Located in Central Colorado, Bishop Castle has quickly become one of the most popular roadside attractions in the state. In 1959, fifteen-year-old Jim Bishop dropped out of school and purchased a 2.5 acre piece of land for $450. This piece of land was located alongside southern Colorado’s San Isabel National Forest. In order to earn enough money to purchase the land, Bishop worked random side jobs and helped his father, Willard. Although Bishop funded the land purchase, his parent’s legally owned the land since Bishop was only a teenager.
Its original dwellers would have climbed the rock face using narrow toeholds; its limited accessibility made it easy to defend against intruders. Cliff Palace was constructed in the cliff face with sandstone blocks, mortar, and wooden beams. It once had over 150 rooms and 25 kivas and was probably used for ceremonial purposes. As with Balcony House, Cliff Palace is only accessible on a ranger-guided tour.
With over 750 animals of 170 species, the zoo is world-class, and contains the largest herd of reticulated giraffes in any zoo anywhere. A special feature of the zoo is the fact they allow visitors to hand-feed the giraffes, which are very tame. Hoping to inspire conservation action, the zoo has thoughtfully housed all of its animals in as natural an environment as possible so that visitors can understand the needs of each animal of each species.
The forty-five mile trip takes four and a half hours to ride, as it is still coal-fired, and winds along narrow mountain paths and in and out of canyons. Historic narration is available on the trains for interested tourists. Both the Silverton and Durango ends of the line have railroad museums; the Durango Museum contains artifacts pertaining to the history of railroading, and the Silverton Museum displays a Baldwin Locomotive from 1902 in the original 1882 Depot.