Day 1: Choose a Classic Combo Experience
Less than an hour from Colorado Springs and Pueblo, the Royal Gorge region is home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the state. Here, you’ll encounter the Arkansas River as it cuts through the 1,200-foot cliffs of Fremont Peak, forming the Royal Gorge rafting section that runs through 10 miles of epic rapids.
Start off your trip with one of several Colorado vacation packages. The Silver Pass is a popular option that features a rafting trip through the Royal Gorge in the morning or afternoon, followed or preceded by a half-day Classic Zipline Tour. In between, break for lunch at the outfitter’s own Whitewater Bar & Grill, a rustic Western-style eatery. Not only is top-of-the-line gear included, the entire rafting journey is photographed — so you can relish the memories later or do a little humble bragging about your paddling skills (we won’t judge).
As an alternative, families with younger child may want to pick the Bronze Pass, another raft-and-zipline combo that takes you to the more moderate waters of Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Between rapids, keep an eye out for the namesake bighorn sheep — Colorado’s state animal — and other wildlife that roam the rocky terrain.
In the evening, settle into your spacious accommodations. Royal Gorge Rafting offers three deluxe vacation rentals in Cañon City: River Ranch, Valley Ranch and Parkdale Ranch, as well as the Sackett Place condominium in nearby Salida. Each is a fantastic choice for large groups; whether you need to sleep eight or 20 people, there is a property that can host your crew. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and views, like the red-hued peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range or the rushing Arkansas River, during a relaxing soak in a private outdoor hot tub.
Day 2: Seek Even More Thrills
See even more of the region with the full-day Water 2 Wine package, offered from May to mid-August. Your day will begin with a breathtaking helicopter flight over the Royal Gorge, providing a bird’s-eye view of the waters you’ll soon be navigating. After a splashy jaunt down the river, the tour heads to the award-winning Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, where a private tasting awaits. Sip the wines, nosh on hors d’oeuvres and bring home a favorite bottle of your choice.
If you’re itching to spend more time riding the rapids instead, book the Royal Gorge full-day rafting excursion, which will take you through lower Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Royal Gorge, plus allows time for lunch and lounging on a private riverside beach.
Cap off the day by unwinding at a local establishment for dinner. In Cañon City you’ll find an array of spots serving up everything from microbrews and pizza to Mexican, Italian and Chinese specialties.
Day 3: Take to the Treetops
Turn your attention to aerial excitement for your final morning. The two-hour Classic Zipline spans 1 mile over nine lines, while the three-hour Extreme Tour kicks things up a notch with 11 lines totaling more than 2 miles and reaches speeds of 60 mph. Zoom across the 1,700-foot high-speed zipline and the side-by-side 1,200-foot racing line, and for an added adrenaline rush, the “quick jump” lets you leap off a massive seven-story tower for a 30-foot free fall before the belay system catches and slowly lowers you to the ground.
Spend your final afternoon doing some additional sightseeing in the region on your own. With attractions like the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Dinosaur Depot Museum and Segway tours, there are plenty of ways to keep the adventure going.