The possibilities for adventure around Cañon City are growing with an ever-expanding singletrack network. Often overlooked is the East Ridge Campground in Royal Gorge Park, but the Summit Trail from here to Fremont Peak should not be missed.
While one could start at the trailhead, we opted for a loop beginning from the nearby Jeep road. Approaching the campground, we veered right to the gate (drivers need permits) and started straight behind it. Though rough, passenger vehicles can manage this short stretch in dry conditions.
This starting point’s benefits are the overlooks you wouldn’t get from the trailhead: The Royal Gorge Bridge is seen spanning the canyon walls, the Arkansas River carving between. On a clear day, enjoy the Sangre de Cristo Mountains hanging over the Wet Mountains.
We stayed on the road until passing between utility towers and dropping down to the well-marked Summit Trail, going right to the peak. The final approach is steep with loose rock and soil. Be careful, too, on the way down. The panorama at the top reveals the peaks, canyon, river, woodlands, hogbacks, city and plains. An often unseen south face of Pikes Peak emerges in the distance.
To loop the trip coming down, we stayed straight on Summit Trail. The path eventually switchbacks to a junction, where we hung right on Summit Trail. At the next junction, where we could have gone left, we took the FAR Trail and at the next junction stayed straight, meeting the road back to our car.
Trip log: 4 miles, 700 feet elevation gain, 7,230 max elevation
Getting there: Go south on Colorado 115 and turn right for U.S. 50 to Cañon City. Continue through town toward Royal Gorge Park and turn left onto County Road 3A. Near the 3-mile mark, turn left at sign for East Ridge Campground.
FYI: Hiking and biking. Dogs on leash. Area hot and dry in summer; bring water. For maps and more information, go to joinFAR.org.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE