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The United States is home to more than 600,000 bridges. To humankind, there’s just something so natural and queasily fascinating about how we up and decide to finagle a path that’ll take us “just right over this here.” (Waves arm toward the unspeakably obstructive, naturally-occurring formation.) Seasonal road-trippers embark on days or weeks-long adventures around and across the U.S., most assuredly passing over some of those 600k scaffolds.

In fact, each year, 26 million people visit the highest suspension bridge in the country. Strung 956 feet above the Arkansas River in Southern Colorado, the Royal Gorge Bridge lines 1,257 wooden planks across 1,260 feet of craggy emptiness. And while it’s currently open to the pedestrian public these days, technically, you can drive across it.

If you’re in a car club, you can drive across the Royal Gorge Bridge

A view of the wooden planks of the Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge | vanlhd_99 via iStock

The Royal Gorge Bridge Park offers car clubs exclusive opportunities to drive across as a group. You have to pre-book and pay in advance. Car club crossings are scheduled in the mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. This is before the park opens to the public.

The service writer in me has many questions about these car club crossings. What about breakdowns? Has every single crossing gone without a hitch? Do car owners need to show proof of a clean bill of health before chugging their classic Model T over yonder? Also, why just car clubs? Why can’t anyone book ahead and show up early?

Otherwise, the bridge isn’t permanently closed to cars; it’s just rarely open to the vehicular public. Remarkably, in 2020, the Royal Gorge Bridge Park shut the overpass to pedestrian traffic, citing coronavirus risks. Instead, in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of us, the park opened the bridge to all passenger cars and motorcycles.

For $20 a vehicle, you could drive back and forth over the laneless planked overpass. En route, you’d possibly pass another car heading in the opposite direction.

Thank goodness it was temporarily opened to public traffic well after my family’s road trip years. While the bridge was constructed to hold over two million pounds, there’s no way in hell fourteen-year-old me would have made it across with my dad at the wheel without a full-on panic attack.

A view from the Royal Gorge Bridge down to the Arkansas River
Looking down from the Royal Gorge Bridge | Kyle Kempf

Sources: The Pueblo Chieftain, Royal Gorge Bridge & Park