The Royal Gorge, in Colorado’s Cañon City area, attracts thousands of visitors a year, most who come simply to view the majestic 1,200-foot deep, 10-mile-long gorge carved by the Arkansas River.
But if you’re the kind who prefers activity to mere observation, the Gorge has a new offering sure to get your heart pumping. Opened in March, the Royal Cascade Trail provides a physically challenging way to experience the Gorge.
Just how challenging?
The trail increases 1,800 feet over 3.6 miles. It’s rated double black diamond. And to listen to Ashlee Sack tell it, it’s a monster. She urges hikers, runners and bikers to consider their “fitness and preparedness” before starting out. “We really want people to keep first responders and our search and rescue team in mind,” Sack told OutThere Colorado. “…Make sure you’re not putting undue, extra work on those folks.”
Sack is with Fremont Adventure Recreation (FAR), a nonprofit that helps fund and plan Royal Gorge trail construction. She compared the new trail to Manitou’s ultra-steep Incline. “It’s something incredibly challenging.”
The trailhead is located 1.7 miles up from Tunnel Drive. It connects to Summit Trail inside Royal Gorge Park, “near the base of Fremont Peak,” notes OutThere. It will be closed seasonally every June and July to allow for bighorn sheep lambing and from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. in September and October.
While indisputably difficult, the new trail offers switchbacks that reveal astounding scenery at each twist and turn. “I really need a thesaurus to really explain how pretty that trail is,” Sack told OutThere. “It’s an assault on the senses.”