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.
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.
During the next teen years, Bishop and Willard regularly camped on the land and began planning a design for a family cabin. In 1967, Bishop married Phoebe and began building a cabin for them in 1969. One of the most prevalent natural materials in the area was rocks, so Bishop decided to craft a stone cottage. From 1969 until 1971, Bishop and Willard alternated working on the cabin and running the family business.
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.
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