Hayden is home to less than 2,000 residents, but is comparable in friendliness to small towns of days past. People wave at each other as they pass by in cars or on the street. Everyone seems to know who the new people in town are, what’s happening with their town and there is an immense pride in place and heritage. While a few minutes’ drive will take you through the town, to not stop would be to miss out on some fascinating Colorado History. Visitors to Steamboat know Hayden as the location of the only commercial airport into and out of Routt County. Those that live in Hayden know a rich history of ranching, small town charm, and hidden secrets. Stopping in Hayden? Here’s what you don’t want to miss:
Hayden Heritage Center Museum. The museum is currently housed in the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot. The Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1993. The museum offers artifacts and information about the Town of Hayden and West Routt County, CO. The 2nd floor Leslie Memorial Library offers out of print books, family files, burial records and old newspapers.
Hayden Walking Tour – Historic Walnut St. The downtown is comprised of almost entirely original
buildings, except for some modern facades, the most modern building was built in the 1930’s. There is a pocket park with a replica of the town pump that once stood in the center of the road at the bottom of hospital hill. Most all of the buildings have historic interpretive signage and are on the walking tour. Stop in at the Hayden Heritage Center to pick up a walking tour brochure of downtown to discover Hayden as it was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to the present.
Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary. The coffee shop and soon to be brewery was named after the Celtic term “An Geadh-Glas,” or “wild goose” as a reference to the Holy Sprit. The owners, the Delaneys, transformed this 1917 grain elevator into a congregation place for locals and those passing through town. Fresh crepes, coffee, muffins and specialty drinks will fill your belly and if you’re lucky, one of the owners will give you tour through the old granary and show you how it works. (Located at 198 East Lincoln Ave.).
Another must-see is the Solandt Memorial Hospital, which looks out over the town of Hayden. The building was named for Dr. John Solandt who was Hayden’s beloved physician prior to the car accident that killed him in 1916. The hospital, built in 1923, was once the sole hospital to be found between Denver and Salt Lake City. The hospital was recently restored. This once state-of-the-art facility with sixteen beds, an operating room and X-ray room closed in 1968, but later reopened as medical offices. Today the building has been restored to its former glory preserving the original architecture with vaulted ceilings and the original elevator! This building is on the Routt County Register of Historic Places, state and national registers. (Located at 150 W. Jackson Street, Hayden, CO)
The Hayden Cog – RCR 76 is locally known as the west cog (there are also and east and middle cog!). The cog was built by local Tex McDowell who made Ripley’s Believe it or Not because he was bit by a rattlesnake but the rattlesnake died. Hike up the cog for great vistas of Hayden and the surrounding area. If you’re a runner, don’t miss the Hayden Cog Run. This race is one of the longest consecutively run races of the series and the state of Colorado. “The Cog Run is a challenging 8.4 mile out and back course on Routt County Road #76. This race has approximately 3 miles of steep uphill/ 3 mile of steep downhill slope with the turn around point at the top of the Hayden Cog.” – www.runningseries.com. For those who prefer the comfort of their car, enjoy the drive up to the cog.
Routt County Fair
The Routt County Fairgrounds: The Routt County Fair was started in 1914 inspired by the Towns
Railroad Days Celebration when all the area’s residents came together to celebrate the arrival of the first train to Hayden in 1913. The Routt County Fair is held in August and is a must see. http://www.routtcountyfair.org/
Hayden to Oak Creek & Steamboat Springs Loop
Length of Journey: Drive time approximately 1.30 hours. Plan about 35 minutes to Oak Creek. 30 minutes from Oak Creek to Steamboat Springs and another 30 minutes from Steamboat Springs back to Hayden.
Route: From Hayden, head west on highway 40. Turn right (south) on Road 27. Follow to Oak Creek. From Oak Creek, take Highway 131 north to Highway 40. Turn left on Highway 40 to Steamboat Springs. Follow Highway 40 back to Hayden, CO.
Services: Restaurants, restrooms, gas station in Oak Creek. Full services including lodging in Steamboat Springs.
The drive to Oak Creek ties in well with Dorothy Wickenden’s book Nothing Daunted, the New York Times bestseller that tells the story of two debutants in the early 1900’s who defy convention and accept jobs as school teachers in rural Hayden, Colorado. Along the drive you’ll pass the Foidel School House, which sits on the Peabody Mine site. As you leave the town of Hayden, heading east on Highway 40, you’ll see a huge sign for the Carpenter Ranch, which is not only mentioned in the book, but is a haven for nature lovers. The ranch is named for Ferry Carpenter, a Harvard Law School graduate who built the Elkhead School for the area, also served as the town attorney, was influential in getting the Solandt Hospital built, and other school developments as well. Ferry was noted for implementing the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 the forerunner to the BLM. He carried great influence in the community. His ranch is part of his legacy. Both the barn and house are registered with the Colorado Historical Society and the ranch is now run by The Nature Conservancy. Today a nature center is set up that explores birding in the area as well as the unique aspects of the landscape. To attest to the wide variety of birds, the author of Birds of North America written for the Smithsonian expressed his amazement at the variety of birds. Visitors can wander the area and experience an environment not much changed from when the ranch was first founded. In the fall the Sandhill Crane Festival takes place here.
