8 Jaw-Dropping Things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado
Adventurers, nature lovers, and history buffs alike flock to the Royal Gorge Colorado. Here, you can enjoy a quieter, slower-paced, and spectacularly beautiful section of the Rockies.
Just outside Cañon City, equidistant to Pueblo and Colorado Springs, the Royal Gorge Colorado has endless jaw-dropping views and opportunities for adventure.
Hiking, whitewater rafting, riding the gondola, ziplining, and of course, walking across one of the highest suspension bridges in the world — there’s no shortage of heart-pounding things to do at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.
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Jump ahead to:
- Facts About the Royal Gorge
- Things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado
- Best Time to Visit the Royal Gorge Colorado
- Best Photo-ops at the Royal Gorge
- How to Get to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
- Things to do Nearby
- Where to Stay Near the Royal Gorge
- Royal Gorge Colorado FAQs
Facts About the Royal Gorge
The Royal Gorge Bridge, AKA “America’s Bridge,” is 1,260 feet long and it stands 956 feet above the Arkansas River.
Until 2001, the Royal Gorge Bridge was the tallest bridge in the entire world. It was also the world’s tallest suspension bridge until 2003.
The bridge was built in just seven months in 1929.
A fast-moving fire destroyed 90% of the park in June 2013, obliterating almost all the things to do at the Royal Gorge. 48 of the park’s 52 buildings and structures burned to the ground, but in a testament to its magnificent engineering, the Royal Gorge Bridge survived almost completely unscathed. Only about 100 wooden planks (out of 1,257) had to be replaced.
The Royal Gorge Bridge can hold over 2 million pounds and withstand winds of up to 125 mph.
At 1,250 feet deep and over six miles long, the Royal Gorge itself is affectionately known as “the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas.”
The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is open 365 days a year, although daily hours vary seasonally.
Aside from the bridge, other popular Royal Gorge activities include riding the gondola and defying heights on the Cloudscraper Zip Line, one of the highest in North America.
Things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado
Royal Gorge Bridge
The undisputed star of the show at the Royal Gorge Colorado is the pedestrian-only bridge. Well, technically pedestrians and pups — the Royal Gorge Bridge is dog-friendly!
Admission into the park includes bridge access, so walk across as many times as you’d like (it’s just shy of a quarter-mile long).
Stop for photos at different vantage points and see if you can spot any whitewater rafters navigating the river down below. At 18 feet across and made of insanely heavy-duty steel, the bridge doesn’t sway as much as you might expect and it’s completely safe.
Note: public vehicle traffic is not allowed, but the park does occasionally partner with car clubs and allow members to drive across the Royal Gorge Bridge.
Royal Gorge Gondola
Another one of the top things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado is ride the Aerial Gondola. Just like the bridge, the Royal Gorge gondola spans the width of the massive gorge, gliding 2,200 feet across, 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River. Sit back, relax, have your camera ready, and enjoy 360-degree views of the Royal Gorge.
We planned to walk one-way across the bridge, then ride the gondola back across the Royal Gorge. However, we loved the gondola ride so much that we ended up taking it round-trip twice! It’s included in your admission ticket and you can take unlimited rides.
Best of all, the gondola is wheelchair-accessible and pet-friendly for well-behaved, leashed dogs! Note that only the north platform has a wheelchair ramp, so if you need it, you should ride the gondola round-trip from there.
The gondola is inspected annually and the park performs any necessary repairs in the off-season. There may be short periods of time in January and February when it isn’t running.
Royal Gorge Via Ferrata
For those who may be unfamiliar, via ferrata is Italian for “iron path.” Typically, a via ferrata is a vertical or near-vertical mountain climbing route with steel steps or ladders and other fixed anchors in the rock.
The Royal Gorge Via Ferrata is one of the newest Royal Gorge activities — and quickly becoming one of the most popular. A trained mountain guide accompanies adventurers along an easy-to-follow track, allowing them to safely climb the gorge’s steep granite walls.
The via ferrata is open year-round (weather permitting), and the Royal Gorge Colorado provides all necessary equipment. Guests wanting to take it on must be at least 10 years old. Note that the Royal Gorge Via Ferrata is not included with general park admission.
Cloudscraper Royal Gorge Zipline
Calling all thrillseekers! The Cloudscraper Royal Gorge Zipline is the highest zipline in America, gliding adventurers along a whopping 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River! The zipline is unquestionably one of the most exciting things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado.
