In the spring of 1971, Bishop and Willard decided to use a large metal tank to supply the cabin with water. Since the metal cylinder was 40 feet tall, Bishop and Willard continued to build the walls of what was originally a small cabin. Friends and neighbors of the cabin would consistently joke with Bishop and Willard that they were building a castle. Eventually, Bishop decided to turn his original plans of a small cabin to a large castle.
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.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre provides a unique natural landscape in which to listen to live music. Surrounded by and created from the incredible red sandstone monoliths from which it gets its name, the park offers a world-class line-up of musicians during concert season, from late spring to fall, the Film on the Rocks program and yoga sessions. You can walk around the stage and explore trails throughout the park.
Bent’s Old Fort had an important secondary role as the only permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail, and it was a godsend for travelers and soldiers who could stop for repairs, replenish their supplies, and enjoy good food, water, and company. Disaster and disease closed the fort in 1849; reconstruction began in 1876, and guided tours of the fort are a must for families and history buffs.
It is a place of wonder, especially considering that Jim Bishop himself has laid every stone and worked every piece of wrought iron. Bishop Castle is open every day, and admission is always free, although there is a donation box if you wish to contribute. Construction is ongoing and not sealed off; parents are advised to keep a close eye on their youngsters while at the castle.
Rough it and bring some camping gear – you can sleep under the stars, you’ll be so far away from the city lights that the stars seem to burn even brighter. There are plenty of cliffs if you’re a mountain climber. Hike along the South or North Rims for some excellent vistas, you’ll feel like you’re somehow closer to nature and that time seems to not exist here.
Whether you visit Colorado in the summer or winter, take some time to get to know Vail. Enjoy a resort vacation in the winter for snowboarding or skiing, and treat yourself to some hot chocolate while looking at the mountain views. Or, explore the hiking trails around town or play a leisurely round of golf. If you plan ahead, you can drop in during one of their charming summer festivals.
On the Colorado-Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is an incredible testament to the natural and geological history of the area. You can see more than 1,500 fossils on display on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There are also petroglyphs of lost cultures and the abandoned homesteads of early settlers. For the adventurers, there are camping and whitewater rafting opportunities.
Visitors can stroke sea stars and horseshoe crabs in the sea life touch zone, hold Rosie the tarantula, stroll on the outdoor nature trail, and watch bees while learning how vital they are to the future of the planet. The Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center have educational programs for all ages, from young children to seniors, and a gift shop filled with interesting items.
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.