A short distance from Colorado Springs, CO rests a small community called Rye, CO where one resident has in his own special way set the map on fire with his story 60 years in the making. Jim Bishop began his labor of love creating what is now known as Bishop’s Castle in 1959, when he purchased a section of land for only $450 just inside the San Isabel National Forest.
At the time Bishop was only 15 years old and had a grand vision of creating a space for his family to flourish and live in style. In his minds eye he had a special project in mind, to construct something as majestic as the forest around him, though at the time he was merely camping with his father on the land and planning to construct a family cabin.
His skills grew over time and what started out as a general knowledge of a few things spawned a fascination and in some cases obsession. By 1972, his vision started to become more and more elaborate and the castle officially began.
From that point on the construction has never stopped as expansion continues to date, though Bishop is starting to get further along in his years. Now boasting a grand cathedral style room, numerous towers with winding staircases, stained glass throughout, a giant observation ball and even a dragon, the project is something for the eyes to see to say the least.
I discovered this location in the same way many before me had, online. When researching my path for an upcoming trip I noted I would be camping close to the border of Colorado and thus I wanted stops along the way to Colorado Springs to keep my trip interesting. Looking up free things to do in Colorado the castle popped up on a few trip list suggestions and so I had to see what they hype was about.
I arrived midmorning and noticed the roadway has been widened in this area for parking, which was much needed as it was very crowded. I made my way up the roadside and to the entrance which resembles a tower and bridge over a grand moat. Though there was not yet water in the moat as it is still under construction, one of the most recent additions to his vision, the illusion took me straight into a whimsical time.
There are numerous entrances into the castle itself but the most commonly used for the best views is the large staircase located on the left side of the property. The staircase is the first taste of the what is to come, narrow and tall stairs toward the first of several decking areas. This area then opens into the grand room through custom double doors. When inside this room you can easily be taken aback by the construction and forget that the majority of the work has been done by a single man.
From there, you can move through one of the numerous towers or passages. The towers each have ascending staircases which I will say are interesting to say the least. The common word used on site is sketchy because handles are limited and through the numerous building materials used to construct the towers there is a bit of sway as you walk upward.
I climbed 2 of the 3 towers only swaying from the final because there were several people climbing through it at the time I was ready to tackle it. The passage was to narrow for passing in many areas and I did not want to struggle to see the bell tower area and final platform.
The most impressive vantage point in my opinion was the large ball platform, though you could feel the slightest wind nudging the platform with each gentle breeze the 360 degree views more than made a little discomfort worth the trip to the top. From this area you can clearly see the dragon, which seems to be constructed of a mirrored material and shines brightly on the sunny days. I can only imagine it looks especially daunting on the cold days in the San Isabel Mountains as snow falls.