An Autumn Road Trip Through Utah & Colorado

It’s a long story about why, but my brother, Ward, wanted to deliver 48 old bricks marked “Royal Gorge” to Canon City, Colorado and its eponymous Historical Society. We thought a brotherly road trip would be fun—and it was. (Except that his Toyota Tundra pick-up doesn’t have cruise control…)

We left the San Francisco Bay Area at 4:00 a.m. on a September Saturday morning and drove 730 miles east on Interstate 80 to Salt Lake City. On Day Two we drove southeast to Moab, Utah and then stayed overnight in Grand Junction Colorado (because we did not want to pay the $300+ that hotels in Moab were charging). Day Three was followed by a beautiful trip across the Rockies where aspen yellow everywhere announced the arrival of fall. Following a vegan breakfast (ugh) in Leadville, we arrived in Canon City in the afternoon. We spent Day Four in Canon City, dispensing bricks and riding the Royal Gorge Route railroad. The morning of Day Five was on to Colorado Springs and tits Garden of the Gods before leaving Ward and flying home to Madison. 

There were numerous photographic opportunities, so enjoy the five galleries below in slide show mode. If you want to go faster, just click the arrows on the righter left sides of the photo. 

Day Two: Around Moab Utah

Early on Day Two, we headed southwest and 185 miles later found ourselves in Moab—a place I’ve visited many times. But never as crowded as this. It was a 2-hour wait to get into Aches National Park, and there’s still plenty to see outside Arches. 

Day Three: Across the Rockies

After staying overnight in Grand Junction, On Day Three we drove through Glenwood Canyon on Interstate 70—surely one of the most beautiful patches of Interstate in the US. We encountered lots of construction repairing damage from floods earlier in spring. Just before Vail we headed south on US 24 toward Leadville, passing an abandoned mining town and crossing a pass over 11,000 feet high. Aspens were turning yellow—a spectacular sight and snow-covered mountains off in the distance. Beautiful.

Day Four: Canon City & Royal Gorge

We arrived in Canon City, which is actually high desert. Early morning of Day Four, I hiked the “Tunnel Trail”—the tunnels were built as part of an old water project, but now it’s a nice, flat hiking trail. First thing I saw was a Rocky Mountain Big-Horned Sheep contentedly munching away. And terrific views of the Arkansas River, which rises near Leadville and flows all the way to the Mississippi through Colorado, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Canon City is close to the Royal Gorge aka the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River.” It’s much narrower than the Grand Canyon. In some places, only 40 feet separates sheer rock walls that rise over a thousand feet from the riverbed. The highest suspension bridge in North America, 955 feet above the Arkansas River, spans the Gorge was built in 1929 as a tourist attraction, which it still is. We arrived at the bridge on a very windy afternoon and elected not to cross it. Instead, we opted to take the Royal Gorge Route railroad excursion. It departs Canon City, winding along the Arkansas River until it arrives under the bridge. We felt this was a far superior vantage point.

Day Five: Garden of the Gods

Colorado Springs is just 60 miles northeast of Canon City. Day Five and back to urban reality, arriving just in time for commute traffic. We made our way to the far western side of the city at Garden of the Gods. It was early and only a few people were hiking the concrete trails that surround the Gardens many rock formations. By the time we left the place was chock-a-block with tourists, cars and buses. We were glad to leave. One final look at Pike’s Peak and then Ward dropped me off at the airport, heading home.

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