Royal Gorge Bridge and Park: Is it Worth the Cost?

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Cañon City is one of the most popular day trips from Colorado Springs. Some travelers balk at the price and call it a tourist trap. I’m usually a little more generous when it comes to attractions like this.

Yes, the bridge was built to bring tourists into the region.

Does that matter when you’re here to see the highest suspension bridge in the country? Let’s find out with my guide to the Royal Gorge Bridge and what we thought about our own Colorado visit.

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Where is Royal Gorge Bridge and Park?

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is located at 4218 County Road 3A in Cañon City, Colorado. This is the only access point for the public to the park. Royal Gorge directions drop you off at the north gate. The south gate isn’t open to tourists.

Most travel in the region starts in Colorado Springs, so you’ll need to get there first.

How far is Royal Gorge from Colorado Springs? Royal Gorge is about 48 miles south of Colorado Springs.

You may get lucky with decent flight options into the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in town if you’re planning travel from Royal Gorge to Colorado Springs. From there, it takes a little over an hour to get to the park.

A view from afar of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

You’re more likely to find budget-friendly flights out of Denver International Airport. It’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Denver to Royal Gorge in light traffic.

From wherever you land, you’ll need a car to get to the bridge. Book a car for pickup at the airport using an aggregator like Hotwire or Priceline

Once you’re at the bridge, you can park your car in the lot adjacent to the visitor center and hoof it the rest of the way.

Does it cost to park at the Royal Gorge? It doesn’t cost anything to park at the Royal Gorge.

The Royal Gorge Bridge: A Brief History

Historical signage at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

The Royal Gorge Bridge was built in 1929 as a tourist attraction, a status it’s kept up until the modern day. Today, it’s also known as America’s Bridge, not to be confused with the Bridge of the Americas. That one is in Panama.

In 1931, a funicular was added to bring visitors to the bottom of the bridge for a closer look at the Arkansas River. 

Can you still go to the bottom of the Royal Gorge? You can’t still go to the bottom of the Royal Gorge Bridge. The Incline Railway was damaged in a wildfire in 2013 and hasn’t reopened since.

I haven’t read any plans about when or if park staff have any plans to open a similar feature in the future. The same fire also damaged many of the park’s buildings, but the bridge was mostly left unscathed. 

The park’s owners, which changed hands around the 1940s, added several additional attractions over the years, including an aerial tram in 1969 and the Skycoaster in 2003. A new and improved visitor center opened in 2014 as part of the park’s grand reopening after the fire.

A sign detailing the history at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

The bridge itself was the highest suspension bridge in the world until 2001. That’s when China debuted its Liuguanghe Bridge over the Wu River. 

Fun fact: China outdid itself a few years later with the Beipan River Guanxing Highway Bridge, and since then, higher suspension bridges have opened to challenge that title. I won’t get into the back-and-forth here, but can send you to a list of impressive suspension bridges if this is your jam.

In any case, Royal Gorge remains the highest suspension bridge in the United States. Just think about that for a sec. This thing sits 956 feet above the Arkansas River.

That’s a big deal, especially when you consider it was completed in six months with no Royal Gorge Bridge deaths or serious injuries to speak of along the way.

As a fan of all things macabre and true crime, you know I had to check those grim stats.

Can you walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge?

You can walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge. Most visitors agree this is the best way to see and experience the bridge, but you need a ticket to make that happen. Royal Gorge Bridge is privately owned.

A man looks over the edge at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

How much does it cost to walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge?

It costs $30 per adult and $25 per child to walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge if you buy tickets at the gate. Kids two and under are free.

If you book online, you pay $27 per adult and $22 per child.

That’s a lot of money to walk across a bridge either way, no matter what the views are as you do so. I’ll get into more detail on this point, but there’s more to do at the park outside of the bridge that can relieve some of that sticker shock.

Is the Royal Gorge Bridge worth it?

