Exploring Bishop's Castle
9000 ft high in the San Isabel National Forest on highway 165. Nestled in the Rockies just southwest of Pueblo, CO, and a 3 hour drive from Denver is Bishop’s Castle. Named after it’s constructor and architect, Jim Bishop this attraction is one of Central Colorado’s adventure gems. This ‘one-man construction project’ started in 1969 when Jim decided to construct his ‘real castle in the woods’, and he hasn’t stopped adding to it since. Now, the castle has over a thousand tons of rock and a top-height of 160 ft.
Pulling up, you’re met with the striking image of a massive silver dragon head that sits high on the main roof peak looming down upon on it’s visitors. The silver monster isn’t only a wondrous display of craftsmanship, but one of Jim’s fantastical surprises. On summer days, if you’re around long enough, you might get to see this mythical creature come to life and breath fire! This amazing creation is made of old warming trays and a hot air ballon burner built into its mouth. Again, all hand built, by one man.
A large hand written sign is posted just before you enter the grounds; a liability statement. The distain for the government is apparent in his words, but in a humorous sense. Be sure to look around once you get to the ground level of the castle. This is a good place to try and catch a photo op with Jim himself as he’s typically working at the bottom while people are touring. From there, there are several options to start your exploration. I suggest to start at the right entry, bottom floor and work your way up the castle. If you don’t, you may miss something!
Once you step into the dungeoness inner workings of the castle a musky, earthy smell permeates the air. It really doesn’t look like much at this point, but as you make your way through, you find yourself climbing a narrow stone staircase into a room that enchants your mind with wonderment. Designed with wooden creaky floors, and beautiful stone arches with hand-welded fixtures found intricately worked into the design. The time and dedication that Bishop has taken in every detail is recognized immediately. Stained glass windows line the walls. Each one having a different design or wording on it. Memorials, words of congrats and some blank…. Seems, you can leave your legacy here with Jim and his castle, but don’t hold me to that! On a sunny day the sun pours through the stained glass flooding the room with warm natural light.
The next staircase is a fairy tail-like wrought iron, partial spiral that flows up to the grand room that has ceilings so high even adults feel small and child-like. There are many different paths to roam from here. Wroughty walkways that steer you with twists and turns that cling to the edges of the outside; out here you need a moment to take in the sensational mountainous forest views. Inside again, various stone staircases navigate you to the highest towers if you dare, and bridges connect them just like what’s always pictured in childhood storybooks. The one constant that stands out in this is just how much passion and dedication Jim has put into his marvel.
Jim has constructed a giant iron globe with a very questionable staircase. If you’re brave it’s the path for you, otherwise this one isn’t for the faint of heart. In the grand room once more, climb one of the staircases to the begin exploring the top towers. If you’re feeling exceedingly courageous you can journey up these towers, but be warned, there are no railings and high drop offs. You’ll need to tread wisely!
Your castle expedition ends after descending the most tremendous, and my favorite, 2 story staircase that leads from the grand room down to ground level conveniently near the long running gift shop. Don’t be too quick to pass up this little jewel. They sell everything from rocks and crystals, shirts, figurines and postcards. If you’ve ever been to a Colorado mountain gift shop you’re familiar with the layout. To all that haven’t; it’s what I said above with a lot of wolves, bears, mountain anything, break your own geodes and anything nature, plus so much more. The gift shop is Jim’s main source of income to continue the construction on his castle.
Please note: since our visit there has been a fire. It burned down the gift shop and everything in it. Jim and everyone who makes it run is working endlessly to rebuild it. If you care to donate please visit the castle, or go online to http://www.bishopcastle.org and leave a donation. The castle was unharmed!
A 3 hour drive for Denver folk does mean you’re definitely blocking out your entire day for this trip, but pack a picnic, lace up those hiking shoes and hit the road, because this day trip is a must do! A sensational experience for entire family! You must see it to appreciate it. This living testament to what one person can accomplish.