Ready for an amazing Colorado adventure? Head to Cañon City, a family-friendly Colorado destination, located almost right in the center of the state. Here are all the best things to do in Cañon City for an adventure-filled getaway.
About Cañon City
Cañon City is just 2 hours from Denver and less than an hour from Colorado Springs, CO. It is well-known for its countless outdoor activities.
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And while Cañon City is all about epic outdoor adventures with gorgeous views everywhere you look, there is so much more to the area. This Colorado city is influenced by a history of prisons, monks, and railroads, making all the adventures and things to do in Cañon City we discovered during our weekend getaway.
Things to Do at the Royal Gorge
Cañon City is probably best known for the Royal Gorge. The Arkansas River and a railroad run through the deep but narrow canyon. The gorge’s wall reaches an impressive 1,250 feet but is no more than 300 feet across at the widest point.
The Royal Gorge is often at the top of the list of things to do in Cañon City and worthy of any Colorado road trip itinerary. There are a few different ways to experience the Royal Gorge.
1. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
Visit the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park for the best views of the gorge.
Tip: Admission runs about $20-30 per person, but you can find reduced ticket prices online. You can even do this on your phone while standing in the ticket line.
There are three ways to get to the other side of the gorge: ride the gondola, walk across the bridge, or fly over on the zipline.
Ride the Gondola
A 2,200-foot ride takes you 1,200 feet above the gorge. Take in breathtaking views of the gorge from the gondola.
Walk Across the Suspension Bridge
Walking across the highest suspension bridge in North America tops the list of things to do at Royal Gorge – and makes our list of one of the most unique Colorado experiences. The bridge was constructed almost 100 years ago but has been refurbished and upgraded since then. For those with a fear of heights, it might help to know it is surprisingly sturdy for a suspension bridge!
It’s by far the best place to view the impressive Royal Gorge.
Zipline Over the Gorge
Ziplining over the Royal Gorge is one of the top things on any Colorado bucket list. At 1,200 feet in the air, the Cloudscraper Zip Line is the highest zipline in the US. A separate ticket is required for the zipline at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Want more than just crossing the gorge? Head over to Royal Gorge Zipline Tours for more zip line adventures!
Related Reading: The 7 Best Family-Friendly Ski Resorts in Colorado
More Things to Do at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
When you’re not riding, walking, or flying over the gorge, you will find several other things to do at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
- stop for a drink at the beer garden (where you might get to see the bighorn sheep that live in the area)
- take in a show at the Plaza Theater
- let the kids play at Tommy Knocker Playland
- swing over the edge of the gorge on the Royal Rush Skycoaster
- climb the walls of the gorge with a guide on the Via Ferrata.
There is an extra fee for the Skycoaster and Via Ferrata.
Also, make sure to check out the Water Clock by the Visitors Center – the rare clock is the only one in Colorado!
2. Royal Gorge Train
Experience the gorge from above at The Royal Gorge Bridge, then experience it from within the gorge on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.
Take the 2-hour train ride on open-air cars or in the upscale club cars. There are multiple meal options on the Royal Gorge Railroad, but you can’t bring your own food onboard. Tickets often sell out (especially around the holidays – the train rides with Santa are very popular), so plan to purchase in advance.
Tickets start at around $50 per person.
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3. Whitewater Rafting
If you’re looking for a more intense adventure than the train, try a whitewater rafting adventure. The Royal Gorge has some of the best whitewater rafting in Colorado. Class IV and V rapids aren’t for the faint of heart, but they make for an epic adventure.
Choose from trips through the Royal Gorge, Bighorn Sheep Canyon (west of Cañon City), or the Arkansas River.
Find lots of highly-rated rafting companies in the area for guided tours along the rapids.
- Arkansas River Tours
- Echo Canyon River Expeditions
- Lost Paddle Rafting
- Whitewater Adventure Outfitters
- River Runners
- Raft Masters
- Royal Gorge Rafting
Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado
4. Skyline Drive
Drive the narrow, one-way road up to 360-degree views of Cañon City. There are pull-offs along the way to stop for pictures and take in the stunning views.
