In 1906, the city of Cañon City was granted a large tract of land adjacent to the Royal Gorge. The wild, rolling hills of the landscape offered sweeping views and pulse-quickening glimpses into what was then known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Arkansas’. Since then, the area has recently seen trail development that has attracted the attention of mountain bikers from across the state. In 2018, over 100 years after the park’s dedication, Cañon City will host its first mountain bike race on the newly developed Royal Gorge Park Trail system – an 18-mile collection of trails that runs the gamut of Southern Colorado terrain: technical rocky outcroppings, smooth downhill, and juniper-strewn sections.
The system also features the seminal trail section, established in 2015 – the Canyon Rim Trail – that runs parallel to the gorge and threatens to stop racers in their tracks to appreciate the incredible views. (Just watch out behind you.) One thousand feet below, the Arkansas River runs east toward the plains, and to the south, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains loom in the distance. In the American West, a more quintessentially “Colorado” view would be hard to find.
The Royal 50 Mountain Bike Race will feature all of the scenery and great riding that one would expect from a Colorado mountain bike race. The course is a three-loop course that promises to challenge seasoned mountain bikers. With over 7,000 feet in elevation gain over 50 miles, the Royal 50 is not for the faint of heart. Riders will begin with a ceremonial start at the famed Royal Gorge Bridge and will continue through the park for a unique and memorable (especially for those who may have any discernable fear of heights) experience. Once past the park itself, racers will follow paved and dirt road for about 2 miles until joining singletrack for the remainder of the race. Those interested in doing only 20 miles (or one loop) will also see the best of the trail system.
All racers will finish at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, where they will be treated to a meal, beer, and entertainment. Music will be provided at the main stage, which overlooks the mountains and features an open-seating grass area, perfect for relaxing after a ride. Admission to the park and all attractions are included in the registration fee. Family members can even enjoy park tickets at a reduced rate, making the event a perfect fall weekend destination. Additional trail systems in Cañon City provide additional riding opportunities for the remainder of the weekend. Popular Oil Well Flats and the newly opened South Canyon Trail System both have beginner and intermediate trails with plenty of views and fun features.
Proceeds from the race will benefit Fremont Adventure Recreation (joinFAR.org), a local trail-building and event organization. Their mission is to promote a healthy outdoor recreation community, and have been putting on events since 2010 in the Royal Gorge Region.
For more information on the Royal 50 Mountain Bike Race, please see royal50.com. Registration is open now and will be limited to the first 300 racers.
Ride now. Stare later.