At the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River, you'll truly feel at home.
If it's always been your dream to live at the edge of the Grand Canyon but you wither at the thought of 120-degree summers, Canon City (altitude 5,332 ft.) may be just your place. Straddling the eastern edge of Colorado's untamable Royal Gorge, some 1,000 feet above the rapids of the Arkansas River, Canon City has always commanded its own eclectic fan base. Travelers flock to this area not only to raft the rapids or test their nerves climbing the rock face at Shelf Road, to but to delve into the intriguing history of Colorado's imaginative concept of Alcatraz Island. Canon City's reputation as "prison valley" is legendary, since prisons and penitentiaries in this beautiful, arid valley are almost as common a sight as fast food restaurants. They are also a perpetual fascination to tourists, which is why the Museum of Colorado Prisons and its collection of "confiscated prisoner weapons" are major attractions for travelers much of the year. That's not to say that living here can be likened to incarceration, however. With mild winters that still put you within reach of skiing and snowboarding and warm, great summer attractions, Canon City has plenty to keep you busy. It also has a wide selection of communities in which to live, from neighborhoods with adjoining golf courses to rental houses and 1 bedroom apartments. And no, despite the penitentiary's unusually strong draw for risk seekers, the city doesn't rent out rooms at any of its prisons on a night-per-night basis.
Canon City neighborhoods are clustered on both the north and south sides of the Arkansas River. Many have their roots in the city's early pioneer history. Historic buildings dating back to the mid-1800s can be found scattered throughout the city.
North Canon City: The city's historic downtown skirts the edge of the Arkansas River and is bordered at the north by the tightly knit residential area of Orchard Park, one of several areas that feature apartments for rent. Western Meadows and the high-end homes of Sunrise Mesa lie to the west. Further northwest is the planned community of Four Mile Ranch and its tournament golf course.
South Canon City: Once a self-contained town of its own, South Canon, which features various places to rent, lies across the river from downtown. The 450-home Dawson Ranch is a well-supported, growing community, as is Wolf Park, nearby. Eagle Heights and Gold Canon are named for the streets that dominate their neighborhoods. The Cotter (Lincoln Park) uranium plant lies east of South Canon and has been declared a Superfund site under development.
Canon City Quirks and Tips
Canon tales - Canon City gets its name from a cute story about a 19th-century court reporter who opted for the Spanish spelling of canyon when transcribing the official name. Rather than changing the spelling (this was, after all, way before the age of computers), the townspeople embraced it as their own. It's good to remember that that even though some writers leave the tilde off the n, Canon doesn't sound like cannon - a mistake that is no doubt vexes local residents.
Do the tour - The Royal Gorge Park is currently rebuilding following a devastating fire in 2013. But you can still take the rail tour, which gives a spectacular view of the Gorge and will whet your appetite for that irresistible rafting trip.
Raft the Gorge - River rafting is serious business in Colorado, especially on the Gorge, where class III and IV rapids dominate. However, there are tamer rapids on the Arkansas as well. There are several local guides that can help you plan a safe trip.
Travel like a local - The city has some of the mildest winter weather in the state. Still, snowy winters and hot summers are a fact of life at high altitudes. Seasoned Coloradans always keep an emergency pack in their cars. That delightful bubble of temperate weather extends to about 80 miles beyond city limits, although sunny weather is a Colorado feature. Sun block is advised.
Mind the weather - Southern Colorado is also known for its dry weather. Canon City residents take fire restrictions and advisories seriously, especially during the summer.
Do the zip - Do you find rafting class IV rapids a bit boring? Been there, done that? It's to be assumed that any city that has a 1,260-foot-long bridge strung between 1,000-foot precipices would also offer zip lining to adrenaline junkies. Before you succumb to that urge to scale the wall of the State Penitentiary for fun, consider a 50-mile-an-hour zip across the Gorge. It's a great way to get a bird's eye view of your new abode. Tours can be arranged through Royal Gorge Zip Line Tours.