A weekend guide to exploring the Royal Gorge area

Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Arkansas,” the Royal Gorge is a steep canyon near the town of Cañon City, which inspired the name – the Royal Gorge region. While certainly not as big as the Grand Canyon, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is the area’s main attraction. But there are many other reasons to visit that make Colorado vacations unique. Discover these hidden gems of the Royal Gorge area and discover another side of Colorado that you missed.

Visit to a wine estate or cider house

Due to the climate of the Banana Belt of the Royal Gorge region, the fertile Arkansas River Valley is known for its fertile land. An area that was once filled with vines and grapes, changed with the days when the sale of alcohol became illegal in 1920 and converted the vineyards into orchards of apple and other fruit trees. With efforts to revitalize the region’s agricultural and wine heritage, Fremont County is emerging as a destination for wineries and cider houses.

Colorado’s Royal Gorge region uses wine to revitalize its agricultural history

The wine estate of the Abbey of Sainte-Croix

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Or: 3011 East Highway 50 Cañon City

The truth : One winery that has made a name for itself is the Sainte-Croix Abbey Wine Estate. What was once a working Catholic monastery is now one of the state’s largest wineries. Producing nearly 20 different wines, with over 100 awards and accolades, the winery at this Holy Cross Abbey is an outstanding example of the Colorado wine industry. Visitors can enjoy a glass of wine and dine al fresco on their outdoor terrace, then stroll through the historic Abbey Gardens and, if open, take a peek inside.

While The Winery at Holy Cross has long been the crown jewel, other wineries are joining the mix such as Legatum Cellars, Brush Hollow Winery, and Western Skies Winery at Jenkins Farms.

Western Skies Vineyard

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Or: 448 K Street, Penrose

The truth : Western Skies Winery is a family owned farm in Penrose where apple orchards dominate and delicious wines complement your experience. The farm hosts apple picking from the orchard, wine tastings and farm tours. The main red barn houses the intimate tasting room where visitors can taste three different wines – a Colorado Merlot, a Riesling, and an apple wine.

“Fremont County has always been an agricultural area, producing fruits, vegetables, beef, hay, etc. We believe wineries, cider houses, and vineyards are a great way to bring sustainable agriculture back to Fremont County. We are thrilled to be a part of this movement and to keep agriculture alive for generations to come, ”said owner Justin Jenkins. Jenkins and his family welcome you to their farm on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and apple picking begins in September.

Advice: Then grab a bite to eat at nearby Coyote’s Coffee Den for sandwiches, salads, desserts, and even live music. Located along Highway 50, three kilometers from the farm.

Apple Valley Cider Company

Photo courtesy of Apple Valley Cider Company.

Or: 103 Broadway, Penrose

The truth : With abundant orchards, Penrose is a natural choice for cider houses. Apple Valley Cider opened three years ago, with owner Kevin Williams running a small operation and tasting room in Penrose. It brews four ciders year round, plus a few additional seasonal ciders. Tastings take place from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Advice: While they don’t serve food at the cider house, you can order a pizza next door at the Penrose Pizzeria & Pub and enjoy it on their newly expanded outdoor patio.

Glamping near the Gorges

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Or: 45045 WUS 50, Cañon City

The truth : 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 on Royal Gorge Adventure Beach, 10 riverside glamping yurts and its latest addition, four beautified Airstreams, this is where luxury meets the outdoors.

The colorful yurts stand out along the riverbank, but the Airstreams are the new star of the show. With room for up to four people, the 30 ‘Flying Cloud Airstreams are equipped with everything you need. Enjoy a full kitchen, living room and dining area, plus two separate sleeping areas. Outside, accommodations feature a sumptuous outdoor patio with a fireplace, barbecue and seating, with panoramic views.

Advice: Save money and enjoy the whole experience with their adventure packages that include both rafting and zipline tours.

Hike the Point Alta Vista Trail

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Or: Access the trailhead in the large parking lot, one mile south of US 50 on County Road 3A towards the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

The truth : The newest trail in the Royal Gorge area, the Point Alta Vista Trail, just opened last May. The mile-long hike offers stunning views of the gorges and the Royal Bridge and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. As the old Royal Gorge Scenic Railway line that brought visitors to Point Alta Vista, the route now takes visitors to the same view via a trail that passes through four restored train trestles.

“The historic Royal Gorge Scenic Railway trestles could easily have been lost… but what a wonderful restoration it has been. Through the combined efforts of Cañon City, the Royal Gorge Ranch and Resort, and FAR, we’ve been able to preserve and protect a local icon, and we’re thrilled to see families and friends using the trail to explore the area and create new memories at Point Alta Vista, ”said Ashlee Sack, chairman of the board of directors of the Fremont County Tourism Board and member of Fremont Adventure Recreation.

Advice: If you want to make your hike a little more difficult, connect via the 13km One Track Mind Trail, which is only for hikers and cyclists.

Visit the Colorado Prison Museum

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Or: 201 N. 1st Street, Canon City

Fremont County has a long history of the Colorado prison system, with 15 prisons, including one supermax, located throughout the county. Learn more about the state’s prisons by visiting the Colorado Prison Museum in Cañon City. Housed in what was once the Women’s Correctional Facility, built in 1935, the museum features the original 30 cells converted into exhibits that shed light on the history of the county’s prison culture and where it is located today. .

Antique dealers in Florence

The truth : The small town of Florence, known as the ancient capital of Colorado, 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 lining the city’s historic Main Street. From the Florence Collective to the iconic Loralie Antique Mall, shoppers will find what they’re looking for.

Advice: Take a break from your shopping excursion and enjoy a delicious sandwich at Aspen Leaf Bakery and Cafe.

Discover these hidden gems and more in the Royal Gorge area by visiting Royalgorgeregion.com.

About Ethel Partin

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