Self Guided Heritage Tours

Fremont County Heritage Tours: Self-Guided Exploration of Upper Arkansas
River communities including Cañon City & Florence, Colorado

Where is Fremont County, Colorado?

Fremont County is where the Arkansas River rushes through the Royal Gorge, out of the Rocky Mountains and onto the Great Plains. The Arkansas River’s course was the route followed by a host of early explorers, trappers and mountain men including Zebulon Pike in 1806 and John C. Fremont in several expeditions during the 1840’s. Notable dinosaur fossil discoveries have been made here since the 1870’s as well as some of the earliest vertebrate fossils known to science. Wide-ranging geologic sites provide examples of numerous eras in earth history and processes that shaped our planet, as well as a rich assortment of minerals.

Established in 1861 as one of the original 17 counties in the Colorado Territory, the state’s earliest orchards, cattle ranches and oil wells were in Fremont County. Often referred to as Colorado’s Banana Belt or Climate Capital due to its relatively mild winter climate and abundant sunshine, early-day mine owners from Leadville and Cripple Creek built homes here at an elevation of 5,400’ and invested in real estate and agricultural enterprises; escaping colder, harsher conditions at mining camps 10,000’ high. Historic downtowns date back to the 1870’s. Residential districts display late 1800’s and early 1900’s architectural styles offering insight into post-Civil War development in the west, as do railroad stations, churches and school buildings.

Beyond nostalgia, orchards and farms in the Penrose area and eastern Fremont County, as well as grass-fed beef from the western part of the county, delight the palettes of today’s visitors with locally produced food and authentic heritage experiences. In late spring and summer, Farmer’s Markets in Cañon City, Florence and Cotopaxi offer fresh produce, bread and homemade specialties for all tastes. Fall brings harvest festivals, apple cider, wine tastings, pumpkin patches and corn mazes. Specialty shops and restaurants make locally produced food items and craft brews year ‘round. Antique shops abound.

Fremont County’s rich history and varied heritage experiences are easily accessible to Front Range residents and visitors. Cañon City and Florence are conveniently located in south-central Colorado just west of the I-25 corridor, 45 minutes southwest of Colorado Springs via highway 115, and just 30 minutes west of Pueblo on US-50; with access from the north provided by CO-9.

Self-Guided Heritage Tours

These Fremont County Self-Guided Heritage Tours are intended to provide enjoyable and authentic heritage experiences for families, residents, retirees and visitors of all ages in a free, easy-to-understand, self-guided format that can be followed at your convenience. We hope to introduce the range of things to do and places to see with historic, geologic, paleontological or agri-tourism appeal; and compliment other activities, such as skiing, rafting, fishing, biking and sightseeing.

The Heritage Tours were developed by all volunteer teams, assuring authenticity through peer review. The work was sponsored by Fremont County’s Heritage Commission (FCHC), Tourism Council (FCTC) and Historical Society (FCHS), aided by a grant from the Colorado Tourism Office and working cooperatively with area Chambers of Commerce, Museums and other groups.

We hope you enjoy these experiences and will check back often for future information. These Self-Guided Heritage Tours may be downloaded and printed on 8½x11 paper or picked-up in booklet form at Chambers of Commerce and Museums in Fremont County. Questions and comments are welcome and may be sent to the Fremont County Heritage Commission, 615 Macon Avenue, Cañon City, Colorado, 81212 or i[email protected].

This Self-Guided Tour was researched and compiled by volunteers who include Jennie Bowie, Wayne Davis, Ruth Disher, Margaret Gilland, Barbara Hobson, Doni Lacey, Cindisue Schreck, Margaret Stiles Storm, Lisa M. Studts, and Mildred M. Wintz. Material was placed in final written form by Margaret Stiles Storm and edited by Jim Nelson; illustrations by Mildred Wintz, layout by Larry Hill for the Fremont County Heritage Commission. References from and special thanks to the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Research Files and Archive Collection. Special thanks the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee. Photo Credits: Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center in Cañon City.

First published May, 2015

Acknowledgments: This all volunteer booklet was originally researched, compiled and written by Linda Beermann and Rita Aten of the Western Fremont Historical Society (WFHS) in 2010 as a Walking Tour of Old Howard. With WFHS permission it has been adapted for this series. Betsy Denney and Jim Nelson edited and coordinated publication.  Photos: Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center. Illustrations: Mildred Wintz. Layout: Larry Hill.

First Published July, 2015

Acknowledgements: This all volunteer booklet was researched, compiled and written by Mildred Wintz drawing on Downtown Florence Historic Buildings Survey 2007-08 by
Front Range Research Associates and other sources. Editing by Jim Nelson, illustrations by Mildred Wintz, layout by Larry Hill for the Fremont County Heritage Commission.
Dedicated to Carol Fox and her magic boxes. MW, 2015.

First published June, 2015.

Acknowledgements: This all volunteer booklet was researched, compiled and written by Mary Chamberlain, Dan Grenard and Jim Nelson; illustrations by Mildred Wintz; layout by Larry Hill for the Fremont County Heritage Commission.

First published March, 2015.


Acknowledgements: This all volunteer booklet was researched, compiled and written by Betsy Denney.  Information Sources: The Land Beyond The Gorge by Carol McNew; From Trappers to Tourists by Rosemae Wells Campbell; Western Fremont Historical Society Archives; Interviews by Nancy Oswald and Thomas A. Young. Edited by Jim Nelson. Photos courtesy of Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center. Illustrations, Mildred Wintz. Layout, Larry Hill.  

First Published May, 2015

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Fremont County Experiences

The heritage tourism experiences available in Fremont County compliment other activities including:

  • Gold Medal trout fishing for the outdoor enthusiast
  • World class rafting, rock-climbing and zip-lining for the adventure seeker
  • America’s highest suspension bridge at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park for the experience seeker
  • Scenic excursions on The Royal Gorge Route Railroad for the rail buff, gourmet and sightseer