The city is a small town of approximately 17,000 residents located near the geographic center of Colorado.
Home to Fremont County, it is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
With its proximity to the Arkansas River and various state and national parks, Canon City offers visitors a wealth of outdoor recreation options and is just a stone’s throw from one of the most notorious prisons in the country near Florence.
Winter weather is often harsh, but there are several options for indoor activities, including museums, galleries and historic sites.
Here are 14 things to do in and around Canon City.
1. Royal Gorge
Located along County Road 3A just outside the city, the Royal Gorge is an impressive natural attraction that has been bombarded by wind and water over the years.
Royal Gorge Park is also home to the tallest suspension bridge in the country, rising nearly 1,000 feet over the Arkansas River below.
Canyons, bridges, and parks are some of the most photographed landmarks in the area, and are where many visitors end up spending a lot of time.
Other canyon amenities include a playground, theater, and a unique hydraulic clock, the only one of its kind in the state.
2. Colorado Prison Museum
For lovers of scary history and horror stories, there is no better place to kill time than the Colorado Prison Museum.
Located in a historic women’s prison next to the Colorado Regional Correctional Institution, the museum dates back nearly 150 years.
Permanent exhibits include prohibited weapons made by inmates, uniforms, cells, and first-hand accounts of managers, guards and inmates who have spent time in the prison over the years.
Many guests find biographies of some of the most dangerous and colorful characters in the prison system to be one of the highlights of their visit to the museum.
3. Big Burger World
With so much outdoor activity and plenty of fresh mountain air, those who spend time in the Rocky Mountain state tend to have an appetite.
According to burger lovers, Big Burger World not only has the biggest burgers in town, but also the tastiest burgers.
Big Burger World is often described as an old-fashioned restaurant that reminds many visitors of the cozy and charming burger joints they visited as children.
Located on South 9th Street, they’ve been serving hearty meals since 1968, with grills, delicious shakes, and many delicious side dishes on Fridays and Saturdays.
4. Garden Park Fossil Area
Many of the fossils found in the Fossil District of Canon City’s Garden Park are on display in some of the country’s most prestigious museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution in the nation’s capital.
The area has been excavated for over a century, and for natural history lovers, this is a must-see in the area.
There are nearly 20 miles of multi-use trails winding through the scenic landscape; they are open to hikers, cyclists, and trail runners.
For those who prefer 4WD or ATV exploration, the Dinosaur Plains portion of the park has rough roads.
5. Cañon City Brews & Bikes
Colorado residents love their craft beers and enjoy spending quality time outdoors. For those interested in enjoying both pursuits, Cañon City Brews & Bikes deserve a spot on their itinerary.
Although it’s only been around since 2018, it’s already attracted a loyal following — in addition to being a water store, it’s also a bike rental shop.
Most guests prefer to ride first and then drink. They serve nearly 20 beers anytime, and offer indoor and outdoor seating and live entertainment on Friday nights, as well as a wide selection of food.
Those unfamiliar with the area will get insider tips on where to ride from the staff.
6. Royal Gorge Railway
Several historic railroads are still operating statewide, many of which were established more than a century ago, when Colorado was just opening up for exploration and settlement.
The Royal Gorge Railway is a unique and romantic way to take you through the stunning countryside outside of the city. The company that now operates the railway offers two-hour tours, where the train travels under the aforementioned Royal Gorge Bridge, offering unparalleled views of both natural and man-made wonders.
Tours include a variety of food options such as burgers, burritos, and appetizers, as well as wine and beer.
7. Echo Canyon River Adventure
Colorado has some of the best lazy rivers in the country. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a novice, you’re likely to find the right fit at Echo Canyon River Expeditions.
The company is located on US Route 50 and has been offering guided river tours since the late 70s. Each excursion is staffed by experienced staff.
Full-day and half-day tours are available, all including the popular riverside cuisine.
Expeditions usually reach maximum capacity during the peak summer season, so it’s best to book a space in advance if you know exactly when to visit.
8. Skyline Drive
Like most western mountain states, Colorado has some of the most scenic driving routes in the country, with Skyline Drive consistently rated as one of the best.
While it’s a relatively short route, Skyline Drive follows the contours of a towering ridge along US Route 50. There are many stops along the way with viewing areas for those who want to stop and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Near the top, visitors exploring further will have the opportunity to see dinosaur footprints preserved from the Cretaceous period.
The roads are narrow and passing slow-moving vehicles can be dangerous, so drive with caution.
9. Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Centre
Located on Royal Gorge Drive in Canon City, the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center has been around since the 1920s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum’s exhibits touch on geology, dinosaurs and local history. For those looking to make the most of their limited travel time, this is the perfect place to spend a few hours learning about the area’s past and all it has to offer.
Some of the fossils on display date back hundreds of millions of years, along with an archives centre, renovated 1860s schoolhouse and a reading room.
10. Red Canyon Park
While not large by Colorado park standards, Red Canyon Park is nearly 600 acres adjacent to the Rocky Mountains.
Over thousands of years, the park’s vibrant red rock has been carved into canyons, canyons, and spires, and much of the park is accessible via a network of easy to moderate trails.
Due to the size of the park, it’s wise to do some research online before your visit, or consider stopping at the visitor center to learn about the layout and what you’d like to see before heading out on your own.
11. Royal Gorge Zipline Tour
Perhaps there’s no more exciting way to get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape than ziplining, other than skydiving.
Royal Gorge Zip Line Tours is located just outside the city on U.S. Route 50 and features nearly two dozen independent ziplines of varying heights. It’s not uncommon for daring participants to hit 50+ mph on the highest and most inclined lines.
The breathtaking views of the canyon, the Arkansas River, and majestic rock formations are worth seeing, and the Sanglade Crystal Mountains in the distance are often snow-capped.
12. Red Canyon Cycles – The Bean Pedaler
Red Canyon Cycles and The Bean Pedaler are two regional businesses that have joined forces to cater to an active population who enjoy time outdoors and great coffee.
Although neither business has been around for long, they work well together. In addition to hot and cold coffee, they also offer bike rentals, gear, and repairs for those traveling by bike.
The coffee shop is modern and comfortable, serving affordable breakfast treats such as paninis and freshly baked goods. This is a popular first stop for early risers to explore the Royal Gorge.
13. Fremont Arts Center
The Fremont Art Center was established in the mid-40s, making it one of the oldest art centers of its kind in the West.
Located on Macon Avenue in the heart of Canon City’s Historic District, in addition to serving as an arts venue, it offers a variety of community workshops throughout the year, many for artists of all ages and skill levels.
The Center’s exhibits showcase historical and contemporary work done in a variety of mediums by local, regional and national artists, many of which feature Western themes that are very popular today.
14. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve isn’t the closest attraction to Canon City, but it often ends up being one of the most memorable for those who choose to visit.
National parks and reserves are home to the continent’s tallest sand dunes, and their diverse environments include pine forests, lakes, wetlands, and even tundra.
Several peaks near the reserve rise above 13,000 feet, creating an impressive photogenic contrast to the dunes below.
For many, the dunes are mysterious and otherworldly places best experienced in the dimly lit mornings and evenings.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Canon City, CO
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