Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop

Distance6.77 mi
Elevation Gain650 ft
My Time2 hr 43 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest Town Canon City
Food Nearby Big Burger World

Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop

Located at the edge of the entrance to the historic Royal Gorge Bridge Park, the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop is a figure eight or bowtie style loop with some impressive views of the canyon and river below.

Getting Started

Just outside the Royal Gorge park you will find the parking area for the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop junction. The parking area has a little picnic area as well and after crossing the street you will be at the trailhead. I decided to take the Canyon Rim trail first as it is the longer of the two trails. The Canyon Rim trail intersects with several other smaller trails that lead to a campground. I did a longish loop but did not complete each trail.

Arkansas River Canyon Rim

The Canyon rim trail is a narrow and dusty trail that cuts across the rim to the east to begin. The trail leads past some small trees and bushes but is mostly exposed so make sure that you are prepared with water and sun protection.

The Canyon Rim trail loop that I took is just over five miles long and doesn’t have any elevation gains in the double digits so it is a fairly easy hike but it is a bit long. The first half mile isn’t very exciting until you get to a ledge at the first big turn. The ledge brings you right up to the rim and the views below are spectacular.

The Arkansas river flowing at the bottom of the canyon from the rim of the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook loop.
The View into the Arkansas River Canyon from the Canyon Rim trail

After this ledge you will walk along the top of the rim to the east for about another half mile. While close to the rim, it doesn’t feel unsafe at all. It does, however, provide really nice views of the canyon walls and geology of the area.

The view of the canyon with mountains in the background and scrub brush in the foreground from the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop.
The View into the Arkansas River Canyon from the Canyon Rim Trail

After walking the rim you head back into the woods a bit for a third of a mile towards the first junction.

Far Out Trail

At the mile and a half point the Canyon Rim trail meet up with the Far Out Trail. I took the Far Out trail to the south (right) here as it looked to head more towards the canyon rim and away from the campground. The Far Out Trail goes about a half mile until it has good views of the canyon. At that point in intersects with the Le View trail. The Le View trail wasn’t on my map but I highly recommend it. It is a quick tenth of a mile spur but leads to my favorite views of the hike.

The view of the canyon from the Le View Point.  From the higher elevation you can see some snow capped mountains in the distance.  This is part of the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop.
The View into the Arkansas River Canyon from the Le View Point

The point at the end of Le View is elevated and looks down the canyon and is pretty special.

After the point it is back to Far Out and another half mile until it joins up with the Canon Vista trail. Now you can stay on Far Out to head up another hill near the rim or head back to complete the loop on Canon Vista. I headed back but kind of regret that.

Canon Vista

The Canon Vista trail heads towards the backside of the trail and towards the campground. This was a little disappointing as the trail no longer looks down towards the river but instead towards the town. The views aren’t terrible but they just aren’t as good as the other side. After a little more than a half mile the trail connects back to Canyon Rim. Canyon rim then takes you back to the trailhead the way you came earlier. I do wish I would have stayed on Far Out to seen the views from higher up the canyon wall but it was getting hot and this let me finish the Overlook Loop.

The view of the deserty setting of the backside of the loop with Canon City in the distance from the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook loop.
The backside of the loop looks more into Canon City in the distance

Overlook Loop

Circling back to the parking area leads to the second portion of the loop which is the Overlook Loop. The Overlook loop is the shorter section of the hike and clocks in around one and a half miles. Much like the Canyon Rim side there isn’t much of an incline either but there is a small bit of up and down.

The Overlook loop starts with a third of a mile spur to get to the loop near the overlook parking area. This section follows the road a bit and is unspectacular. When you arrive at the loop you have the option of heading south towards the rim or across the road. I would recommend heading to the south as that will give you a good approach to the bridge.

If you take the southern loop you will almost immediately have some amazing views of the river below.

A more straight on view down the canyon and the Arkansas river from the overlook side of the Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop.
The view into the Arkansas River Canyon from the Overlook trail

This is the most direct view of the gorge from this trail and I spent a bit of time here just enjoying the view. The trail splits off several times around the rim and there are different spots to enjoy the view.

