Hit the Trails of the Royal Gorge Region for the Ultimate Family Adventure
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in the Royal Gorge Region near Cañon City, Colorado. Photo Credit: narawon (iStock).
Looking for an end-of-summer getaway for the whole family? From mining history to ancient fossils, from a flourishing downtown district to Colorado’s newest trail system, the Royal Gorge Region is full of incredible places to visit and explore. For those that explore the mountains on their mountain bikes or hiking boots, the Royal Gorge Region has become a new must-visit destination with world-class terrain and trails that are equally welcoming to both hikers and bikers. From historic hikes that trace the path of ancient dinosaurs to singletrack that travels through geological wonders, there’s endless ways to explore and discover the wilderness of the Royal Gorge Region. In partnership with the Royal Gorge Region, we’ve put together a family-friendly guide so that you can enjoy an adventure before school starts.
Family-Friendly Trail Adventures
If you’ve got small children in tow or you’re just looking for a relaxing way to spend the day in the outdoors, try one of the Royal Gorge Region’s many family-friendly, low-impact trails.
Arkansas Riverwalk Trail
The Riverwalk Trail, a mild 7.5-mile pathway, follows the river through the historic and most scenic parts of Cañon City. The trail is mostly flat, and if you’re out with your family for a casual jog, bike ride, or a walk, there are fitness stations along the way so that you can make the most out of your recreation.
Pro Tip: Dogs are allowed on the Riverwalk Trail, provided that they are leashed.
Getting There: Popular access points with parking areas are Centennial Park, Sell’s Lake (off 9th Street), MacKenize Avenue Trailhead, and Tunnel Drive (the furthest point west on the trail).
Hogbacks Open Space Park
The Hogbacks are the geological wonder of Cañon City. Within the rock lies layers of fossils, remnants of an inland sea that covered Colorado millions of years ago. The Graneros trail winds along the Dakota Ridge formation in the Hogbacks. It’s a flowy, fun beginner’s mountain bike trail with a couple of technical sections to challenge those ready to take their skills to the next level. Hikers can also enjoy this trail and the beautiful surrounding scenery.
Getting There: From Main Street in Cañon City, head north on 5th Street for about 0.5 miles until you reach Floral Avenue. Take a left uphill and parking will be on your left (south) side of the road.
Royal Gorge Park Trails
Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is a 360-acre park near Cañon City that features one of the world’s highest suspension bridges, an incredible canyon carved from the Arkansas River almost 1,000 below. It addition to the aerial gondola, the Royal Gorge Bridge, ziplines, and incredible overlooks, the park also has an extensive trail system so taht you can truly immerse yourself in the beautiful landscape. The S’Mores trail that circles the campground at the Royal Gorge Park Trails is perfect for kids and beginners to enjoy.
Getting There: From downtown, head west on US Highway 50. At the turnoff for the Royal Gorge Bridge, turn left and follow County Road 3A until you reach your trailhead.
Family-Friendly Moderate Trail Adventures
If you’re traveling with older children or you’re looking to push your mountain biking or hiking skills a bit further this season, try one of the Royal Gorge Region’s moderate trail adventures.
Temple Canyon Park
In 1881, workmen for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad re-discovered this stunning rock formation that forms a natural amphitheater. Evidence of human life can be found through the area dating back to Ute Indian Tribe ceremonial use. The area was acquired as a city park in 1912. Steep switchbacks ascend to flatter terrain that follows a creek. The trail can either be 0.6 miles or 1.25 miles one-way depending on the starting location.
Pro Tip: Check the stream flow in early summer before attempting the longer version of this trail as high waters can make the trail impassable.
Getting There: For the shorter hike, take 1st Street south for approximately 1 mile, and take a right onto Temple Canyon Road (CR3). Continue on this road for an additional 5.1 miles. You’ll see a turnoff on your right (north); take this and follow it to the terminus (about 0.5 miles). You will see the trailhead past the restrooms. For the longer hike, do not take the turnoff, but continue an additional 1.25 miles to the next restroom facility located just before the bridge. This hike will require you to cross the creek at various locations, some of them not well-marked.
Red Canyon Park
600 amazing acres of red rock make up Red Canyon Park and this formation formed 290-296 million years ago. The Fountain Formation was a series of streams carrying eroded sediment down from the Rocky Mountains. Today, this local favorite park can be explored either on trail or off.
The Arch is one of the most interesting sites in the park. From Red Canyon Road, follow the park’s road approximately 1.5 miles until you reach a notable pull-off on your right. From this parking area, hike in a west south-west direction until you find the arch.
Pro Tip: The park’s trails are best for hikers, picknickers, and walkers.
Getting There: From Highway 50, head north on 15th Street and continue for 0.9 miles. Turn right (east) on Central Avenue and continue for 1.0 mile. Turn left (north) onto Field Avenue and continue for 2.2 miles. At the Y, travel north on Red Canyon Road for approximately seven miles. Red Canyon Park will be on your left.
Section 13 offers unmatched views of Cañon City and the surrounding area. Hikers and bikers can enjoy a full 6-mile loop that connects LAMBA Chops and Hotshots trails. Follow Hotshots to the upper meadow to reach the highest point on the trail. A fun descent awaits bikers.
Pro Tip: This trail is best for the spring and fall. In summer, the area gets very hot so bring lots of water and sun protection.
Getting There: From the west end of Cañon City, take Highway 50 to 1st Street and turn south. Continue for one mile. Turn right (west) onto Temple Canyon Road (CR 3) and continue for 1.9 miles. (If you start going downhill on Temple Canyon Road, you’ve gone too far.) Park head-in at the small dirt parking area on the right (north) side of the road. Access trails through the fence opening on the opposite side of Temple Canyon Road.
Dinosaur and Fossil Discovery in the Royal Gorge Region
Head to the BLM’s Garden Park Fossil Area National Natural Landmark for a 0.25-mile trail overlooking the Marsh Quarry where Allosaurus, Ceratasaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegasaurus fossils were found in the late 1800s. After your hike, head to Skyline Drive where you’ll be able to view Ankylosaur footprint casts along the Dakota Hogback formation. The Hogbacks Open Space also has trails and interpretive kiosks that teach visitors about the areas geologic, fossil, and paleontological past. Finally, the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience offers interactive displays, real dinosaur fossils, fossil casts, animatronic dinosaurs, educational displays, and more for you and your family to learn all about the Royal Gorge Region’s dinosaurs that roamed the area millions of years ago.