By Christina VanGinkel
The first time I visited the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, located outside of Canon City Colorado, I walked across the bridge with my two youngest children. Cars and trucks were going over it at the same time we were, and we could feel the bridge swaying beneath our feet, in part from the motion of the vehicles I am sure, and because at 1, 053 feet, it is the world’s highest suspension bridge. I recall reading the information on the plaque affixed to the bridge on how it was made, and that alone was almost too intimidating to get me out onto it, but my kids prevailed and before I knew it, we were out on it looking down into one of the most awe-inspiring views I have yet to encounter.
The park has undergone many changes since our first visit and is now home to attractions that include a petting zoo and the Wapiti Western Wildlife Park. The Wapiti Western Wildlife Park is home to rare American White Bison, elk, big horn sheep, and a variety of other species. Native to the park though, and one of my favorites, is the tiny hummingbird. On that first visit, after braving the walk across the bridge, I was greeted on the other side by literally hundreds of these colorful little creatures buzzing in and about the hanging flowers at the cafe on the opposite end of the bridge from the parking lot and entry.
For first time visitors, or those who have been there a dozen times, a ride across the gorge in the Aerial Tram is necessary. If I had just been privy to the views from the bridge, I would have been satisfied, that was until I was aloft in the Aerial Tram. The views over the gorge from inside of the tram are heart stopping at their best. No view has since compared to the view from the tram ever! If you want more heart stopping excitement after you ride the Aerial Tram, be sure to check out their Royal Rush Skycoaster. The height of the ride itself is a mere 100 feet, but you will be rushing over the Arkansas River below you at a whopping 1,200 feet! This is definitely not a coaster for the fainthearted.
For those looking for some less heart pounding rides, the park is home to a beautiful antique carousel, perfectly sized for both children and adults. The carousel itself is an amazing menagerie of animals that is more like a fairy tale than any ride at any park I have ever encountered. On our first and subsequent visits, we have always taken the time to ride the Silver Rock Railway. Scaled after a vintage train, it may be pint sized in comparison to the real thing; it is fun nonetheless. At one mile long, the ride is a entertaining, carefree way for you and the kids to enjoy a bit of history of the region, with the conductor and others spinning tales all around. Parents can kick up their feet and relax if they so wish, while the kids may think it is the best part of the whole park.
There are multiple gift ships and restaurants within the park so carry ins are not needed, but camping, biking, and hiking are favorite pastimes of many of the park’s past and present visitors, so if that is more your thing, then go for it. Do be sensitive to the parks natural habitat and stay on marked trails, follow all rules, and be sure to carry out anything you carry in so the next person who comes behind you can enjoy the scenery and wild vistas as much as you did. If you would like to forego the walk across the bridge, driving it is still an option, and thousands choose to do it each year. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park are truly a place that offers something for everyone who visits. They have a variety of events from spring throughout the summer available, (Mother’s get in free on Mother’s Day this year!) so be sure to check their calendar of events if you want to go for a special occasion. If you are looking for that one special place to head off to this year, make it Royal Gorge.