One of the most well-liked day excursions from Colorado Springs is to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park near Carson City. Some tourists complain that it’s a tourist trap because of the cost. Typically, when it comes to attractions like these, I’m a bit more forgiving. Does it really matter when you’re here to view the nation’s tallest suspension bridge? With the help of my tour to the Royal Gorge Bridge, let’s find out.
A Historical Overview of the Royal Gorge Bridge
The Royal Gorge Bridge was constructed in 1929 with the intention of attracting tourists, and that purpose has continued to this day. To distinguish it from the Bridge of the Americas, it is now also known as America’s Bridge. It is located in Panama. A funicular was constructed in 1931 to allow tourists to go to the bridge’s base and have a better view of the Arkansas River.
Can you still access the Royal Gorge’s base? The Royal Gorge Bridge’s bottom cannot be reached at this time. The Incline Railway has not been used since it was destroyed in a wildfire in 2013. I haven’t seen anything indicating when or if park personnel intends to provide a comparable function in the future. Many of the park’s structures were also destroyed by the same fire, although the bridge remained mostly unharmed.
Over the years, the park’s proprietors, who changed in the 1940s, built a variety of new attractions, including the Skycoaster in 2003 and an aerial tram in 1969. In 2014, the park’s official grand reopening after the fire included the unveiling of a new and upgraded visitor center.
Up until 2001, the actual bridge held the record for tallest suspension bridge in the world. China opened the Liuguanghe Bridge across the Wu River at that time. A few years later, China outdid itself with the Beipan River Guanxing Highway Bridge, and ever then, taller suspension bridges have opened to challenge that record. I won’t engage in the back-and-forth here, but if this is your thing, I can direct you to a list of stunning suspension bridges.
In any event, Royal Gorge continues to be America’s tallest suspension bridge. Just take a moment to consider it. The Arkansas River lies 956 feet below this object. That is significant.
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The Royal Gorge: Is it worthwhile?
If you’re here for reasons other than the bridge alone, the Royal Gorge Bridge is worthwhile. Even if you ride the picturesque gondola on the way back, paying $30 for Royal Gorge Bridge tolls merely to cross the bridge is just too much. If you read internet evaluations of the bridge, it’s a typical issue. No matter how many times you ride the gondola, this is still not an amusement park, despite the park’s defense that the price is equivalent to other nearby attractions of a similar caliber. The most thrilling attractions often have additional fees.
All things considered; I don’t look back on our trip to the bridge with any regret. It’s beautiful to see, particularly from a distance. However, I won’t claim that this is one of the must-see things in the area if you’re watching your budget. There are several things to do in and around Colorado Springs, such as the totally free Garden of the Gods.
Activities at Royal Gorge
The bridge is undoubtedly the major draw, but there are also a few more activities available at this amusement park with a bridge motif. We stick to the activities included by our regular entry since the majority of the more exciting attractions, however, had an additional fee.
The Plaza Theater, the Aerial Gondola, and the Children’s Playland are all included in the general admission ticket.
- Traveling across the bridge
Aren’t you here for the bridge? Therefore, it would be a disgrace to go there without at least doing one full loop. If you’re terrified of heights, it could seem a bit shady at first, but I never felt uneasy, even when I was peering over the edge. As you go across, you’ll pass past a collection of flags that stand in for each of the 50 states. To extend the experience a little bit, locate your home state and strike a posture.
- Take a lovely gondola ride.
You are not needed to choose between taking the gondola and walking the bridge. Both are possible. To avoid the large queue of people waiting for their rides at the entry, I strongly advise using the gondola on the way back if you can. By doing it this way, we only had to wait for a vehicle once.
The actual ride was fantastic. Riding over the canyon is much different than walking it, and inside the gondola, you get to view considerably more of the valley itself. Up to 8 people may fit in each vehicle, however our gondola was empty. If the vehicles had transparent bottoms, it would make it much more interesting in my opinion, but I can understand that some people might panic out.
- On the Skycoaster, experience the thrill of excitement.
On the south rim of the Royal Valley, the Royal Rush Skycoaster whisks riders to the top of a 100-foot tower before dropping them 1,200 feet over the gorge at up to 50 mph. I was simply relieved to have my feet firmly planted on the ground as we saw a number of groups screaming their faces off when they reached the free-fall phase of their program. This supplement to your standard entrance ticket is available. It’s not necessary to get tickets in advance for the Skycoaster, although it could be a good idea if you want to ride the ride on a weekend trip.
- Examine the water clock.
Even though it’s one of those little visits that won’t take up much of your time, this one is nonetheless intriguing. After exiting the tourist center with your tickets, you’ll see the Water Clock. The only one of its type in Colorado, it keeps track by splashing water from one bucket into another. Sadly, this is a copy of the original clock, which was in use up until the 2013 fire.