The Royal Gorge Bridge is worth it if you’re there for more than just the bridge. Paying $30 for Royal Gorge Bridge tickets just to cross the bridge, even if you take the scenic gondola on the way back, is just too much.

It’s a common complaint if you look at Royal Gorge Bridge reviews online. 

The park defends itself by saying the cost is comparable to similar attractions in the area, but no matter how many times you ride that gondola, this still isn’t an amusement park.

Many of the more adrenaline-pumping attractions come at an added cost, too, and are dependent on Royal Gorge weather.

A train sits at the entrance to Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

That all said, I don’t have any regrets following our visit to the bridge. It’s a sight to see, especially from afar. If you’re pinching pennies, though, I won’t say this is one of those unmissable attractions in the region.

There’s so much to do in and around Colorado Springs, for example, like the completely free Garden of the Gods.

Wondering how to see Royal Gorge for free? There are ways, and they’re not even that sneaky.

Can you see the Royal Gorge Bridge without paying?

You can see much of the Royal Gorge Bridge without paying from the parking lot to the park.

You can also see the gorge without a fee by hiking the Royal Gorge Overlook Trail, an easy 1.5-mile loop. You can pick this one up along the entrance road to the park before you get to the visitor’s center.

If you want to walk the bridge, there’s no other way around it: You’ll need to pay the price for the privilege to do so.

How much time do you need for Royal Gorge Bridge and Park?

How much time you need for Royal Gorge Bridge and Park depends on what you decide to do while you’re there. If you’re only walking the bridge or riding the gondola, expect to spend no more than a few hours in the park.

A man walks across a bridge at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

If you do all of the additional activities included in your Royal Gorge Bridge and Park tickets or upgrade to one of the VIP experiences, you can spend up to a full day at Royal Gorge Bridge.

Do you need a reservation for the Royal Gorge? You do not need a reservation for the Royal Gorge, although Royal Gorge tickets are available online. You’ll also pay a few dollars less if you book tickets online.

If you’re interested in adding excursions to your ticket like the Via Ferrata course, you can book those climbing tours online ahead of your visit.

Things to Do at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

The bridge is certainly the main attraction, but there are a few other Royal Gorge things to do in what’s become a bridge-themed amusement park.

Unfortunately, most of the more thrilling attractions come at an extra fee to bump up that hefty Royal Gorge cost even further. We stuck to activities included in our general admission.

Note: Your general admission ticket includes a walk over the bridge, the aerial gondola, the Plaza Theater, and the Children’s Playland.

I’ll still include all of the add-ons here so that you have a complete picture of all of the adventures you can have at this bridge park. 

Walk the Royal Gorge Bridge.

A woman poses with a flag at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

You’re here for the bridge, right? It’d be a shame then to visit without making at least one pass all the way across. It may feel a little sketchy at first if you’re afraid of heights, but I never felt uncomfortable, even when looking over the side.

You’ll pass by a series of flags to represent all 50 states as you stroll across. Find your home state and strike a pose to make the entire experience last a little longer.

Walking the bridge is the best way to experience the bridge, but if you’re not able to, the gondola ride included with your ticket is a close second.

Note: It gets hot out there, by the way, especially in the summer. Prep for that with lots of sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water. If you’re really struggling, grab a twist cone at the Cliff Side Patio.

Ride the scenic gondola.

A man rides a gondola at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

You don’t have to decide between walking the bridge and riding the gondola. You can do both. 

If you’re able, I highly recommend riding the gondola on the return to avoid the long line of people waiting for their rides at the entrance. Our only wait time doing it this way was waiting for a car to arrive. 

The ride itself was great. It’s a completely different experience riding over the gorge rather than walking, and you see much more of the gorge itself inside the gondola. Each car holds up to either passengers, but we were the only ones in our gondola.

I think it’d be even more exciting if they added clear bottoms to the cars, but imagine some folks would freak out about that.

Feel the adrenaline rush on the Skycoaster.

