Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Royal Gorge Bridge and Canyon City, CO Attractions

Oma and Opa were here for the perfect Colorado fall weekend! We spent Saturday snuggled indoors, cheering the Irish to another victory with a small party at the house. The rain cleared on Sunday, and we celebrated by busting out the fall clothing and heading south. 

 Our first stop was Happy Apple Farm for hayrides, apple picking (which is actually done by late September but the store has some you can "pick" out of baskets) and a pumpkin patch. Unfortunately, they were out of cider when we got there, so we just grabbed some apples and were on our way.

After another half hour on the road, we reached the Royal Gorge Railway Station. There are plenty of picnic spots behind the station, so we grabbed one and enjoyed our packed lunch before boarding the train. It must have been the thing to do, because we ran into some friends and their MENSA group preparing to board the Railway.

The train ride is two hours roundtrip and passes under the Royal Gorge Bridge. There are a variety of seating classes. Our MENSA friends headed into the bar car, while we headed to the more child friendly coach class. Regardless of the type of ticket, the place to be on this fall day was on the open air car. On the ride into the Gorge, you are treated to music and a recording of interesting sights. The real treat, though, is the guide that stands out on the car on the way back. We found him to be much more interesting then the recording. On the way back down, you will stop under the bridge for a bit.

The track runs right along the river, providing a view up out of the gorge. If you have the option, you will want to be seated on the river side of the train - although out on the open car the views are unobstructed. There are abandoned houses, mills, bridges and an old water pipeline running along the river side as well. Wildlife is abundant. We were up close and personnel with some mule deer and a big horn sheep. 

There are plenty of other activities involving the gorge. If you head up to Canyon City, you can cross the bridge, ride a car across the gorge, take a giant swing off the edge or even ride a zip line. There is also an inclined railroad that takes you down from the top to the railroad level. With little H, we were happier with the train ride. Also, there is plenty of food and beverages to be purchased on board if you don't want to pack your lunch. Do make your reservations in advance, because they sell out.

After the train returned to the station, we headed to Skyline Road where a series of dinosaur footprints were discovered. They are sticking out of the rocks (unlike others we have seen where they are impressions) and are easy to see. You cannot park directly across from them so you will have to walk 100 yards or so to see them up close. The drive is a bit harrowing and certainly earns its name.

There is a cute little brew pub in town if beer is your thing, but if you like to taste wine, visit the Abbey Winery on your way out of town. They purchase their grapes from California, but make some great wines in Colorado. The setting is perfect and the wines are excellent. The tasting is free - except for the reserve wines which will run you $1/pour.

If you have more time, and no sleeping baby, there are some more dinosaur finds in the area including the area where the Smithsonian dinosaurs were found.

It was a great outing for a fall day and we were back in The Springs by dinner time!

Update: Summer 2013 a huge fire pushed through the gourge and damaged many of the attractions. As I write this the bridge is still standing but almost everything else has burned. I expect they will rebuild, but you should check online before making any plans. 

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