West of Cañon City sits a pair of small desert ranges called the Royal Gorge Hills and the Grand Canyon Hills. This small bundle of desert peaks rises north of the Wet Mountains and are generally hot, dry, rocky and covered in prickly plant-life. These two small ranges are cleaved by the 1,250 foot deep Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River, a dramatic land formation that draws visitors from around the country and even from around the globe. Many are content to savor views from the highest suspension bridge in the world, while other brave souls venture into the Gorge to raft the raging rapids.
The peaks of the Royal Gorge Hills and Grand Canyon Hills form the scenic backdrop for visitors to Cañon City from the east. These twin mini-ranges are bordered by Cañon City to the east, US Highway 50 to the east and the north, Fremont CR 3 and South Webster Park to the west and Temple Canyon to the south. While many visitors to Colorado’s mountains see thick stands of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir or wide-open alpine tundra, these desert peaks wear a stubble of grasses and ground cacti, and are dotted in mixed Piñon-Juniper clusters and speckled with can cholla. Bighorn Sheep live in the Gorge, while the ubiquitous Mule Deer are plentiful.
Peaks of the Royal Gorge Hills and Grand Canyon Hills
These peaks rise on either side of the Royal Gorge, only a few miles as the crow flies from the center of Cañon City, in Fremont County, Colorado. The main major road servicing this area is US Highway 50.
While the Royal Gorge is encompassed within the privately-held Royal Gorge attraction, the Royal Gorge Hills are accessible via the Royal Gorge Canon City Park, while the Grand Canyon Hills are accessible via BLM land. Though a hefty fee is required to access the Royal Gorge bridge and amusement park area, it is free to access Fremont Peak from the city park to the north of the peak. Parking is free, as well.
Camping & Lodging
Cañon City Royal Gorge Park
Cañon City Recreation & Parks operates a simple first come, first served campground that would be very convenient to the primary route for this peak.
Red Canyon Park
According to the Trails Illustrated map of the area, camping is available in this Cañon City park located north of Cañon City via Rt 9 (which becomes Shelf Road).
Shelf Road Recreation Area
The Bureau of Land Management operates two campgrounds in the Shelf Road Recreation Area about 12 miles north of Cañon City. The Bank (13 sites) and Sand Gulch (16 sites) each have tent pads, picnic tables, fire grates and a vault toilet.
The National Forest Service operates a free, year-round campground about 16 miles south of Cañon City via County Road 143 (Oak Creek Grade Road). There are 16 sites, but no water is available (haul your own).
Weather & Seasons
The mountains around Cañon City are typically warmer and dryer than other mountains of higher elevation in Colorado. Summers in this area can be painfully – or even dangerously – hot, and very dusty. The record high temperature for Cañon City is 118°F (48°C).
If visiting Fremont Peak the summer, you may wish to opt for an early morning sunrise hike or a late evening sunset hike. Fall would be a pleasant time to visit Fremont Peak, with moderate temperatures and dry roads making for easy access.
It is tempting to visit this area in Winter and Spring when access to the high country is limited by deep drifts blocking roads and high avalanche danger, but note that steep, rocky areas may be slick or even dangerous when snow covered and the north-facing slopes of the ridge Fremont Peak is a part of could be impassible in very deep snow.
External Links and Additional Info
• Royal Gorge Bridge Attraction
• More about the Royal Gorge on Wikipedia