Short hikes with breathtaking beauty take you up close to red sandstone formations, sheer cliffs, and yawning canyons that overlooked Four Mile Creek.
Former Canon City Record publisher and Colorado congressman Guy U. Hardy recognized the significance of Cañon City’s beauty and sought to declare the entire area surrounding the town a national park. While he did not achieve this goal, in 1923, while serving as Congressman, he did manage to turn 600 acres of red sandstone formations, sheer cliffs, and yawning canyons that overlooked Four Mile Creek as a local park.
The area, now known as Garden Park and Red Canyon Park, is tucked away on the north side of Fremont Canyon. And while Garden Park has garnered fame for its dinosaur fossil discoveries, Red Canyon Park has earned a reputation for inspiring views and gorgeous vistas comparable to Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods.
The red rocks in this park were carved and sculpted by weather and erosion into narrow canyon and monoliths with names like Pioneer, Window Rock, the Sphinx, and Hoot Owl. The park now offers picnic areas, restrooms, and a number of short hiking trails that provide a closer look at the spires. Longer trails for hiking and horseback riding are also available.
Once home to the Ute Indians, many birds, like Gray Flycatchers, Black-Throated Warblers, and Bushtits, now live among Red Canyon Park’s piñon-juniper forest. Wildlife viewers might also catch a sight of a snake or lizard sunning itself on a rock in the summer or a rock squirrel standing guard atop small shrubs.
A short drive from downtown Cañon City brings you to these striking rock formations, where solitude and breathtaking scenery await.
Popular trails include:
Red Canyon Hike
(Park at the first parking area, about a mile from Red Canyon Road, CR 29.) As you head into the main wash (dry creek bed) area, you’ll notice right away how the rocks tower above, creating a small canyon-like experience. Explore the wash for as long—or as little—as you want! Please be safe and know your limits.
(From Red Canyon Road, follow the park’s road approximately 1.5 miles until you reach a notable pull-off on your right. Park here.) From this parking area, hike in a west-south-west direction until you find the arch. Red Canyon Adventure: You are allowed to explore across the entire Red Canyon Park area on or off-trail. However, please be respectful and pay attention to the map so as to not trespass on neighboring private land.
Start: Various parking lots and camp areas
Elevation Gain: Varies
Fitness effort: Mild to moderate
Difficulty: Novice to intermediate
Terrain: Natural surface, some rock scrambling
Trail users: Hikers, picnickers, walkers (While bicycles are allowed in the area, bicyclists may find that they wish to stick to the road for now due to the current lack of bicycle-appropriate trail and wayfinding.)
Dog-friendly: Yes. Keep your dog on a leash, bring waste bags, and clean up after your pet.
Before riding trails, please check trail conditions at www.joinFAR.org/trails. Please observe right-of-way etiquette and yield to hikers and equestrian riders. Help keep the Royal Gorge Region trails beautiful by observing all stewardship principles, including packing out any waste or trash, staying on the trail, and avoiding all wildlife. Give back to local trails by visiting local businesses that participate in the ‘1% for Trails’ program – see https://www.joinfar.org/1-for-trails.html for more information.
Red Canyon Park, Garden Park–Tomato, Tomato. Enjoy the splendor of the Royal Gorge Region, but please Care for Colorado and Leave No Trace!