- Embark on a Cloudscraper Zip Line ride.
The Royal Gorge Bridge zip line, which lifts riders 1,200 feet over the Arkansas River, is the tallest zip line in the US. I’ve always been hesitant to try zip lines because of my weak upper body, but this one is fully hands-free. In a beautiful small seat, you’re almost speeding into the air.
On the Royal Gorge’s southern rim, you may access the zip line. You may go there via the Royal Gorge gondolas and then quickly travel back to the tourist center. Although it is an additional cost on top of the already expensive entry ticket, this one genuinely seemed like a lot of fun.
- Observe animals.
You may read previous blog entries to learn more about the park’s grounds’ petting zoo-style attraction. Since the 2013 wildfire, such has not been the situation. Instead, you get the occasional summertime animal-themed entertainment and chances to witness nature simply by being in the right location at the right time.
During our own trip, we observed deer and a bighorn sheep with an abundant herd. Everything was really fantastic, particularly when it seemed as though the sheep was essentially posing for us. If I packed like he did, I could be posing all the time, too.
- Take to the Via Ferrata and channel your inner Spider-Man.
A guided climbing excursion called the Via Ferrata at Royal Gorge climbs you up the granite cliffs using a system of cables and steel rungs. Although there were no climbers around when we were there, we could see the paths they follow. Even just imagining it made me uneasy. This climbing method was not invented by the Royal Gorge. Italian meaning “iron route,” “via ferrata” is a well-known climbing activity in the Alps.
The Via Ferrata requires an additional entry charge. The 3-hour Revelation Tour or the 5-hour Royal Tour are the 2 available itineraries. You must make successive reservations if you wish to book for a bigger group since each group is limited to a maximum of 5 people. If you’re interested, purchase tickets in advance to ensure that there are guides available and that there is space available for you on the day of your choice.
- Visit the Plaza Theater to see the bridge documentary.
On a loop, a short video on the history of the bridge, including further details on the 2013 fire, is shown in the Plaza Theater across from the Royal Bridge. Spend some time looking around the little displays within the theater if you come in between performances or simply don’t feel like watching historical films. There are authentic artifacts and images from the first bridge building on display.
Throughout the summer, the park also hosts special events and wildlife shows in the theater, such as a birds of prey presentation that includes the park’s eagle ambassadors. These shows are free of added charge.
- Cross the bridge in a car.
You aren’t allowed to cross the bridge anytime you want in your own car. You must do so as a member of a car club on a pre-arranged trip with the park or in a group. A well-liked option for planned trips is Colorado Jeep Tours. Their full-day cruises offer entrance to the park on a different day in addition to the exhilaration of crossing across the Arkansas River. For those who have more time to spend in the neighborhood, it’s an excellent but pricey alternative.
In order to impose social distance during the COVID-19 epidemic, the park offered trips across the bridge for $20 per car, but this practice was discontinued after everything reopened.
- Tommy Knocker Playland is out of control.
Head to the park’s playland if you’re traveling with children and they’re far across the bridge for a variety of kid-friendly diversions. Encourage children to work for their money by prospecting for gold at Ole Zeb’s Sluice Box or spinning out on the antique Daisy’s Carousel. Purchase a somewhat spooky memento from the Wax Hands store.
Bring the kids to the splash pad for a variety of water activities or teach them how to climb the 20-foot towers. Just remember that while if access to the playland is free with your entrance, some of the activities do cost extra.
Should you be visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park?
The Royal Gorge is a 10-mile-long canyon with walls made of red granite that are over 1,000 feet tall. The Royal Gorge Bridge stands 956 feet above the raging Arkansas River and spans the Royal Gorge for 1,260 feet. The canyon was created by the Arkansas River more than 3 million years prior to the bridge’s construction, in 1929. The Royal Gorge’s depth is really being increased by the canal even now, by around 1 foot every 2,500 years. The “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas” is a site you won’t find anyplace else in the world, surrounded by Colorado’s famed blue sky and the breathtaking Rocky Mountains.
There are several ways to take in the magnificence of the enormous Royal Gorge Bridge. Wander around to the other side to stand 956 feet above the Arkansas, see the engineering feat of the building, and look over the edge to see whitewater rafters navigating the rapids below. Or go over in a sleek aerial gondola and take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of the untamed canyon and nearby mountains.
Using the most up-to-date harness and breaking systems, tourists may fly 1,200 feet above the Arkansas on the Cloudscraper ZipRider, which is North America’s tallest zipline. The zipline, which reopened on March 10, 2018, is a trip that belongs on everyone’s bucket list. Another heart-pounding sensation is the Royal Rush Skycoaster, which suspends riders 50 mph over the river before dropping them in a free fall. You don’t have to ride the roller coaster alone since up to three individuals may ride together!