CAÑON CITY, Colo. – Cañon City is known for attractions like the Royal Gorge, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and, perhaps, its prisons. But those who live in the city say it’s so much more than that.
“This is a place where you go where people still say hi, everyone waves and it’s just super friendly and super nice,” said Mayor Ashley Smith, who is serving her third year in the role.
It’s a small town feel with big city amenities.
“I would recommend of course river rafting, jeep tours, the Abbey, the Holy Cross Abbey Winery has amazing wines,” she said.
Cañon City has much more to offer than meets the eye.
“The secret of Cañon City is out, it has been kind of a quiet little place that’s maybe been misjudged for a long time,” said Smith.
Well-known attractions like the Royal Gorge Bridge and the Royal Gorge Route Railroad have long drawn visitors to the area.
“People were hiking up into the gorge fairly early, it was a natural attraction,” said Lisa Studts, Museum Director for the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.
However, the city is quickly gaining a reputation as an outdoor mecca.
“In the past seven years we have built tons and tons and tons of miles of mountain biking and hiking trails that are just still in pristine condition,” said Smith.
The Arkansas River flows right through downtown, offering plenty of outdoor opportunities such as kayaking, paddle boarding and of course whitewater rafting.
“It’s the most rafted river in the county running right there behind me, the Arkansas river, here in the middle of Cañon City – and our rock climbing, mountain biking, it’s really just the whole package here in Cañon City,” said Smith.
Not a fan of the outdoors? There’s plenty of shopping, dining and history to explore, too.
“Our main street is actually the longest main street in the state of Colorado,” said Smith. “At the very end of Main Street is the territorial prison which actually was here before Colorado even became a state. And so there’s lots of really fun history that comes along with it.”
There are also dinosaur tracks!
“In 1877, there was (sic) two local men who were finding fossils up north of town about eight miles, and this got the attention of the two leading paleontologists in the country at the time. And they came out here and were able to find about six different new species of dinosaurs,” said Studts.
This year marks Cañon City’s sesquicentennial.
“We have an entire year’s worth of activities planned to celebrate our 150th,” said Smith.
It’s a chance to highlight the city’s unique history and celebrate its ongoing charm.
“Cañon City is never going to be another Salida, it’s never ever going to be another Breckenridge,” said Smith. “We are so uniquely Cañon City.”
A city that can draw a crowd, without causing backups on I-70.
“If you want to get an escape away without having to fight traffic, Cañon City really is the place to go,” said Smith.