As you continue along on the loop you will get to see your first views of the iconic suspension bridge of the entire hike.

A wide shot showing the entire Royal Gorge bridge spanning across the Arkansas River from the overlook section of the Arkansas River and Overlook Loop.
The Royal Gorge Bridge from the Overlook Trail

Unfortunately this is the closest and best views that you will get of the bridge while on the loop. The northern part of this loop takes into a deeper section of woods with very limited views until crossing the road and reconnecting the loop. From there it is just a quick third of a mile walk back to the car.

Quick wrap of Overlook Loop

I was a little disappointed with the Overlook loop as it was more of a trail to the overlook parking area and wasn’t big on independent views. You can get the same views by driving to the overlook and this trail is more a trail TO that overlook instead of having an overlook of its own. Overall the hike was really enjoyable though.

Videos of Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop

I have put together a couple of videos of the hike. This first one is more of a narrative version of the hike:

Next up is a raw, time-lapse version of the hike that I like to call the hikers edit. The hikers edit is to give you a feel of what the trail itself looks like. If you enjoy either of these videos I would love it if you subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get notified when I upload new content.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 6.77 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 650 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,945 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 43 minutes.

Effort

While there are quite a bit of small up and downs on this path there is not any big elevation pushes to add to the effort. The toughest part for me on this hike was the length and the amount of exposure. It is very dry in the area and the sun was beating down on me all day. Even though it was a fall day and only got into the 70’s I did feel like I got a bit dehydrated by the end so be careful on that front.

Terrain

The hike is mostly on a dusty and sandy dirt path that is well defined. There is a bit of rocks and roots to deal with but nothing too challenging. One note is that there are signs all over saying not to use this trail if the trail conditions are muddy so make sure to check the weather before heading out.

Access

The Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Trail is located just outside of the main entrance to the Royal Gorge Park complex in Fremont County, Colorado. The trail is part of a series of connecting trails and trailheads in the area. The one I started on was off of County Road 3A just outside of Canon City.

Wrapping up Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop

There are definitely some beautiful views on this trail loop when you are close to the edge of the gorge. My problem became that too much of the trail was in the back area’s away from the canyon rim. That being said there were some alternate trails that looked like they led closer to the edge and would probably have more views that I didn’t take.

If you are looking to save some time it might be best to skip the overlook loop. I found that it was more a trail to walk to the Overlook parking lots than a trail with good views. If you drive to the Overlook Lots you can get the same views without the trail.

Last tip is to remember how dry and hot it is in this area. Even though it was only in the 70’s I ended up getting a little dehydrated in the dry air. In the summer these trails will have a lot of exposure so make sure you bring plenty of water!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

4 thoughts on “Arkansas River Canyon Rim and Overlook Loop”

  1. We went and walked the Royal Gorge bridge a year or two ago and found it to be way too touristy and overrated. This hike looks more my speed and a much more enjoyable way to visit the gorge! I’ve also heard good things about the train ride, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet.

    1. I did the train a couple of year ago when my parents visited and it is really fun. The hike was good and it is far enough away from the bridge that it gives more of a nature feel to it. I walked the bridge that I put in another post and as someone who doesn’t like heights that sure was something hahaha

  2. Hi FM! So happy to read about this hike;. The Arkansas River is one of my favorite areas…always felt at home there.
    I bought a cabin near Cotopaxi when I was in graduate school. (Cotopaxi is about 1/2 way between Canon City and Salida.) Did you know about the annual “Fib Ark” kayak races? And Salida’s really interesting history, especially the ladies of the night? SO glad you are visiting a place that is so magical for me, and for many others. When we see each other next, I’ll be happy to tell you more!

    1. I have not hear of the annual Fib Ark races and I am not sure I should blog about the ladies of the night bit I am having so much fun exploring so much of Colorado and I love hearing all of the old stories. There really is so much history in these parts and so much still preserved so well on the dirt roads and river banks!

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