Sticking to a ridge on the northeast rim of the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River, this is a highly scenic route with great bang-for-the-buck. The route gains relatively little elevation and takes in two desert peaks, all the while treating the hiker to knock-out views of the Royal Gorge and the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo range, all in a warm and dry desert environment of rock, sand and cactus.
Roundtrip Mileage: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: About 1,000 feet net (cumulative is higher)
YDS Rating: Class 2+
From Cañon City
• Head west on U.S. Hwy 50 for 7 miles
• Turn left/south at Fremont County Road 3A (see signs for the Royal Gorge Bridge)
• Drive 3.3 miles on CR 3A
• Turn left onto a (currently unmarked) dirt road (from here, the road markings are unreliable/non-existent and the directions, admittedly, a bit less precise)
• After approximately ½ mile, bear right
• Travel less than ½ mile to a picnic and camping area at another fork in the road
• Park here, or continue briefly along the more pronounced of the two dirt roads to your right at park below the gate
• From the camping/picnic area, head south on a well-worn dirt road that services the antennae along the northeast rim of the Royal Gorge.
• Not long after entering the piñon/juniper “forest”, the road turns sharply and you will encounter a gate blocking vehicle traffic (but foot traffic is permitted).
• Roughly one mile after leaving the camping/picnic area, you will encounter an old communications tower and small structure. Continue past this tower along the road
• The road will dip steeply, then rise again bringing you to a newer communications tower. Here you will leave the road and head southeast along a footpath currently marked with a cairn.
• The footpath carries you on an undulating course through the desert scrub for about ½ mile before depositing you at the base of Fremont Peak (marked with a cairn and a summit cross).
• Depart the main footpath for a faint, steeply-rising footpath trending south-southwest to the summit of Fremont Peak. There is a large rock summit cairn and a memorial cross marking the summit.
• After enjoying the views from Fremont Peak, descend the peak to the east toward a highpoint on the ridge east-southeast less than ½ mile from the summit of Fremont. You will encounter some relaxed scrambling and loose rock in places along this ridge, but the views are fantastic.
• From just below the secondary ridge highpoint, depart the footpath (which carries folks to the end of the ridge to enjoy views) and descent very steeply, due south, down bighorn sheep paths toward the saddle with Nonans Peak. (The sense of solitude at this point in the outing is stunning considering your proximity to the small city of Cañon City.)
• From the saddle, it is just ¼ of a steep, prickly mile to the summit of Nonans Peak! Trend south-southwest up the north ridge of Nonans Peak to a small cairn marking the summit.
• Retrace your steps to your vehicle.
Note: On the return, after surmounting the ridge to the east-southeast of Fremont Peak, it is possible to traverse around Fremont Peak to the northeast if you prefer. Note that this route alternative is considerably less scenic than sticking to the ridge and is cursed by “goat paths” wondering off through thick stands of Gamble Oak. I recommend simply sticking to the ridge, re-summitting Fremont Peak, upon your return from Nonans Peak.
• Trail map (USGS Royal Gorge quad or custom map)
• Compass or GPS
• Lots of water and salty snacks
• Sunscreen and a brimmed hat
• First aid kit