North Park and Walden, Colorado
Posted March 4, 2007
Been a little busy with work and real life stuff, so been a while since I last posted. That should change now for the better.
Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. In addition, you can view a topo map of Walden, CO here. A Google Earth map can be found here (you may need to adjust the scale bar on the left side of the Google map). All links open a new browser window.
As can be seen from some of my trips, I spend a considerable amount of time both in and around the North Park area of northern Colorado. And, this would include Walden, Colorado since it’s centered in that area. There are three reasons for this. One, my mom and sister both reside in Walden. Two, the North Park area of Colorado is within a 2 hour drive from where I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. And, three, there are just a TON of great hiking and rafting to do in the area (a possible number 4 reason is that not many people visit the area : )
If I’m going to the North Park area to visit, I normally do a “circle” trip. That is, I head up Hwy 14 through the Poudre River canyon up to Cameron Pass. Here is a photo taken by my daughter, Josie, in the upper Poudre Canyon.
Then down from the pass into North Park and to Walden, CO. The section of country from the upper Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass, and then down into North Park is exceptionally pretty. A person (or family) could easily spend all their time (or, most of a summer : ) just exploring that part of the mountains. Here is what Cameron Pass can look like in the summer.
And here is a shot of the winter.
Coming down from Cameron Pass, thru Gould, takes you by the Colorado State Forest headquarters. Even though I’ve been in it many times, I usually stop in to talk to the friendly rangers and check moose sightings that are listed on a board inside. The “barbed wire” moose that stands outside is also a favorite photo opportunity (this one taken by my daughter, Josie).
Soon after passing through Gould, CO (ummm, don’t blink or you will miss it : ), you hit the “upper” meadows of the Michigan River and North Park. This section is always lush and green during the summer.
Eventually you enter the “true” North Park section which is composed of rolling, sage brush covered, high prairie. North Park is surrounded on all sides by mountains. While this section does receive relatively small amounts of moisture, the various streams that cross through it allow for a variety of wildlife and scenic views.
Then, there is Walden itself.
What can I say about Walden. Well, it’s, ummm “small”. And, to a large degree, this picture (by my daughter, Josie, again) can summarize Walden.
So, this “feline” hunting just on the edge of Walden, shows how you may be able to take the cat out of the wilderness, but never really take the wilderness out of the cat. Walden is very similar, although, as a “visitor” (nicer than saying “tourist”), a person may not immediately understand this of Walden.
Here’s the deal. Walden exists in the 21 ‘st century. It likes the fisherman, skiers, rafters, bikers, balloonists, snowmobilers, that pass through and enjoy it’s great small town food and hospitality. But, and this is important, Walden is still, up to now, what it has been for over a hundred years.
A small ranching and agricultural village. So, as with the cat, you may be able to hide the town under a thin veneer of 21st century, but underneath that thin skin its still 19th century ranchers and pioneers. If you can deal with that, you’ll do a lot better with Walden. If not, you’ll never really understand what makes it tick. Check it out, as these types of places are slowly disappearing from Colorado, the US, and even the world at large.
While situated in the “flat” part of North Park, Walden is really pretty close to the mountains. Looking at the town from Walden reservoir, you can see the Rawah mountains just east of the town.
The Walden reservoir, about a mile (or less) west of town, is a pretty nice place to take a quick walk. In particular, the view of the Zirkel mountains to the west is quite nice.
Here is another view of the Rawahs to the east of town right from the edge of Walden.
Summertime in Walden is special for a lot of reasons, but one of the best is it’s garden season. So, scenes such as this,
or, my mom’s backyard (including my mom : ),
can be seen everywhere.
It’s not too unusual to see moose walking thru downtown Walden, and mountain lions are occasionally spotted, but our feathered friends like Walden also. Notice the building to the left of the person (my mom : ) in the photo above. It’s right on the alley and is a favorite perch for owls.
A few miles to the south of Walden is the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. During certain times of the year, they allow a person to walk pretty much anywhere; while other times of the year people are restricted to only certain areas in order not to bother migrating waterfowl. Early one spring I was able to hike around the refuge and enjoy the sunshine,
signs of spring,
and even a few ducks and geese.
As part of my “circle” trip to Walden, I head north out of the town on a route that will take me, eventually, back to Fort Collins by way of Laramie, WY. But, its hard to leave North Park without being amazed at the variety of country that exits in the area.
Including, amazing enough, two separate areas of “sand dunes!” Here is the shot of one of the areas of sand dunes that lay up againt the mountains to the east as you pass through the northern section of the park.
Eventually you head east up into the Medicine Bow mountains. That is the range that needs to be crossed before dropping into the plains of Laramie. The Medicine Bow mountains contain a wealth of rivers, valleys, and peaks that someone could spend a lot of quality time exploring. And you don’t have to go very far off the beaten path. One area is the Camp Creek access road. I spent a couple of days hiking around this area in the spring. I need to go back sometime and check up on the moose I saw : )
Speaking of moose, if you keep your eyes peeled on either side of the highway, you have a pretty good chance of spying a moose in one of the ponds that occur along the road. Such as this one.
Just don’t forget to keep at least one eye on the highway!
Eventually you come down out of the mountains (passing by the very small village of Woods Landing) following a very long, and relatively steep, descent over the last 5 miles or so. This is where you need to really open up your eyes for animals on the highway. I’ve had to slow down in order not to run into deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope. I guarantee you WILL see pronghorns before you enter the town of Laramie.
Once through Laramie, Hwy 287 winds it’s way through some foothills back to Fort Collins. Depending on the season and time of day, your views of the plains and mountains can be very pretty. Here is a shot looking west across Hwy 287 about 20 miles north of Fort Collins, CO.
I zoomed in a little on this photo.
Anyway, I heartily recommend a trip to North Park and Walden, Colorado. Wonderful area and great people.
– Geoff Weatherford