The Royal Rush Skycoaster on the south rim of the Royal Gorge takes you up to the top of a 100-foot tower, only to drop you 1,200 feet over the gorge at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. 

We saw quite a few groups screaming their faces off as they encountered the free-fall portion of their program, and I was just happy to have my feet planted firmly on the ground.

This is an upgrade to your regular admission ticket. You don’t need to book tickets for the Skycoaster in advance, but it may be a good idea if you’re visiting on the weekend and have your heart set on the experience.

Check out the water clock.

A water clock at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

This is one of those quick stops that won’t take up much of your time, but it’s an interesting stop nonetheless.

Once you have your tickets and walk out of the visitor center, you’ll come across the Water Clock. It’s the only one of its kind in Colorado, keeping track using water that splashes from one bucket to the next.

This is unfortunately a replica of the original clock that was in operation until the fire in 2013.

Ride the Cloudscraper Zip line.

The Royal Gorge Bridge zip line is the highest zip line in the United States, sending you 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River.

I’ve always been worried about my lack of upper body strength when attempting zip lines, but this one is completely hands-free. You’re basically hurtling through the air in a cute little seat.

Access the zip line on the south rim of the Royal Gorge. You can take the Royal Gorge gondolas to get there, and then zip back across to the visitor center. This one actually looked like a lot of fun, but it is an extra fee on top of that pricey admission ticket.

Look for wildlife.

A bighorn sheep at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

Old blog posts will tell you about a petting zoo-style attraction on the grounds of the park. That hasn’t been the case since the 2013 wildfire.

What you get instead are animal-themed shows from time to time during the summertime and opportunities to see wildlife just for being in the right place at the right time.

We saw a well-endowed bighorn sheep and deer during our own visit. It was all very magical, especially when it seemed like that sheep was basically posing for us.

I might be posing all the time, too, if I was packing what he was packing.

Channel your inner Spiderman on the Via Ferrata.

The Via Ferrata at Royal Gorge is a guided climbing tour that takes you along the granite walls using a series of cables and steel rungs. We didn’t see any climbers during our visit but did see the routes they take on the tour. I got nervous just thinking about it.

Fun fact: The Royal Gorge didn’t come up with this climbing technique. “Via ferrata” is Italian for “iron path,” and it’s a popular pastime for adventurous climbers in the Alps.

You’ll need to pay a separate admission fee for the Via Ferrata. Choose from two different routes, the three-hour Revelation Tour or the five-hour Royal Tour.

Each group is capped at a maximum of five participants, so if you want to book for a larger group, you’ll need to book consecutive times. 

Book tickets in advance for this one if you’re interested to make sure they have guides available, and to make sure there’s a spot open for you on your chosen day.

Watch the bridge documentary at the Plaza Theater.

A theater at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

The Plaza Theater on the other side of the Royal Bridge runs a mini-documentary on a loop about the history of the bridge and Royal Gorge park, including more info on the 2013 fire. 

If you arrive in between shows or just don’t vibe with historical documentaries, spend some time perusing the modest exhibits inside the theater.

You’ll see original artifacts and Royal Gorge Bridge photos from the original bridge construction.

The park also runs nature shows and special events in the theater throughout the summer months, including a birds of prey spectacle that features the park’s eagle ambassadors. There’s no additional cost for these shows.

Drive over the bridge.

A view of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

You can’t drive over the bridge in your personal vehicle whenever you want. You have to do so as part of a car club on a pre-booking with the park, or on an organized tour. 

Colorado Jeep Tours is a popular option for organized tours. On top of the thrill of driving over the Arkansas River, their full-day tours include admission to the park on another day. It’s a good but expensive option for those with more time in the area.

Run amok at Tommy Knocker Playland.

A view of Tommy Knocker Playland at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

If you’re traveling with kids and they’re way over the bridge, head to the park’s playland for all kinds of adventures for the little ones.

Have them earn their keep and pan for gold at Ole Zeb’s Sluice Box or get all dizzy on the vintage Daisy’s Carousel. Bring home a slightly creepy souvenir from the Wax Hands shop.

Lead the kids in all kinds of water fun on the splash pad or introduce them to climbing on the 20-foot towers. Just keep in mind that while entry to the playland is included in your admission, some of the activities do come at an extra fee.

Have some snacks at the park eateries.

You don’t have to leave the park for lunch. Choose between Cafe 1230, Bridge View BBQ, the Cliff Side Patio, or Pizza on the Hill. All but Cafe 1230 are seasonal.

If you’re visiting outside of the summer months, check ahead, especially if you’re traveling with a hangry individual.

You don’t have to leave the park for beer, either. The Mountain Man Beer Garden and the Last Chance Tap Room are your available options for some cold ones, but they’re also seasonal. Coffee is available at Java at the Bridge.

Things to Do Near Royal Bridge

Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado, isn’t the only attraction in the region or even Cañon City. If you’re coming from Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge, I have a detailed guide on all the fun you can have in Colorado Springs while you’re there.

If you’re sticking to Cañon City, here are a few more spots you can hit once you’re done with the Colorado suspension bridge.

Sip on wines at Holy Cross Abbey.

A winery near Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

Stop by Holy Cross Abbey for $5 tastings at the bar or seated tastings that are a little more formal. If you want to guarantee a seat, make reservations ahead of your visit.

I really liked their red blends, especially The Theurgist. That may be because my sommelier described it as a “party red,” and I was certainly ready for that.

I just wish they leaned into the religiosity of it all even more. I mean, you’re at an abbey. Have some more fun with it, winemakers!

Take a hike.

Views of a canyon at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

I’ve already mentioned the Royal Gorge Overlook Trail as a great way to see the bridge without paying that hefty fee. If you’re looking for a few more leg stretchers, check out the hikes near the Royal Gorge Bridge below.

Any mileage listed is roundtrip and courtesy of AllTrails. I always suggest downloading trail maps to your AllTrails map before you head out, just to make sure you’re on the right path.

  • Royal Gorge Canyon Rim (3.9 miles): Beautiful views with limited elevation gain make this a popular trail with access to Royal Gorge the region.
  • Fremont Peak (3.2): This summit hike is just under 600 feet of elevation gain to 360-views of the Rocky Mountains and central Colorado.
  • Canyon Rim, Cañon Vista, and Far Out Loop (6.1 miles): This is a longer trail, but it’s still rated easy for limited elevation gain. Climb to excellent views of the canyon.

Ride the scenic Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive is certainly the most scenic road in Cañon City, but it’s also considered one of the most scenic roads across the country. This is a steep, at-times-harrowing drive along a one-way road that takes you to a ridge overlooking the city and Royal Gorge.

Enjoy as many pull-outs along the way as you’d like, especially once you get to the interpretive displays near the top.

The road is just over 2.5 miles, but it can feel quite a bit longer if you’re there in the summertime. This is a popular drive for locals and visitors looking for that perfect sunset.

Experience the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

A train rides at the bottom of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Photo courtesy of Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

You likely saw the tracks from above as you crossed the Royal Gorge Bridge. To experience a ride along those very tracks, book a trip on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and ride the Royal Gorge train.

How much does it cost to ride the Royal Gorge train? It costs $89 per adult to ride the Royal Gorge train in coach. Ticket prices go up from there. If you’d like to ride with a train engineer, those tickets start at $249 per adult.

There are up to four different departures on any given day depending on the type of ride you want to book on your Royal Gorge Route Railroad tickets. The Vista Dome, which takes you along the Arkansas River, departs at 9:15am.

How long is the Royal Gorge train ride? The Royal Gorge train rides vary in length, running anywhere from about an hour-and-a-half to three hours for evening rides.

All trains depart from the Santa Fe Depot. There is free parking at the depot for anyone with rail tickets on the Royal Gorge Bridge train.