Departing from the South Rim, the zipline runs directly between the Royal Gorge bridge and the aerial gondola. Ride the gondola over from the North Rim, then “zip” back across.
A few things to know about the Cloudscraper Royal Gorge Zipline:
- Riders must be at least 10 years old, weigh between 100-245 pounds, and be between 4’0” and 6’8” tall
- The zipline is closed in January and February, and may close temporarily due to inclement weather (in particular, wind)
- GoPro cameras and other similar wearable action devices are not permitted (don’t worry; automatic cameras along the zipline capture photos for the ‘gram)
- The Royal Gorge zipline is not included with general park admission; a ride is $48 and reservations are not required
Royal Rush Skycoaster
Looking for the most adventurous things to do at the Royal Gorge? Look no further than the Royal Rush Skycoaster, a 50 mph free fall. Riders are hoisted 100 feet into the air, then released to “fly” and swing a breathtaking 1,200 feet over the bridge and the gorge itself.
Many people compare the Royal Gorge Skycoaster to skydiving and best of all, you can experience it with up to two of your favorite people!
Like the Royal Gorge zipline and via ferrata, tickets to the Skycoaster aren’t included in general park admission. Tickets vary in price from $26-35 per person, depending on the number of riders. There are also discounted Zipline-Skycoaster combo tickets available.
Located in the Visitor Center, this restaurant and brewery is open year-round and offers spectacular views of the Royal Gorge bridge and the river valley.
After filling your day with all sorts of adventurous things to do at the Royal Gorge, it’s such a treat to sit on the patio and watch the gondola cross the gorge or cozy up with a locally-brewed beverage by the massive indoor fireplace.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Once described by Theodore Roosevelt as “the trip that bankrupts the English language,” the Royal Gorge Route Railroad is scenic, to say the absolute least.
The scenic two-hour ride snakes along the Arkansas River at the bottom of the Royal Gorge, taking passengers through the jaw-dropping granite-walled canyon and offering incredible views of the Rockies.
You have several options on the 1950s-era trains, including car classes, departure times, and experiences. Treat yourself to First Class Lunch, book a panoramic Vista Dome car, or ride up front in one of the locomotives VIP-style, right next to a train engineer. The Royal Gorge train runs year-round and offers up to four daily departures.
Royal Gorge Rafting
For true adventure enthusiasts, whitewater rafting on the mighty Arkansas River is one of the best things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado.
It’s the perfect setting: between adrenaline-filled rapids are chances to bond with your family or friends (old and new!), see wildlife, and take in the Royal Gorge Bridge from a unique perspective way down below.
The rapids on this stretch of the Arkansas are significant, Class III, IV, and V during high water, so Royal Gorge rafting is for experienced adventurers only.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed or family-friendly excursion, check out Bighorn Sheep Canyon rafting trips, which travel an adjacent stretch of the river. Both offer half- and fully-day trips.
Best Time to Visit the Royal Gorge Colorado
During the summer, the best time to go to the Royal Gorge is first thing in the morning, in order to beat both the heat and crowds.
The springtime and fall generally have fewer crowds, with the exception of school breaks, and the park is absolutely spectacular with seasonal color.
You’ll find the fewest number of visitors in the winter, but of course, you’re also dealing with unpredictable Colorado mountain weather, which often means snow, ice, and wind.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the rides and other things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado sometimes close in the low season for routine maintenance or without notice due to inclement weather. It’s always best to call or check the Royal Gorge social media accounts before going to verify what’s open.
Best Photo-ops at the Royal Gorge
Naturally, one of the best things to do at the Royal Gorge is take photos! The star attraction, of course, is the Royal Gorge Bridge, but there are a couple of particularly photogenic spots you should check out.
This should go without saying, but please remember to take extra precautions and be aware of your surroundings while taking pictures, especially on and near the bridge. Watch out for (and obey!) off-limit signs and keep well within protective barriers.
- Point Sublime – Enjoy a panoramic view of the bridge, the mountains, and the Arkansas River here. It’s best to get up extra early to capture sunrise photos, but sunset is magical too.
- Movie theater – For a postcard-worthy photo of the Royal Gorge Bridge, Arkansas River Valley, and the gorge itself, head over to the park’s movie theater during mid-day.
- Old Incline Overlook – Right near the Visitor’s Center is a fantastic, somewhat secret viewpoint.
