Over Memorial Day weekend my sister invited us to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Canon City, CO. As a member of the military (she’s served 20 years – Air Force) she was eligible for discounted half price tickets. Thinking this was a great opportunity to check out the Gorge since it was on our list to do, we headed down on Memorial Day.
Built in 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge spans over 880 feet across the gorge. At 956 feet high, it is one of the world’s highest suspension bridges. Today the park includes more than 360 acres and 21 rides, shows and attractions to explore.
The crowds were light when we arrived shortly after 2, park photographers greeted us at the entrance to take our group picture before we moved into the park. The entry courtyard consisted of a carousel, restrooms and gift shop. If you’re interested in taking the Aerial Tram, go through the gift shop to join the line.
We skipped a few buildings to head down to the bridge first. You might remember that The Boy doesn’t do heights. As we crossed the bridge, he was the first to point out the view between the wooden floor planks extending down 950 feet below. The sound of the planks creaking did not appeal to him either, but he bravely looked out at the mountainous view and the Arkansas River below from the side of the bridge about 1/3 of the way across.
The wind started to pick up as we moved toward the center. Be sure to hold on to your hats. I heard one dad bemoan that he had “spent a lot money on that hat” for his son after his son’s hat flew away. That there is a learning curve daddy.
Once we reached the middle of the bridge, we could feel the bridge sway in the wind. I looked up at my son and noticed that he was not in a happy place. I tried to console him by holding his hand but being 17, he scowled at my attempt. Not wanting to make the rest of our group hurry, I told him to finish crossing without us. Which he did, quickly.
On the other side of the bridge there is a mountain man trading post and a station to pan for gold. Check for show times as there is a 5 minute old western shoot out skit. Badly acted and slightly painful to watch, the skit will appeal to kids under 8.
Move up the hill to visit the petting zoo with llamas, donkeys, and goats. Across the street, you’ll find a small animal park with elk and bison. Follow the path up to the other side of the aerial tram. You can get back to the gift shop from here.
We decided to head back to the other side by going over the bridge again. Take a minute to stop at the platform lookout above the Plaza Theatre to take pictures of the bridge.
The next area, Plaza Theatre/Historical Expo, had live music and a magic show. Remembering the shoot out skit, we decided to skip it.
Back across the bridge, we joined the line for the Incline Railway. Declining 1550 feet at a 45-degree angle in a 5.5-minute ride, the metal cage cars take approximately 30 people at a time down to the base of the gorge. The cars are standing room only with no seats or room for strollers.
At the base, you can see up close the railroad tracks, the Arkansas River, and white water rafters. This location really gives you a different perspective of the bridge up above. Check out the oak pipes across the river that used to pipe water into Canon City.
Before we left, we stopped at the Ariel Tram to travel across the gorge again. Dividing up into who wanted to go and who would rather wait, the go-ers boarded into the tram. Be forewarned that the operators pack the tram to the gills; the capacity of the cabin is 35 passengers. My sister and I got on and decided that there were too many people on board and too stuffy/hot on the inside to enjoy the ride. Being on the short side height-wise, we decided that being packed in the middle with no real view was not worth the trip. We quickly got off as the operators crammed more people in.
At the end of our visit, we stopped at the visitor’s center for some snacks. Prices for kids meals were under $5 and adult meals were under $8. Snacks like pretzels and malts were under $4.
Total visit time for the 10 of us with light crowds was 4 hours.
Admission for adults over age 12 is $24, children ages 4-11 is $18. Everything I mentioned is included in the price. For an extra charge for each activity, you can enjoy the Royal Rush Skycoaster, mule trail rides into the gorge, and the Soaring Eagle Zip Line (the highest zip line in the world). At the discounted admission price of $12.50, we had an enjoyable afternoon. However, at full price ($144 for a family of 6) I do not think it would be a good value. Be sure to check for discounts and coupons; season passes are available.
Is the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park a tourist trap? Of course, it is. So is Wall Drug but I think if you have the chance, you should visit Wall Drug. However, Wall Drug (which is free) is right off the interstate while the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is located an hour west of I-25 and Pueblo.
If you decide to visit Canon City, we list accommodations for big families. Other activities in Canon City include the Prison Museum, History Museum, Denver & Rio Grande Western Park and the Royal Gorge Train.