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Adventures with Alan takes on the expert Royal Cascade Trail

Royal Gorge Region
Royal Cascade Trail
Posted at 5:35 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 20:31:52-04

In our exclusive series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.

Covering 1,800 vertical feet, the brand new Royal Cascade Trail in Fremont County is quite the doozy.

The trial may be extreme, but the views I'm told are some of the best that Southern Colorado has to offer.

Our hike begins at the Tunnel Drive trailhead

To get here, you'll need to start with a quick and relatively flat 1.7 mile hike along Tunnel Drive Trail.

Originally built in the 1900s, the history of Tunnel Drive is quite fascinating.

"So, this used to be part of our water delivery system. We got water from the Arkansas River through a pipeline that ran right underneath us to the treatment plant in Canon City up until 1974," said Ashlee Sack, Coordinator with Fremont Adventure Recreation, or "FAR" for short.

She's also our guide on this adventure.

Through FAR's efforts, they've helped to put the Royal Cascade Trail on the map.

Follow the link for more information on the wonderful work that FAR does in Fremont County and how you can get involved.

Following a relatively mellow 1.7 mile walk on Tunnel Drive where we get to enjoy some incredible views of the Royal Gorge Region, we reach the bottom of the Royal Cascade Trail.

Now the fun begins on Royal Cascade

Royal Cascade in itself is listed at 3.6 miles long, and 1,800 vertical feet.

The sign at the bottom is clear and direct, stating that this is an advanced, double diamond trail.

The journey to the top starts with a bang, with plenty of quad busting, energy zapping switchbacks.

Sack tells us that the trail is not for everyone, and she's right!

"If you're looking for some high elevation gain in a short amount of time. If you're training for something like the Pikes Peak Marathon, it's perfect for that," said Sack.

After too many switchbacks to count, we wind our way through several canyons en route to Fremont Peak.

Thankfully, there's a few flat sections, but mostly it's a lot of climbing.

Getting close to the top, we step aside to allow some mountain bikers to pass.

At this point, I'm hurting, but I push on...

Moments later, we finally reach two poles, the end of the Royal Cascade Trail. From here, we make the decision to carry on so that we can summit Fremont Peak, with our exit point being the East Ridge Campground about two miles ahead.

Another option is to hike back down Royal Cascade to Tunnel Drive, totaling more than ten and a half miles.

After a few minutes, we can see Fremont Peak.

The last part of the hike up to the summit is super steep, with some scrambling required.

It doesn't take long, but it's really, really hard, and I'm completely spent by the time that we reach the top.

Even though this hike is about as challenging as they come, the scenery on Fremont Peak (summit elevation is over 7,200 feet) is worth it, with 360 degree views in every direction.

Those sweet views help to ease some of the pain that I experience on this hike, even suffering from heat exhaustion after getting back down to Cañon City.

Still, I'm glad I did it.

Royal Cascade Trail rating

Now it's time to rate our latest adventure.


Royal Cascade Trail
Royal Cascade Trail rating guide

For difficulty, outside of any fourteeners that I've done and the Manitou Incline, this brutal hike rightfully deserves a 5.

With incredible views of all of Fremont County and the surrounding mountain ranges, my scenery score is also a 5.

For fun level, the demanding nature of this hike (did I mention that it's hard!) did take some enjoyment out of it for me personally, so I'll score it a 4 out of 5.

Now for my final score...let's give this one 4 out of 5 stars.


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