Journeys Through Mountains and Parks
Cache la Poudre–North Park Scenic and Historic Byway follows the federally designated Wild and Scenic River, the Cache la Poudre, from Fort Collins to Walden. Traveling through the river canyon you’ll ascend to 10,276-foot Cameron Pass, cross between the Never Summer and Medicine Bow mountain ranges, and then descend into North Park. Now called “Moose Country,” the Ute Indians named the area the “Bull Pen“ for the great buffalo herds, which grazed in the valley. Three Heritage Journeys let you explore mountains and parks in Routt National Forest, the Continental Divide, and Mount Zirkel Wilderness.
Buffalo Pass Journey:
The pass was originally a Native American trail over the Continental Divide, which provided hunting access to buffalo herds in North Park. The route later served mountain men and fur traders. Rarely open to travel before July 4th, the journey provides remarkable opportunities for scenic vistas as the pass climbs over 3000 feet.
Hahns Peak Gold Journey:
Following Joseph Hahns discovery of gold in the late 1800s, the area boomed and was once the Routt County seat of government. After the gold bust, Hahns Peak became a mining ghost town, yet over time timber harvesting brought people back into the area.
Today, Hahns Peak is a quiet historic village near Steamboat Lake. Here you can learn about early pioneer life at the Hahns Peak Museum before venturing north to Columbine, a former gold mining camp and stagecoach stop, and then on towards Hahns Peak itself.
North Park Journey:
This scenic detour rises from the sagebrush flats of the valley floor up into the forest. Lake John, a remote 656 acre high plains lake, offers expansive water and mountain horizons, which powerfully reconnect you with the natural heritage of this remarkable region. Trappers and mountain men hunted the area and intrepid settlers carved out ranching and logging enterprises that continue today. In Routt National Forest, the Big Creek Lakes are fishing destinations where you’ll compete with osprey and golden eagles for the catch of the day. Check with the U.S. Forest Service for local road conditions.
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge:
Created in 1967, the Refuge provides habitat for waterfowl and moose. Bring your camera and take the six-mile self-guided tour to learn about the Refuge, its wildlife, and habitats.
Axial to Yampa River Energy Trail:
Traveling north on Colorado 13 to Craig you enter coal mining territory. Here, 65-million years ago, a retreating sea left coal beds in the White River Plateau from Hamilton to Oak Creek. This “black gold” enticed miners to the region beginning in the 1870s. Today coal is mined in the northwest counties of Garfield, Moffat, Routt, and Rio Blanco. Near Oak Creek on Colorado 127, Twentymile Coal is the world’s most productive coal mine in terms of output per man-year.
Following US 40 east from Craig to Steamboat Springs, you pass near the Tow Creek Oil Field, which is south of Milner. Oil is pumped from a layer of limestone 2,500 feet deep. Further east, in Steamboat Springs, at depths of 12,000 to 15,000 feet, geothermal activity creates a potential source for alternative energy.
North Park Energy Trail:
Glacial meltwater carved rock terraces and faults, which trapped and collected oil in the North Park basin. In this wide valley, ringed on three sides by mountain ranges, oil was first drilled west of Walden in 1926. Named McCallum Field, this first drill site has accounted for more than half the oil production in North Park. Early in the 21st century, 153 wells throughout the Park region produced 96 thousand barrels of oil and 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas.