Colorado has thousands of miles of trails — some more popular than others, some more challenging than others and some bigger hidden gems than others. Finding a good out-of-the-way trail in Southern Colorado is of little difficulty.
Three in the Royal Gorge Region stand out, but Fremont County is a prime location to find a suitable trail for hikers of every level.
Like most of Southern Colorado, the Royal Gorge Region is part of the “Banana Belt.” The weather is typically hiker-friendly all year long, so there’s no waiting for snow to melt to get outside.
The number of trails in the Cañon City region is growing thanks to efforts by the Cañon City Recreation District, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Fremont Adventure Recreation.
The Fremont recreation group, created to promote participation in outdoor recreation and endurance sports in Fremont County, is the sole group focused on constructing and growing the trail systems in the Royal Gorge Region.
Trails in the Royal Gorge Region are good, great even, but these ones have something a little extra.
The most iconic hiking trail in the area is easily Tunnel Drive.
“Cars were once allowed to drive along the path. Pass through historic tunnels (built for the city’s water delivery system in the late 1800s), and view the historic Denver and Rio Grand Railroad as the Royal Gorge Train passes along the stretch of the river,” FAR’s adventure guide says.
The trail faces south, so it is open almost year-round and is the best trail in the region for anyone who wants to take in some breathtaking views.
In addition to the tunnels that hikers can still pass through, you will notice many canyons. Spotting a Big Horn Sheep or two isn’t out of the question here.
Start: Begin walk at the trailhead located off of Tunnel Drive in Cañon City.
Distance: 1.92 miles
Elevation: 120 feet
The next trail on the list is the Rim Trail at the Royal Gorge. This system is outside of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, so it’s free to all users. As is most of the region, this hike is decorated with juniper and piñon forests.
“It isn’t strenuous and has excellent views,” said Brian VanIwarden, FAR director.
The Rim Trail is about 5 miles long and is expected to add 10 more miles by the end of this summer. When finished the trail is expected to be around 20 miles long.
“This trail here is a work in progress, but when it’s done completely, it’ll be one of the best trails here,” VanIwarden said.
The trail offers not only a quiet getaway, but one filled with scenic views.
On one side, the end of Tunnel Drive and the Arkansas River is visible; walk a little further down the trail and a view of the Royal Gorge Bridge appears.
And, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can continue on a dirt road at the at end of the trail that can be used to approach Fremont Peak.
Fremont Peak, as a warning, isn’t for those afraid of heights, as the top of the trail turns into a “loose scramble” rather than a walk.
But, on a clear day, the top of the peak will offer views of Pikes Peak’s backside in the distance and vistas of the Arkansas River Valley.
If you’re not feeling Fremont Peak either, there is always the option of going into the Royal Gorge Park when you’re done, which offer it’s own adventures and activities.
Start: Park at the trailhead on the north side of Fremont County Road 3A. The trail begins on the south side of the road and continues east to the Royal Gorge Park campground.
Distance: 4. 7 miles
Elevation gain: 210 feet ascent; 101 feet descent
Fremont Peak Distance: from Canyon Rim trailhead, 4.5 miles
Fremont Peak elevation gain: 430 feet.
South Cañon Trails
Next on the list, is a trail system that offers multiple options depending on your mood and is relatively new to the area, as FAR just unveiled the trailhead in March.
The South Cañon Trails are for all skill levels and offer, “ridiculously awesome views at the top of Hard Time and Redemption,” said FAR coordinator Ashlee Sack.
Sack said the more than 160 acres of land that make up the South Cañon Trail system was donated by Walter Schepp of Cañon City.
Schepp wanted to preserve the area as an “oasis” as the city continues to grow and develop.
It was constructed through collaborative efforts by Cañon City Parks and Recreation, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and FAR.
In the system, the trail “Mutton Bustin” is a mellow option and is ideal for anyone with kids; also, if you start at the Section 13 Trailhead and hike about a mile down Redemption there is a slot canyon worth checking out.
Each trail in the South Cañon system offers its own challenges and will offer its own different, but equally good, views.
Start: You can ride from downtown to the trailhead at Eagle Wing (take Riverside Drive to Colburn Lane).
Distance: Each trail varies
Elevation: Each trail varies
To learn more about the trails in Fremont County and about FAR, visit joinfar.org.