The Colorado Wildlife Conservation Sanctuary is a fascinating place. It is not a zoo but…
As part of our exploration of central Colorado we headed to the Royal Gorge Park, some 50 miles south of Colorado Springs. The journey takes us through Caňon (pronounced Canyon) City. Along the route we stumble upon the largest rocking chair in the world outside a store – another photo opportunity. As we pass through the city Karen is most excited as there are Correctional Facilities and a prison museum – fortunately we have a schedule to keep and cannot stop to exercise her fetish for imprisonment.
Royal Gorge is a wonderful natural marvel in itself, a 1000 foot plus deep gorge cut through the mountains by the Arkansas River. Early pioneers to the area recognized the beauty of the spot and also it provided an access route for the railways through the mountains. The railroad passes through the base of the narrow gorge just feet away from the bubbling rapids of the Arkansas River.
The gorge also provided a challenge for the engineers and in 1929 they undertook a feat of engineering, a marvel for the age and erected a suspension bridge 1053 above the gorge below. Truly, a spectacular piece of construction and still today is the world’s highest suspension bridge. When we read of this we simply had to go across it. But first, we had to try some of the other engineering marvels at the park.
WORLD STEEPEST FUNICULAR RAILWAY ** PERMANENTLY CLOSED**
Our first trip was down to the bottom of the gorge on the world’s steepest funicular railway. The track is wedged in a vertical shaft cut into the gorge by an ancient waterfall. The cars are more or fewer cages in which you stand for the 1500 foot descent to the bottom. This is not a journey for those who suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia. Emily is a bit panicky but once underway it is not so bad and the views at the bottom are amazing. You can almost reach down and touch the river and you are standing just a few feet from where the trains pass. Look up and you can see the suspension bridge dangling way above. We hang around for a few minutes and catch the next train up.
Our next choice is how to cross the gorge. We could of course take the bridge across, but more exciting is the tramway – which is the longest single-span cable car in the world. Nothing more exciting than being suspended above a 1000 foot gorge by a single cable!!. We the intrepid Hoblets have to try this, but in all honesty, with the exception of Jack none of us was too keen – but we do it anyway. It is not too bad but if the vertigo sufferers coped with the funicular they would almost certainly freak at this ride. Fortunately, it is all over in four minutes and nearly all the passengers seem only too happy to disembark at the other side.
On the far side, there is a small animal park with some very sad looking bison, elk and bighorn sheep – Emily likes this but the rest of us are a bit sad to see these wonderful creatures kept in somewhat small and inhospitable enclosures.
THE ROYAL GORGE BRIDGE
To return to our car we have to cross the gorge again and this time we finally cross the bridge. Although most people choose to walk the bridge it is shared with cars. This would not be too bad except for two reasons; (i) it is narrow and (ii) the floor is made of wooden planks which bounce up and down when the car goes over them. This is not a bridge for the faint of heart. As you cross the bridge you feel secure with the very strong looking multi-stranded cables firmly fastened into metal plates – it is not until you look down at the wooden plank flooring which has some rather large gaps between each that you feel once again nervous. For through these gaps you can clearly see the Arkansas River some 1053 feet below. We of course were perfectly safe and made it safely to the other side. Just to prove how safe it was we then jumped into our van and crossed the bridge – the noise of the planks jumping up and down was deafening and disconcerting all at the same time. The good news is that once you reach the other side you can’t get out and have to come all the way back again!
Planning your visit to Royal Bridge Gorge
Best time to visit Royal Gorge Bridge
The best times to visit Colorado Springs are from March to May and from September to October. That’s when you’ll find slightly cooler (yet still comfortable) temperatures as well as fewer crowds and bargain rates. Another perk for fall visitors: the foliage. Expect to see the surrounding mountains speckled with bright reds, oranges and yellows. Warm summer weather draws visitors in droves, leading to price hikes at hotels and congested attractions.
Other places to visit close by
1. PIKES PEAK COG RAILWAY
The Cog has been climbing Pikes Peak since 1891. We are proud to be one of the most unique experiences in the country. Recognized as the world’s highest cog railroad, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is an important part of the heritage of the Western United States. Taking this journey is like walking the footsteps of history, and now the adventure is even more iconic and inspiring.
2. GARDEN OF THE GODS
Comprising 1,300 acres of sandstone formations the Garden of the Gods, close to Colorado Springs, is a wonderful place to explore on foot, by bike or even try out some rock climbing. Come to see what has drawn human beings to this wonderful place for millennia.
3. CLIFF DWELLING MUSEUM
The 40 room site was originally located in McElmo Canyon, which is in the southwest corner of Colorado near Mesa Verde and Dolores. The process of relocating these cliff dwellings began in 1904 and was completed in 1907 when the preserve was opened to the public. Virginia McClurg, the original founder of the Colorado Cliff Dwellers Association, hired William Crosby and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Ruins Company to begin this process. They wanted to preserve and protect these dwellings from looters and relic pot-hunters.
Where to stay near the Royal Garden Bridge
1. CLIFF HOUSE AT PIKES PEAK
Experience the Victorian splendour of The Cliff House at Pikes Peak. Built back in 1874, the Cliff House has been serving guests for over 145 years now, longer than the number of years Colorado has been a state.
It was originally built as a stagecoach stop. They called it “The Inn.” When the gold strikes in the Pikes Peaks region played out, travellers started to surge and that’s when they decided to open their doors to guests. The interest in the ancient mineral springs also began to rise.
The Cliff House is now a part of the National Registry of Historic Places. They have 54 elegant guest rooms and luxury suites that are packed with modern amenities.
2. KINSHIP LANDING
Kinship Landing was specifically designed not just to welcome travellers, but to serve as a hub for locals, naturally mingling the two crowds that have plenty to share with each other, given the opportunity. The 80-bed boutique certainly offers lux options with suites that include fully-opening garage door windows, LED fireplaces and extravagant soaking tubs, but it’s the other end of the spectrum that makes this property seriously special. Co-founded by world travellers on a budget, Kinship Landing offers high-quality hostel accommodations in a full-service hotel with bunk rooms so chill you may want to stay there no matter your budget.
3. BLUE SKIES INN
If you need privacy and a little bit of pampering, then Blue Skies Inn could be the best place for you while staying in Manitou Springs. This friendly and charming B&B is located at the base of Pikes Peak. They have three separate houses with guests rooms that have an average size of 450 square feet. The suites have a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom.
What makes Blue Skies a special retreat are its unique rooms. Every suite has a theme and offers special views of the surrounding forests. This is also perfect for family reunions and small occasions