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Wednesday 26 May 2021

Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

Recently we headed to Southern Colorado for a weekend and while we were there we spent half a day checking out Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

Located near Cañon City, just over two hours south of Denver, Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in America with the top of the towers standing 1053 feet above the Arkansas River below. The deck of the bridge stands 956ft above the river. That's pretty high! The bridge was constructed in 1929 and has been a popular tourist location ever since. While the bridge itself is the main drawcard, there are plenty of other fun activities in the park to keep visitors occupied. There's a great playground with a carousel, gondolas to take visitors across the gorge (with views over the bridge), a zipline, a skycoaster (think hang gliding above the gorge but attached to a cable), and Via Ferrata rock climbing tours. 

After learning about Royal Gorge Bridge earlier this year it has been at the top of my Colorado bucket list. The kids are too young/small for some of the add on activities in the park (no ziplining or rock climbing for us just yet) but we were looking forward to taking in the views from the gondolas as well as directly from the bridge. Unfortunately, our visit coincided with some incredibly windy weather, so many of the popular attractions in the park, including the gondolas, were closed as a safety precaution. Luckily, the bridge itself was still open as was the playground on the other side, and they were worth the visit on their own. 

Let's take a look at our visit to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park...

Our visit to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park started with the visitor center where the kids checked out the gift shop (of course!) and we picked up junior ranger activities. Just like a national park (and many state parks) kids are able to complete an activity sheet here and earn themselves a junior ranger badge. You'll see the kids wearing their badges in the pictures below. I'm always a big fan of programs like this as the kids learn so much more than they otherwise would - plus they get a fun badge to add to their collection. 

Behind the visitor center we found the water clock. The water clock is, you guessed it, a clock that runs on water! It wasn't actually running when we were there (maybe due to the wind) so we didn't get to see it in action but it was still pretty interesting to check out. Apparently it's the only one of its kind in Colorado. 

We made our way to the bridge without being blown over and started the walk across. Now, the bridge is pretty sturdy, but in the strong wind we could feel it moving quite a bit. If you're scared of heights you might want to avoid visiting on a windy day! The bridge features flags for each of the fifty states along the span and the kids enjoyed checking these out as we walked across. We also stopped several times to take in the views of the Arkansas River below where there were people white water rafting. It's a little hard to tell the scale from the pics below, but if you look carefully you'll notice train tracks running alongside the river. I think the train tracks are a great way to tell just how far down the drop is.

Once across the bridge, we took in the views looking back over it and the gorge and posed for cheesy pictures before heading to the playground. 

The playground, known as Tommy Knocker Playland, had to have been the kids favorite part of our visit! They would've happily spent all day running around and climbing on the huge structure if we'd let them! The playground is designed to resemble an old mill and features a large wooden building with rope bridges, various climbing structures, and some great slides. Smaller areas for younger children are also in the playground areas along with a vintage carousel. Unfortunately because of the strong winds the carousel was not running during our visit. Restrooms and concession stands are also located at the playground along with a few activities that cost a little extra such as panning for gold in a sluice box and making wax hands. 

From the playground we could see a small herd of mountain goats grazing nearby. This was my first time spotting these native creatures so I was pretty excited to see them. 

The daredevil activities on offer at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, including the zipline and the skycoaster, are also located on this side of the bridge, however as I've already mentioned, these were not running due to the strong winds. The Plaza Theater is also located on this side of the bridge and features a mini documentary about the bridge and its construction. Artifacts from the construction of the bridge are also on display here. 

After quite some time spent at the playground we made our way back across the bridge. Once again we felt like we were going to be blown away and we could feel the bridge moving, but we survived! 

We took in the views from a few more look out points and then we were off on our next adventure

Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is located at 4218 County Road, Cañon City, Colorado. From Cañon City you'll find signs posted along the road giving directions to the park. 

The visitor center, rides and attractions open at 10am daily. Closing times vary depending on the season, but are generally between 4pm and 7pm. You can find today's hours here.

General admission tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the visitor center and start at $28 for adults (ages 13 and up), and $23 for children ages 6 - 12. Children 5 and under are admitted free of charge but will still need a (free) ticket.  

General admission tickets include access to the bridge, Tommy Knocker Playland, the visitor center, the plaza theater, and the aerial gondolas. 

The zipline, skycoaster and Via Ferrata are extra pay activities and tickets for these can be purchased online or at the visitor center. Please note that there are minimum age and weight requirements for these add on activities. Had these been running my kids would've been too small to take part. 

For more information about Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and to purchase tickets visit https://royalgorgebridge.com/

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