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 which was also the site in 1871 of the Territorial Prison. 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 escaped colder, harsher conditions at 10,000’ high mining camps here. Cañon City and Florence, at an elevation of 5,400’, were the last places that wagon loads of goods could easily reach and they became important support centers for mining areas.
Mine owners brought their wealth and built homes here in while investing in real estate and agricultural enterprises along with successful merchants. The resulting magnificent homes and commercial buildings remain today. These historic downtowns date back to the 1870’s and residential districts display late 1800’s and early 1900’s architectural styles that offer 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. The Heritage Tourism experiences available in Fremont County are ideally matched with Gold Medal fishing for the outdoor enthusiast, world class rafting for the adventure seeker and the 1,000’ high Royal Gorge Bridge and park for sightseers.