Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas,” the Royal Gorge is a steep canyon near the town of Cañon City, which has inspired the name — the Royal Gorge Region. While certainly not as big as the Grand Canyon, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is the main attraction of the area. But there are many other reasons to visit that make for a unique Colorado vacation. Uncover these hidden gems of the Royal Gorge Region and discover another side of Colorado you’ve been missing.
Visit a Winery or a Cidery
Due to the Royal Gorge Region’s banana belt climate, the fertile Arkansas River Valley is known for its fruitful land. An area that was once filled with vineyards and grapes, changed with the times when the sale of alcohol became illegal in 1920 and converted the vineyards into apple orchards and other fruitful trees. With efforts to revitalize the area’s agriculture and winemaking heritage, Fremont County is maturing into a destination for wineries and cideries.
The Winery at the Holy Cross Abbey
Where: 3011 East Highway 50 Cañon City
The Lowdown: One winery that has made a name for itself is the Winery at the Holy Cross Abbey. What was once a functioning Catholic monastery, is now one of the largest wineries in the state. Producing nearly 20 different wines, with over 100 awards and recognitions, the Winery at that Holy Cross Abbey is an exceptional example of Colorado’s wine industry. Visitors can enjoy a glass of wine and dine Al Fresco on their outdoor patio and afterward, walk the historic grounds of the Abbey and if open, take a look inside.
While The Winery at Holy Cross has long been the crown jewel, other wineries are adding to the mix such as Legatum Cellars, Brush Hollow Winery and Western Skies Winery at Jenkins Farms.
Western Skies Winery
Where: 448 K St., Penrose
The Lowdown: Western Skies Winery is a family farm in Penrose where apple orchards run the roost and delicious wines compliment your experience. The farm hosts orchard apple picking, wine tasting and tours of the farm. The main red barn hosts the intimate tasting room where visitors can sample three different wines – a Colorado Merlot, a Riesling and an apple wine.
“Fremont County has forever been an agricultural area, producing fruits, vegetables, beef, hay, etc. We believe that wineries, cideries and vineyards are a great way to bring sustainable agriculture back to Fremont County. We are thrilled to be part of this movement and to keep farming alive for generations to come,” said owner, Justin Jenkins. Jenkins and his family welcome you to their farm Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and apple picking beginning in September.
Tip: Grab a bite to eat afterward at the nearby Coyote’s Coffee Den for sandwiches, salads, desserts and even live music. Located along HWY 50, two miles from the farm.
Apple Valley Cider Company
Where: 103 Broadway, Penrose
The Lowdown: With the plentiful orchards, Penrose is a natural fit for cideries. Apple Valley Cider opened its doors three years ago, with owner Kevin Williams running a small operation and tasting room in Penrose. He brews four ciders year-round, plus a few additional seasonal ciders. Tastings are from 12 – 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.
Tip: While they don’t serve food at the cidery, you can order pizza from next door at Penrose Pizzeria & Pub and enjoy on their newly expanded outdoor patio.
Glamping near the Gorge
Where: 45045 W. U.S. 50, Cañon City
The Lowdown: Hosted by the Royal Gorge Rafting and Zipline Tour company, travelers visiting the area will enjoy several glamping options near the river. Located at the entrance to the Gorge at the Royal Gorge Adventure Beach, 10 riverside glamping yurts and its newest addition, four embellished Airstreams is where luxury meets the outdoors.
The colorful yurts stand out along the riverbank, but the Airstreams are the new star of the show. Sleeping up to four people, the 30’ Flying Cloud Airstreams come equipped with everything you need. Enjoy a full kitchen, living and dining area, plus two separate sleeping spaces. Outside, accommodations come with a lavish outdoor patio with a fire pit, BBQ grill, and seating, complete with scenic views.
Tip: Save money and enjoy the entire experience with their adventure packages that include both rafting and zipline excursions.
Hike the Point Alta Vista Trail
Where: Access the trail at the large parking lot, one mile south of U.S. 50, on County Road 3A, on your way to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
The Lowdown: The Royal Gorge Region’s newest trail, the Point Alta Vista Trail, just opened this past May. The one-mile hike features distinguished views of the Royal Gorge and Bridge and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. As the former tracks for the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway that brought visitors to the Point Alta Vista, the route now takes visitors to the same vista via a trail that traverses four restored train trestles.
“The historic Royal Gorge Scenic Railway trestles could just have easily been lost…but what a wonderful restoration this has been. With the combined efforts of Cañon City, Royal Gorge Ranch and Resort, and FAR, we were able to preserve and protect a local icon, and we are overjoyed to watch as families and friends use the trail to explore the area and create new memories at Point Alta Vista,” said Ashlee Sack, the board chair of the Fremont County Tourism Council and member of Fremont Adventure Recreation.
Tip: If you wish to make your hike a bit more challenging, connect via the eight-mile challenging One Track Mind trail – for hikers and bikers only.
Visit the Museum of Colorado Prisons
Where: 201 N. 1st Street, Cañon City
Fremont County holds a long history tied to the Colorado prison system, with 15 prisons, one a supermax, located throughout the county. Discover more about the state’s prisons with a visit to the Museum of Colorado Prisons in Cañon City. Housed in what used to be the women’s correctional facility, constructed in 1935, the museum features the original 30 cells converted into exhibits that highlight the history of the county’s prison culture and where it stands today.
Antique shopping in Florence
The Lowdown: The small town of Florence, known as Colorado’s antique capitol, offers its visitors a generous collection of antique shops, restaurants, and more, making it a notable stop for treasure hunters along the Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway. There are 20 antique, thrift and specialty stores that line the town’s historic Main Street. From the Florence Collective to the iconic Loralie Antique Mall, shoppers will find something.
Tip: Take a break from your shopping excursion and enjoy a delicious sandwich at the Aspen Leaf Bakery and Café.
Discover these and more hidden gems in the Royal Gorge Region by visiting Royalgorgeregion.com.