The Royal Gorge Field Office manages lands with a variety of hiking opportunities ranging from the high desert outside of Canon City -- great for winter outtings -- to 14,000-feet peaks, perfect for hot summer days.
Deer Haven – Just 30 minutes north of Canon City, and off of Hwy 9 and High Park Road, is the Deer Haven area that offers trails through ponderosa pine forests and beautiful views of the Arkansas River Valley from Thompson Mountain. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, this area is good to visit in the summer when temperatures are hot at lower elevations. Hikers have a combination of singletrack trails and old roads that are now closed to motorized use.
Section 13 – These recently created single track trails are located just south of Canon City, off of Temple Canyon Road near Grape Creek.
Shelf Road – Although most of the trails at Shelf Road are for accessing the climbing walls, they are becoming more popular with people just out for a hike. The area is a 30-minute drive north of Canon City and off of Red Canyon Road (County Road 9).
Oil Well Flat – Named for the first oil wells in the state, this area is just 10 minutes north of Canon City off of Red Canyon Road (County Road 9). It offers both single-track trails and two-track roads (some that are open to motorized vehicles), that explore the interesting geology of the area.
Booger Red – This area offers stunning 360 degree views from high meadows while you travel along single-track trails and old roads that are closed to motorized use. You can cross High Creek and connect with the Shelf Road trail system. These trails are located off of High Park road, a 45-minute drive North from Canon City.
Cucharas Canyon – Located approximately 15 miles east of Walsenburg, this area is mostly undeveloped with two trails accessing the Cuchraras Canyon from the rim. Those willing to make the extra effort exploring this seldom visited area will be rewarded with amazing views and solitude on this section of the Cucharas River.
Salida Area – There are many hiking opportunities north and south of Salida, all within just minutes from town. Salida Mountain Trails is a group that offers the most up to date information regarding trails and conditions in the area.
Backcounty Hiking Tips
Hiking is allowed on all public lands within the Royal Gorge Field Office. There are many amazing areas to explore on foot but please remember to follow these guidelines while exploring:
- Know where property boundaries are, and respect private land
- Follow the Leave No Trace principles while hiking and backpacking on public lands
- Pack out your trash and if staying overnight follow the dispersed camping rules and guidelines
- Tell someone where you will be hiking and your expected return time
- Keep an eye to the sky; summer flash flooding or lightning can be deadly, so pay attention to the weather
- Keep dogs under control, this means either on a leash or under voice control
Buena Vista Area – The Fourmile area east of Buena Vista is popular for hiking enthusiasts with trails accessible from town. These trails include the Barbara Whipple Trail and the Midland Hill Trail -- both great, short hikes with amazing views of the Arkansas River Valley. The Friends of Fourmile offer the most up-to-date information regarding trails and conditions in the area.
Lower and Upper Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area - Spanning a large portion of the Grape Creek watershed, these two WSAs are located near Cañon City and Westcliffe. The Lower Grape Creek WSA ecompasses 11,220 acres of public land. The Upper Grape Creek WSA covers 10,200 acres. Within both WSAs are rugged peaks and inviting pools that provide a diversity of terrain and a relatively long recreation season for hikers, anglers, hunters, and equestrians. Access is limited to one trailhead at West Bear Gulch, approximately 10 miles south of Canon City, off of Oak Creek Grade. There are no developed trails within these WSAs. The majority of Grape Creek's riparian corridor is also an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area – Located six miles south of Buena Vista, this WSA is 6,614 acres of public land just east of the Arkansas River. It offers rugged topography that creates a variety of settings including canyons, gulches and ridge tops with sweeping views of the Arkansas River Valley and Sawatch Mountain range. Numerous rock spires throughout the area make Browns Canyon particularly scenic. The primary trailhead is near the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site along Chaffee County Road 300. The entire Browns Canyon WSA is within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area – This area is 10 miles northeast of Cañon City. It consists of more than 26,150 acres of steep, remote granite canyons that are valued for their wildlife and fish habitat. The primary trailhead is within the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area at the end of Fremont County Road 132. A portion of Beaver Creek WSA -- 13,734 acres -- is within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
McIntyre Hills Wilderness Study Area --
This area covers more than 15,910 acres in rugged country on the south side of the Arkansas River about 15 miles west of Cañon City. Access is limited on the southern boundary due to surrounding private land with the best access is in the drainages on the northern boundary off of Highway 50. There are no developed trails within this area. A small portion of the WSA, near the Arkansas River, is within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.