it, we were on the other side. Of course, I had to stop and take a few pictures before we decided what we would do next on our adventure.
There is so much to see and do, so we took a few minutes to look at the park map. Besides the bridge itself, there is the Cloudscraper by Ziprider (additional charge), the Plaza Theater, Historical Expo, Tommy Knocker Playland, the Entertainment Stage, Royal Rush Skycoaster (additional charge), Elk Park Amphitheater, and Point Sublime. We had tickets for the Zipline and Skycoaster, so we decided to start our day with a little adrenaline kick and did the zip line. I was a little nervous as I had never done zip lining before, but it was incredible!
We flew through the air on the highest zip line in North America, 1200 feet above the roaring Arkansas River. Below is a video of our ride. I am covering my mouth because it was so windy and hard to breathe, lol. But it was breathtaking and I was ready to do it again. The end was a little rough, but that is because of their state-of-the-art braking system. Listen to the advice of the workers, and you will be fine 🙂
I was disappointed that it went so fast, but the views were spectacular. The zip line takes you back to the visitor’s center where we walked around the store, grabbed a drink, and checked out the Water Clock. Apparently, it is one of the world’s rarest clocks. After we took a few more pictures we decided what to do next. We jumped back on the gondola ride and headed over to the Plaza Theater to watch their short video about the tale of the history of the Royal Gorge, fun facts, the scenery surrounding the park, as well as the fire that destroyed most of the park.
On June 11, 2013, most of the park structures on both sides of the Royal Gorge were devastated by a man-made wildfire. The fire jumped from the south to the north side of the gorge just west of the bridge and burned 3,218 acres of which 2,156 acres was park property, over the next four days until it was contained. The bridge itself sustained only minimal damage with approximately 100 wooden deck planks of 1292 total planks requiring replacement on the south side.
However, 48 of the park’s 52 buildings were destroyed. No visitors, park employees, or any animals in the wildlife park were injured or killed by the fire. The funicular was severely damaged and the aerial tram was destroyed. Park executives announced on June 13 that the bridge would be repaired and the park rebuilt. Rebuilding began about a week after the fire and demolition of all damaged structures took about five months. The new visitor center’s groundbreaking ceremony was on January 31, 2014.
Standing 956 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge was built between June and November 1929 at a cost of $350,000 and formally opened on December 8, 1929. It held the world record as the highest suspension bridge in the world until the Liuguanghe Bridge was built in China in 2001. At 1,260 feet long and 18 feet wide, the bridge is suspended from two 200-ton cables. Each cable has 2,100 strands of No. 9 galvanized wire in it. The floor of the bridge contains 1,000 tons of steel and almost 1,300 wooden planks.
What I enjoyed, besides the phenomenal views below, are the 50 state flags located across the bridge. It was fun walking around taking pictures of the state flags for several states to send to our friends across the US, as well as our state flag here in Colorado. The bridge isn’t that long, and we walked it back and forth a couple of times. Eventually, we ended up back at the visitor’s center. Here we took a break and had a bite to eat as it had gotten really windy and they had stopped the gondola ride until the winds died down. We set out on the observation deck and just enjoyed the view. It is spectacular.
Slowly we made it back to the other side and decided to be brave again and do the Skycoaster. I thought I would be more nervous, but I was more excited than nervous. After all, it’s not called the world’s scariest sky coaster for nothing. I guess the zip line prepared me, lol. After a 50mph free fall, the coaster hangs you over the canyon’s rim with only the river below. We got strapped in and were ready to go. The free fall was a little scary (ok, a lot scary, lol) but the rest of the ride was phenomenal.
We were flying, swinging, and dangling 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River and had the time of our lives. I felt a little shaky after we got off, but I was ready to do it again. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a thrilling adventure as the sky coaster. The feeling of flying and being free is definitely something I will never forget. Happily, we can remember it forever, as we bought the video of our ride. You can tell I was having fun 🙂
After we left the Skycoaster we visited Point Sublime, which is the perfect spot to capture the panoramic grandeur of the Royal Gorge Bridge, the Gorge, the Arkansas River, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Since it was a perfect place to take a few pictures and marvel at the wonder of the Gorge, we had to snap a few pictures. I am glad it had been a few years since the fire as I would have hated to see it that way for the first time. As it was, there are still many places in the area where you can see burnt trees. So sad, but apparently it will take decades for the land to get back to the way it was before the fire.
We slowly made our way back to the bridge and crossed it one more time before heading out of the park. We ran into had a great day, and made it even better when we got to meet Peggy, one of the park employees. She told us a little bit more about the park and about some of the animals that were relocated. She was actually on-site the day the fire started and shared some stories with us about that week. Still amazing that no one, not even firefighters, was hurt or injured. We ended our day with a picture of us in front of the Water Clock. Such an incredible adventure and a thrilling day I will never forget.
Thank you to Peggy, Dona, and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, for supporting me on my visit to the park. As always, all opinions are my own. Here is a link to their website with more info, hours, and pricing. Happy travels.
Royal Gorge Bridge and Park Visitor Information
4218 County Road 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212
January 1 thru March 13 – 4 PM
March 14 thru April 24 – 5 PM
April 25 thru May 22 – 6 PM
May 23 thru September 7 – 7 PM
September 8 thru September 27 – 6 PM
September 28 thru October 25 – 5 PM
October 26 thru December 31 – 4 PM
Youth (6-12) $18
MUST PURCHASE GENERAL ADMISSION TICKET IN ORDER TO ACCESS RIDES
Skycoaster Single Rider $30
Skycoaster Two Riders $55
Skycoaster Three Riders $75
From Denver & Colorado Springs
• Head South on I-25.
• Take Exit 140 – Tejon St. toward Cañon City, CO via Hwy 115 S.
• On the exit ramp, proceed through 1st intersection to 2nd intersection (Nevada Ave)
• Right on Nevada Ave which becomes Hwy 115 S (approx. 33 miles).
• Right on Hwy 50 W (approx. 15 miles).
• Left (South) on County Road 3A (approx. 4 miles)
• Head North on I-25.
• West on Hwy 50 (approx. 36 miles).
• Left (South) on County Road 3A (approx. 4 miles)
• Head East on Hwy 50 (approx. 48 miles)
• Right (South) on County Road 3A (approx. 4 miles)
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