Rafting the Arkansas River, zip lining at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, wine tasting and hiking … all surrounded by spectacular views are fun for people who want to go adventuring near Colorado Springs. These activities are located in and around Canon City, called the “Corrections Capital of the World” for its 13 prisons or “gated communities.” But, more important to visitors (although there is a prison museum) are the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River.
Just an hour from Colorado Springs and about two-hours from Denver, the region is a perfect choice for a two-day outdoor escape.
Start with a half-day of river rafting on the Arkansas. Several outfits run the Arkansas but we recommend Echo Canyon River Expeditions. It’s the oldest, largest rafting operation in the area, and it’s a first-class operation. Echo Canyon provides trips for any age and skill level from gentle floats that can take young children to trips with class 4 and 5 rapids through the Royal Gorge. The company has a variety of packages and provides everything you need except your bathing suit.
The 8 Mile Bar and Grill at the Echo Canyon property is a good place for lunch or dinner. It’s convenient as the starting and ending point for any rafting experience. The chef, who wanted more relaxed lifestyle, hails from a five-star resort; the menu runs from excellent burgers to ahi-topped salads.
Head next door to the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, which looks like a hokey tourist attraction but isn’t. Serious docents share information about the life-size replicas of Jurassic and Cretaceous creatures on display. Outside, you can challenge yourself on a rope walk that seems out of place but is wildly popular. Or, stroll around the property where animated dinosaurs roar.
Take the 6:30 pm train aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. (They also run lunch trips.) Opt for th ride-only, or enjoy an excellent dinner in the Vista Dome, with gorgeous views alongside the Arkansas River and gorge.
Overnight in Canon City to turn your trip into two days of fun. The small city has chain hotels, but for a more luxe experience reserve Royal Gorge Cabins at Echo Canyon River Expeditions.
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Head to the French Bakery Coffee Shop for breakfast and drive over to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. This won’t be cheap, especially if you just want to walk across the bridge, but if you like adrenaline rushes, this is the place. Start with a gondola ride across the gorge then a zip line across it, while looking down 1,200 feet. The Royal Rush Skycoaster isn’t for the fainthearted. It swings you at 50 miles per hours over the gorge and back — and over again and back — several times. Have lunch near the bridge — we really like the BBQ — and stroll across the bridge while peeking through the wood planks at the river far below.
Try an afternoon tour and wine tasting at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey located in the old Benedictine Abbey. Grapes are sourced from the Palisade area of Colorado and wines produced at the Abbey.
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