Roadside attractions are the backbone of the American road trip experience. Unusual one-of-a-kind stops allow you to stretch your legs and break up the monotony of passing cars. Driving through Colorado’s landscape is anything but boring. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains frame the background of every photo taken along the roadside stops. In Spring, aspen trees glitter as the wind blows over the branches, creating a hypnotizing effect and allowing time to slip away undetected.
Bishop Castle is as unique as the Colorado landscape. Built entirely by one man, Bishop Castle is 60 years of an unwavering vision to make his childhood dreams come true. At 15, Jim Bishop saved $450 to purchase two and a half acres of land in San Isabel National Forest in southern Colorado. Slowly the dense forest was cleared and cut by Jim and his father. At 25, with no formal training, blueprints, or drawing of the completed vision, Jim Bishop created the castle of his childhood dreams. Construction started small with the completion of a small one-room cottage made of large rocks from the surrounding areas. Over time, Jim’s creative vision and the castle’s footprint grew beyond what anyone would have thought possible.
How to Get There
Tucked away in the mountains of southern Colorado, Bishop Castle is an hour and a half drive from Colorado Springs. The flat valleys slowly bend into sloped hairpin turns while crawling toward the 9,000 ft elevation where the Castle resides. No billboards or directional signs encouraged visitors to visit this magical statuary in the woods. The forest hides it away like a pearl inside an oyster, only reviling itself once you’ve rounded the final curve in the road.
The average time people spend exploring the castle is about an hour, but the flow of people coming to visit is a constant cycle of excited Roadtrippers. There isn’t a designated parking lot. Instead, visitors can park along the unpaved shoulder of the road. The road was muddy from melted snow during my visit, be patient for a dry parking spot, or park a bit further down where the shoulder is wider.
What to Expect at Bishop Castle
Bishop Castle is always open and free to visit. It is an active construction site; trip hazards are everywhere (a true OSHA nightmare). It goes without saying you are entering at your own risk. However, if you want to catch Jim adding to this already monstrous castle, you have the best chance of seeing him work during the weekends.
Sometimes I purposely do little to no research on a place to experience a proper first impression. Other than the inspiring history of the castle, I had no expectations of what it would be like. I wanted to have some element of surprise waiting for me after driving an hour into the remote mountains. I stood frozen at the entrance, not just because it was 30°F, but because I was shocked by the size and intricate detail pictures could not capture.
Jagged brown and beige stone walls heavily grounded the castle while delicate ribbons of iron walkways wrapped the exterior. The castle fantasy was complete with the vaulted roof, cylindrical towers, and a steel dragon hovering overhead.
Every room is decorated with delicate swirls of iron details. The bottom floor is a maze of archways surrounded by colored light bleeding through the stained glass windows. Spiral staircases seemly drop from the floor above, enticing visitors to explore the higher levels. The main level is an expansive cathedral-like room. The walls are refined, with paneled blond wood and triangle windows rising from floor to ceiling. It feels like a place to hold court or throw a lavish dinner celebration.
The outside iron walkways and towers are where the architectural accomplishment of Jim Bishop truly shines. I rarely feel weak in the knees from a fear of heights. However, climbing the tallest tower in Bishops Castle, a 160 open-air steel cage that swayed in the mountain air, almost paralyzed me with fear. Making it to the top is an endless spiral of stairs. The thin air and dizziness left me in a panic, causing me to sit on the stairs until the feeling of vertigo went away. Once I made it to the top, the view was breathtaking. I tried not to think about the fact that I was hovering over a hundred feet in the air entrusting my life to one man’s skills with a welding torch and a dream.
Everywhere I turned, there was a new ornamental detail or a perfectly framed overlook allowing for uninterrupted views of the mountains surrounding the area. Listening in on other visitors’ conversations, they have the same admiration for what a monumental feat it was to create such a place to share with the public. One man’s creative vision and perseverance brought me so much joy and inspiration after my visit. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but stone by stone, anyone can build the castle of their dreams.
Are you looking for other roadside attractions? Click on the photos below for past roadside attraction posts.
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