Continue on the drive and you’ll experience majestic views of the Flat Top Wilderness, which includes volcanic cliffs, subalpine terrain and alpine tundra. The Flat Tops Wilderness shelters 110 lakes and ponds for fishing and camping, biking and more. In Oak Creek, visit the Tracks and Trails Museum on 129 East Main Street and the Oak Creek Town Hall (more information to come in the Oak Creek Journeys). From there enjoy views to Mt. Werner in Steamboat Springs. Pass by Stagecoach State Park, where hiking, boating and other recreation are available. (To access Stagecoach, follow signs from Highway 131). Drive into Steamboat Springs and explore the Tread of Pioneer Museum, mineral and hot springs and recreation galore. (More to come with our Steamboat Journeys.) From Steamboat loop back to Hayden.
Note: You can go into the Foidel Schoolhouse by calling the Tracks & Trails Museum located in Oak Creek, another fantastic museum! Nita Naugle is the curator. Another great person to talk about Oak Creek history is Mike Yurich, their historian.
Hayden to Hahns Peak & Steamboat Loop
Length of Journey: Approximately 3 hours.
Route: Note – this road should only be driven during summer months when the road is dry. Red clay can cause cars to become stuck during rainfall. From Hayden head east on Highway 40. Turn left on N. Walnut Street. Turn right on County Road 80/County Hwy-80. Follow 80 up through Elkhead and California Park. Hwy 80 turns into Road 82 then into Rd 7. In Slater connect with Hwy 129 and head east then south to Hahns Peak. From Hahns Peak continue south to Steamboat Springs and Hwy 40. Turn west on Hwy 40 to return to Hayden.
Services: Food is available in Columbine and Hahns Peak. South of Hahns Peak in Clark lodging and food can be found. Full services are available in Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
Main Attractions: Consider a museum tour along this route, visiting the Hayden Heritage Center Museum, Hahn’s Peak Area Historical Society and Steamboat’s Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Elkhead: Elkhead has recently earned notoriety from Dorothy Wickenden’s book Nothing Daunted (however locals have always known Elkhead as a place that offers great fishing and boating in the man-made 900-acre Elkhead Reservoir, sixteen miles northwest of Hayden and west of Elkhead). This area is a contrast in environment to what most people think of Colorado. Elkhead is a high plains desert, so instead of lush forest, you’ll find sagebrush and dirt and an abundance of wildlife that calls this area home.
California Park: This area is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Never as crowded as places close to town, there is plenty of fishing, hiking and camping for those who want to spend some time in the wilderness. There are no services in California Park, so come prepared.
Columbine: Columbine is the first stop as you head south back down to Steamboat Springs and across back to Hayden. There is a seasonal store for those wanting a treat on their journey, but there is no gas or lodging.
Hahns Peak Historical Society: “The Hahns Peak Area Historical Society is responsible for the preservation and management of the Hahns Peak Schoolhouse, the Wither Cabin, and the Hahns Peak Museum and Pole Barn. Once a thriving gold mining camp, Hahns Peak is the oldest permanent settlement in northwest Colorado’s Routt County and served as the county seat from 1877 to 1912.
The Hahns Peak schoolhouse was built in 1911 and is listed on the National Register and the Routt County Historic Register of Historic Places. The District 34 schoolhouse opened for class in 1912 to about ten pupils. The last class of students was held in 1943.
The Wither Cabin, built in the 1800’s, is accepted as the senior dwelling in Hahns Peak Village. In 2008, the Wither family donated the cabin to the Hahns Peak Area Historical Society who moved the structure across the street from the schoolhouse and restored it.
The Hahns Peak Museum was built by the Hahns Peak Area Historical Society through donations and a grant. It houses many mining and personal living artifacts from the Hahns Peak area. The Bear Cage Jail, located at the back of the museum, was part of the original courthouse in Hahns Peak when it served as the county seat of Routt County.
The Pole Barn houses many mining relics from the area. Interpretive displays at the building give visitors a step back into time when Hahns Peak was a thriving gold mining camp.
All four buildings, and our gift shop which is located in the Museum, are open daily to the public during the summer season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, at no charge from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m., weather permitting. A self guided walking tour map of the historic buildings in Hahns Peak Village is available at the museum.” – www.hahnspeakhistoric.com
Steamboat to Hayden: Along the road from Steamboat to Hayden there were once four large mining company towns that are no longer in existence. Outside of Milner to the west and south, the town of McGregor once sat, offering power to all of NW Colorado. Two derelict buildings on the hill are still visible from the highway. Aprox. 5 miles westward there was another community known as Coalview, however there are no visible remnants of Coalview today. All four of the towns were coal mining towns, so when the coal disappeared, so did the towns, except for a house or two that remain in disrepair. The current Coalview ghost ranch was once known as the town of Bear River that wrapped
up a hill straddling highway 40. To the southwest of the town the visible buildings at a distance were part of the Zulian’s ranch. Rumor has it that the Zulian Ranch stood out for its Italian architecture. Mr. Zulian was from Italy and a stone mason. He hand cut rocks to build his ranch to resemble the village his wife had come from because she was so homesick. When she was pregnant with her last child she returned to Italy to visit her family. WWI broke out, preventing Mrs. Zulian from returning home. Seven years passed before Mr. Zulian first met his youngest son. Keep going westward to Mount Harris where a memorial park is maintained with interpretive signage. This town once housed as many residents as Hayden does today.
In 1916, Mount Harris was considered a model company town, with groceries, recreation and a church. Unfortunately in 1942 there was a methane gas explosion that killed 34 miners. Only four survived. In 1958 the Mount Harris Mine closed when the coal was no longer needed. Everything was sold to avoid taxes, including buildings and homes. Many of the homes were moved to nearby towns of Hayden, Craig, and even Steamboat.