About 1/2 way up is a bigger parking area with short hiking trails and a dinosaur trackway discovered in 1999. If you want even more dinosaurs, check out Garden Park Fossil Area just north of town.
5. Museum of Colorado Prisons
One of the best things to do in Canon City is one of the most unique in Colorado. Rural areas of Fremont County are home to 15 of Colorado’s prisons, including the only federal Supermax prison in the US. While this isn’t a place you can (or would want to) visit, you can visit the Museum of Colorado Prisons.
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The museum, located in the original Women’s Correctional Facility near downtown Cañon City, has exhibits for visitors to learn more about the history (all the way back to 1871) of inmates and guards in the Colorado Prison System.
On your way out, stop by the gift shop for some prison-themed souvenirs!
6. Explore the Backcountry on a Jeep Tour
Travel deep into the Royal Gorge or Red Canyon on half-day tours with Colorado Jeep Tours. Or make it a full-day adventure to the historic towns of Cripple Creek and Victor on the Gold Belt Tour (a great way to see Colorado’s gorgeous fall colors).
7. Experience the Days When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth
If the dinosaur trackway on Skyline Drive left you wanting more pre-historic history, add a stop to Garden Park Fossil Area just north of town, or the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience just a few miles from the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.
Visit Garden Park Fossil Area for a more educational experience, where you can walk or drive to overlooks and complete the EarthCache history lesson. The Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is for the more adventurous visitors, with animatronic dinosaurs and a ropes course.
Hiking and Mountain Biking
8. Hike Tunnel Drive
Don’t miss out on some Cañon City hiking while you’re there. Hike – or stroll, really – along the Arkansas River on the 3.8-mile Tunnel Drive Trail. The trail is wide and flat after a climb in elevation over the first 0.25 mile.
Shortly after the only incline in the trail, the path continues through 3 granite-blasted tunnels. The first two are short, with the third tunnel much longer.
Keep an eye out for the Royal Gorge Route train departing from the nearby station, running along the Arkansas River below the trail.
9. Hit the Mountain Biking Trails
The Tunnel Drive Trail is also open to mountain biking. If you’re looking for a longer and more advanced trail, head over to the 13-mile Oil Well Flats Trail System on the north side of town.
From easy trails, like Tunnel Drive, to expert trails, like Tanner / Stultz Loop, there is a mountain biking trail for all skill levels. Find the perfect trail for you at Singletracks, plus more info on mountain biking in Cañon City.
If you didn’t bring your bike, rent a fat bike at Cañon City Brews & Bikes.
Where to Eat and Drink in Cañon City, CO
After you’ve filled your day with all the things to do in Cañon City, there is no doubt you’ll be ready for some of the city’s best food.
Happy Endings Caboose Café
This café and coffee shop is really in a caboose that was once a working railcar. Start your day with a latte and a house-made crepe. There are savory dishes – including the crepes – served for lunch and dinner too, but we think breakfast is too good to pass up!
If you can’t fit a morning stop here, come by in the afternoon for beer, wine, or cocktails.
The Winery At Holy Cross Abbey
The Winery At Holy Cross Abbey’s history dates back to 1886 when two Benedictine monks came to Colorado from Pennsylvania. They first opened a school, but declining enrollment drove them to close the school’s doors and shift their focus on establishing a winery to generate income.
Stop in for a wine tasting to sample some of the award-winning wines in the Tasting Room and dine at the onsite restaurant.
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We still talk about this pizza. It’s that good.
After a full day of adventures and checking out all the things to do in Cañon City, pizza on Main Street is the way to go.
The crust is thick but not too chewy and is absolutely delicious. And the wings are pretty fantastic, too – try the Garlic Parmesan.
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, some of the best views in Colorado, and amazing food – look no further than Cañon City. There is something for everyone here, so be sure to add this city to your list of places to visit. When you do, make sure to check out the Royal Gorge Bridge, prison museum, and the views from Skyline Drive – just a few of the many things to do in Cañon City!
Want more for your Cañon City Colorado itinerary? The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is just 2.5 hours away. Find more on the best things to do at Colorado’s sand dunes here!
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