- Royal Gorge Bridge – The actual bridge is by far the best vantage point for photographing the river and the gorge from above. Sunrise and sunset over the horizon are spectacular, too.
- Denver & Rio Grande train engine – Head to the lookout point near the Denver & Rio Grande train engine to snap a photo before walking along the gravel path for views of the bridge and surrounding landscape.
How to Get to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
The easiest and most straightforward way to get to the Royal Gorge Colorado (if you’re not already road-tripping!) is to fly into either Colorado Springs or Denver, rent a car, and drive.
- Distance from Colorado Springs to the Royal Gorge: 58 miles; 1 hour, 10 minutes
- Distance from Denver to the Royal Gorge: 129 miles; 2 hours, 15 minutes
Good to know: The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is open 365 days a year, but it’s still a good idea to call ahead to verify which attractions are open. Some temporarily close for routine maintenance or due to inclement weather throughout the year.
Things to do Nearby
Some of the best things to do at the Royal Gorge are actually outside the park. Whether you have just a few hours or an entire long weekend, historic and picturesque Cañon City has a little something for everyone.
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
About 30 minutes from the park nestled at the foot of the Wet Mountains, wine enthusiasts can sip on award-winning varietals in a truly unique setting. A former monastery dating back to the 1880s, the winery officially opened to the public in 2002.
Book a tasting, enjoy a glass and some light bites, or pick up some local goodies from the adorable shop. Be sure to call ahead of time to make a reservation.
Tunnel Drive hike
20 minutes from the park, this easy and scenic hike travels along an old railroad bed and through three granite-blasted tunnels. The payoff is huge, with a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the Arkansas River and canyon.
Museum of Colorado Prisons
This unique museum in Cañon City gives visitors a peek into a real former correctional facility. It’s full of fascinating, authentic exhibits ranging from a gas chamber and inmate cells to confiscated weapons and other contraband.
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
Just 15 minutes from the park, the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is an interactive museum where kiddos (and kiddos at heart!) can get up-close and personal with life-sized dinosaurs and try a ropes course.
Where to Stay Near the Royal Gorge
With so much to do not only at but near the Royal Gorge Colorado, you’ll want to stay at least overnight. There are tons of accommodation options in the area, but the Royal Gorge Cabins are the best, hands-down.
Right outside the park nestled in a perfectly secluded and absolutely gorgeous property, the Royal Gorge Cabins make the perfect luxurious homebase for a Cañon City weekend.
Enjoy having a full and very well-stocked kitchen, a private patio with a double-sided fireplace leading into the living room, and floor-to-ceiling windows with insane views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
We enjoyed a quick stay after a full day at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and we were absolutely not ready to leave! I will never forget watching the sunset right from the living room, cozied up in front of the fireplace or sunrise the next morning as I enjoyed my coffee.
Royal Gorge Camping
If camping or glamping is more your style, the Royal Gorge/Canon City KOA Holiday is conveniently located nearby. The site has space for big rigs, tent sites, and even cabins, plus a long list of family-friendly amenities including mini-golf, a seasonal pool, and a dog park.
Royal Gorge Colorado FAQs
How much are Royal Gorge tickets?
General admission to the park starts at $25 for children and $30 for adults. Children 2 and younger are free, but still require a ticket.
Admission includes access to the bridge, unlimited gondola rides, the theatre, and the three-story Tommy Knocker Playland. Other things to do at the Royal Gorge including the Via Ferrata, Zipline, and Skycoaster are extra pay experiences.
Should you buy tickets in advance?
It isn’t required, but the park recommends buying admission tickets online in advance. They’re also a few dollars cheaper online.
How much time should you plan to spend at the Royal Gorge?
If you’re strictly interested in seeing the bridge and/or riding the aerial gondola, 2-3 hours is probably enough ar the park. However, if you plan to enjoy some of the rides and other things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado, you’ll need more time.
We spent half a day there between riding the gondola, walking the bridge, taking photos from several places, enjoying lunch and beers at Cafe 1230, and checking out a couple of the rides.
Can you drive across the Royal Gorge bridge?
While they were permitted at one time, no personal vehicles are allowed on the bridge. The single exception is pre-arranged car clubs with 20 or more vehicles (quite a site, if you ever have the opportunity to see it!)
Whew — now you know literally all the awesome things to do at the Royal Gorge Colorado! Have you ever been? We’d love to hear about your experience, so comment below or connect with us on social media!
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