From Whitewater Thrills to Historic Charms: Top Things to Do in Cañon City Colorado

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Things to do in Canon City Colorado

Set in a stunning nook of Colorado, Cañon City offers fun-filled activities for all ages. Adventure enthusiasts can embark on exhilarating whitewater rafting expeditions down the Arkansas River. For history buffs, exploring the iconic Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, the highest suspension bridge in America, is a must-do.

The area’s scenic landscapes also offer great opportunities for hiking and biking, and other outdoor activities for enthusiasts. Wine aficionados can savor the flavors of local wineries while learning the history of the area’s monastery.

A day trip to Cañon City may provide a fun-filled day. But a stayover is needed to truly enjoy the exciting outdoor adventures and many other fun things to do in Cañon City, Colorado.

This author’s first visit to this popular destination was on a day trip from Colorado Springs. It allowed time to experience the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and a stop at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience for the kids.

Things to do in Canon City Colorado include staying at the Royal Gorge Cabins.
Morning coffee being enjoyed on the patio of the Royal Gorge Cabins outside of Cañon City Colorado. Photo credit: Liana Moore

A subsequent long-weekend getaway staying at the Royal Gorge Cabins allowed for much more adventure, including white water river rafting through the Royal Gorge, climbing the Royal Gorge Via Feratta and ending the day with dinner aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad or tasting Colorado wines at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. This additional time is needed to truly experience the Royal Gorge region of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Cañon City, Colorado.

river rafting arkansas river
A trio of Echo Canyon rafts floats into past lush Arkansas River vegetation on the way into the Royal Gorge. Photo courtesy Echo Canyon River Expeditions.

Royal Gorge Rafting

Looking for some adrenaline-inducing fun? Raft the Arkansas River through the Royal Gorge with Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Rafters do need to be aged 13 or above for this adventure as the rapids do go all the way to Class V. It is quite the way to experience the Royal Gorge. Expect to hold on tight and paddle hard.

Not quite up for that level of rapids? Don’t fear. There are trips available from scenic floats to the perfect family-friendly Bighorn Sheep Canyon adventure. These are all available in either full-day or half-day excursions.

Before You Go: Check out our river rafting tips for your first trip!

Drive Skyline Drive

On your way either in or out of town, take the one-way drive on Skyline Drive. With stunning views of the mountains and Cañon City below, this drive along a narrow one-way road only takes a few minutes and really showcases the expansive landscapes of the area. This is definitely one of the top scenic drives in the state, though much shorter than most.

Things to do in Canon City Colorado include riding the gondola across the Royal Gorge Canyon.
The gondola coming across the Royal Gorge Canyon in Cañon City Colorado. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park has been the main year-round attraction in the Royal Gorge area since it was built, particularly from international visitors. It has an interesting history which you can experience by watching a film in the visitor’s center. But, it is the additional adventures that really make the experience.

Just walking over the bridge that sways may be enough of an adventure for some. Not up for that? Then you can take the gondola across.

It takes a little more bravery to climb into the zipline that soars over the river far below. But once you are strapped in, it is quite the beautiful ride across the canyon.

If zip lines are your thing, there’s also a variety of zip lines and ropes courses available with Royal Gorge Zip Line tours outside of the park.

For the more adventurous, there’s a Via Feratta where you can safely scale the sheer cliffs of the Royal Gorge.

And, for those who are a little crazy, there’s the Royal Rush Skycoaster that swings over the gorge.

Wine Tasting

At the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, you’ll discover a charming backyard setting perfect for indulging in delightful Colorado wine tastings. This historic site took on a new dimension in the year 2000 when a winery was incorporated into its operations.

The wines themselves consistently earn accolades, making each tasting experience all the more enjoyable. The overall ambiance is delightful, and don’t miss the chance to visit their store, where you can take home some award-winning wines or perhaps find some charming artwork to commemorate your visit.

Things to do in Canon City Colorado include Royal Gorge Route Railroad dinner train coming through the gorge at dusk, passing under Royal Gorge Bridge.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad dinner train coming through the gorge at dusk, passing under Royal Gorge Bridge. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Ride a Train

There are many vantage points to take in the studding scenery of the Royal Gorge. Via the Royal Gorge Route Railroad is a unique way to see the gorge. After walking across the bridge or riding the gondola or zip lining across, enjoy a dinner train ride to see the Royal Gorge from below. The train route takes you along the river. You can watch rafters go by as you enjoy dinner on the train.

Museum of Colorado Prisons

Cañon City became home to various correctional facilities, including the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, established in 1871, and the United States Penitentiary, Florence, in 1897, both of which played significant roles in shaping the area’s social and economic landscape.

As such the Museum of Colorado Prisons is worth a visit. It is situated alongside an operational prison, sharing a stone wall and armed towers since 1871. Inside, visitors can immerse themselves in exhibits that span over 140 years, offering a captivating journey through history and a chance to experience the past firsthand.

Cañon City Downtown Historic District

The Cañon City Downtown Historic District is one of many places on the list of national register of historic places in Freemont County. Its charming and well-preserved Main Street and historic downtown area showcases the town’s rich history and architectural heritage.

Strolling through its streets, visitors can admire the beautifully restored buildings, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which house a variety of unique shops, restaurants, and cultural establishments, offering a delightful blend of the past and the present.

Things to do in Canon City Colorado include checking out the exhibits at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience outside of Cañon City Colorado.
Exhibit at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience outside of Cañon City Colorado. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Learn About Dinosaurs

Cañon City is a fabulous area for the dinosaur lover. The Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is a museum featuring interactive dinosaur displays and a ropes course out back.

There’s also the Garden Park Fossil area where dinosaur fossils of 14 different Jurassic dinosaur species have been discovered over the past two centuries. Here there are trails for hiking and biking, and of course, interpretive signs that highlight the area’s dinosaur history.

Jeep Tour

Via Jeep is a great way to see any interesting area of the Colorado Rockies. Here you can chose a route along the rim of the Royal Gorge, see the unique vertical spires and red-rock formations in Red Canyon Park or explore historic mining districts.

Have you been to this area of Colorado? What were your favorite things to do in Cañon City? Tell us in the comments below!

Liana Moore lived overseas growing up, attending British public school for kindergarten in London. She then moved to Stavanger, Norway for nine years until age 15, growing up with friends of different cultures. Summers involved camps in Switzerland and Wales, plus USA time in East Texas and Minnesota. Liana sees things from others’ viewpoints, believing those experiences shaped the woman she is today. She’s instilling that empathy in her children, having fun along the way. Currently based in the mountains of Colorado, much of her time is spent exploring the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not marketing a resort property professionally, or traveling and writing, find her trying out new sports with her kids, like BMX biking, or debating with her teenager (and occasionally winning). Follow Liana’s adventures at Insider Families.
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