Is the Royal Gorge train worth it? The Royal Gorge train is worth it if you love a leisurely train journey and have the time for it in your Colorado travels. The views of the gorge and Arkansas River look wonderful.

That said, we didn’t ride the train. Whether I missed out on something here or not, I really can’t say!

Go whitewater rafting.

Experience the real power of the Arkansas River on a whitewater rafting trip. You’ll need to book a rafting trip ahead of time if you’re interested but keep in mind that any trip down the river is dependent on what Mother Nature has in mind.

Check out some highly-rated options below:

Eat at Cañon City restaurants.

For a better dining experience, you’ll need to leave the park for Cañon City. Eating inside one of the parlors at the Royal Gorge Mansion is a popular option for travelers seeking something a little more special.

If you want something more casual after a sweaty stroll on the bridge, Pizza Madness serves the expected on top of sandwiches and pastas. Whitewater Bar & Grill is a good option for the classics, but they’re only open seasonally.

Royal Gorge FAQs

Is Royal Gorge Bridge a national park?

Royal Gorge Bridge is not a national park. The bridge and the park are both privately owned.

What is the best time of day to go to the Royal Gorge?

The best time of day to visit the Royal Gorge is early morning or late afternoon. Both mean more comfortable temperatures, something that’s important for visitors in the summer months. Midday visits mean more challenging conditions for photographers, too.

What are Royal Gorge hours?

Royal Gorge hours generally start at 10am daily. Closing hours vary by season and special events. If you’re here in the summer, enjoy longer hours until 7pm.

Where to Stay When Visiting Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

We visited the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park on a day trip from Fairplay, Colorado, but there are all kinds of accommodations for you to choose from if you want to hang out in and around Cañon City.

Check out the map below for your options:

What is special about the Royal Gorge Bridge?

What’s special about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that it’s one of the world’s highest suspension bridges. It remains the highest suspension bridge in the United States. For bridge enthusiasts, it’s considered an engineering marvel.

So is Royal Gorge worth it? Royal Gorge is worth it if you don’t mind the ticket price. We enjoyed our experience there and certainly enjoyed those views, but there is so much more to see in Colorado.

If the price is too high for you, don’t feel bad about it. Choose an alternative or see the bridge from afar for free. You don’t need to walk it to feel impressed by it.

Ready for Royal Gorge Bridge & Park?

Your Flight: I use a variety of tools to find cheap airfare, but if you’re looking to book a vacation during a particular period of time, you should start your search on Skyscanner.

It’s a great tool for when you’re watching airfare, too, as you can set up alerts for price drops on the site. Scroll up for more tips on getting to and around the park.

Adventurous folks may love subscribing to Going, formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights. You’ll get all kinds of deals in your inbox throughout the year. 

Your Accommodations: Scroll up for tips on where to stay near Royal Gorge Bridge and Park from and Vrbo.

Seeking even more wallet-friendly accommodations? Try Hostelworld. Their picks are heavily vetted and reviewed to offer you a safe experience for Colorado Springs budget travel.

Etc.: For more help planning Colorado travel, check out my detailed Colorado trip guide. For general travel goodies, visit my Favorite Things page. For more information on planning your travel and travel tips, visit my Travel Tools page.

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Agnes Groonwald

Agnes Groonwald is the creator of Travel on the Reg, a travel/humor blog for regular people who travel in a regular fashion. She has been to 50/50 U.S. states and explored 30+ countries, most often as a digital nomad. She's all about sharing the honest truth about travel, real experiences, and all the quirky stuff about her favorite (and not so favorite) places.

2 thoughts on “Royal Gorge Bridge and Park: Is it Worth the Cost?”

  1. Considering the price of admission to major national parks like Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Zion…. or any others… The Royal Gorge bridige price of admission is straight up obscene. There’s No excuse for this kind of price for a few yards attraction.

    • That was my takeaway! Unfortunately, private attractions do what they want when it comes to pricing. Good thing there’s plenty to do in the area!

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