I’ve been to the Holzwarth Historic Site twice in my travels across America. The first time, it was called Never Summer Ranch, after the lodge and “hotel” that once stood on the site. The second time, I nearly missed the fact that it still existed because the name had been changed to its current title, after the Holzwarth family who homesteaded the property and owned the lodge and cabins. I guess the park service decided to change the name of the site because the Never Summer Ranch Lodge was no longer standing (having been removed by the park service sometime after the early 1970s) and the Holzwarth Trout Ranch still stood (and was being used as housing for summer volunteers). Personally, though, I think they’re trying to make the site sound more historic and remove the stigma that a lodge was built on national park property well after the establishment of the park…maybe in another 50 years they’ll be back to calling it “Never Summer Ranch”…who knows? Anyway, both visits were quite memorable, especially the summer visit (the most recent one) with fascinating history, artifacts, and plenty of fun things for the children to do.
The story of the Holzwarth Historic Site (we might as well call it by its current name, right?) goes something like this. John Holzwarth Sr. was a saloonkeeper in Denver; however, when Colorado enacted prohibition in 1916, his livelihood disappeared. His son, John Holzwarth Jr., was also running with a bad crowd, so his parents decided to get out of Denver and homestead in the Kawuneeche Valley in the newly established Rocky Mountain National Park. After living on their homestead for two years, the family began letting rooms to guests (especially fishermen) in 1919, leading to the establishment of the Holzwarth Trout Ranch (remember, the Holzwarths were saloonkeepers, so they knew something about the hospitality industry). With the opening of the Fall River Road from Estes Park in 1920, the Holzwarths’ business boomed, prompting them to build a lodge across the Colorado River from the Trout Ranch 10 years later. The operation was converted to a dude ranch at the same time. John Holzwarth Jr. continued the operations until 1973, when he sold the property to the Nature Conservatory (who in turned it over to the park service a year later), and most (if not all) buildings dating after 1920 were removed.
Today, the Holzwarth Historic Site can be toured year-round, although the buildings are only open during the summer. During the summer months, volunteers and park service personnel offer guided tours of the main house (our guide was fascinating!) I highly recommend a tour, if for no other reason than to see the furnishings inside the house. Enjoy this little photo tour of our visit one cloudy afternoon in early August.
We hadn’t planned on visiting the ranch. We felt we’d sort of “been there, done that” the first time, but we met some very nice park volunteers while hiking the Ute Trail West earlier that day who assured us that we’d enjoy it. Since we didn’t have anything better to do (the weather seemed pretty bad everywhere), we decided to give it a shot. Right next to the parking area is the Joe Fleshut Cabin, owned by a local miner. If you like history, you’ll want to give this house your attention, since there are stacks of historical books, photos, and so on inside. Here the man staffing the house convinced the children to do the Junior Ranger booklet. They didn’t need much prompting…one of them is especially proud whenever he earns another “medallion” (Junior Ranger Badge). From the cabin, the wide path leads toward the historic ranch.
It’s about a half mile walk from the parking area to the Holzwarth Ranch Site, but it’s an easy walk on a gravel surface. You’ll also get to cross a very narrow Colorado River, which is interesting.
A few farm implements are also seen. (BTW, if you can’t make the walk, park service employees or volunteers will be happy to drive you to the site via a kind of go-cart/gulf cart.)
When you reach the historic site, turn left. (Turning right will take you up in the volunteer’s cabins.) Take a tour of the main house if you can. There are so many interesting things to see inside – this is a few; other pictures of the interior of the house are scattered throughout the post.
Outside the back door of the main house are some fun items. The working washing machine (wash a rag as many times as you like!) was my favorite, although there are also period clothes for the children to try on and, over toward the exit, is a saddle and a wooden horse that you can try to lasso (so much fun!)
Also behind the house is the taxidermy shop. This is a fascinating place, even though you can’t really go inside. Be sure to notice the taxidermy diploma on the wall!
There are the more rustic cabins beyond the house (look at the map below). You can walk near or through these.
Overall, we had a really good time, and I’m glad we visited. If you’re there in the summer, I highly recommend it if the weather isn’t very good or you’re over on that side of the park!
Round Trip Trail Length: About 1.5 miles, depending on how far you walk around the Ranch:
Net Elevation Gain: Negligible
Facilities: Pit toilets at the trailhead
Fees: $20 per vehicle, valid 7 consecutive days. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Rocky Mountain Annual Passes also accepted.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Key GPS Coordinates for the Holzwarth Hisotric Site
Parking area: 40.37276N / -105.85449W (40° 22′ 21.9354″ / -105° 51′ 16.1634″)
Trail beginning: 40.37256N / -105.85448W (40° 22′ 21.216″ / -105° 51′ 16.1274″)
Holzwarth Historic Site: 40.37201N / -105.86164W (40° 22′ 19.236″ / -105° 51′ 41.9034″)
The gpx file for the Holzwarth Historic Site can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.
Download GPS File File size: 382.1 kB Downloaded 86 times
(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website. Thanks!)
Getting to the Holzwarth Historic Site
From the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the Trailridge Road, go west (away from Estes Park) 12.7 miles to the Holzwarth Historic Site parking area, on right. Alternatively, from the Kawuneeche Visitor Center (on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park), drive exactly 8 miles to the Holzwarth Historic Site parking area, on left. The site is well-marked with signs.
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Wednesday Wed Sep 02 20%
Considerable cloudiness. Lows overnight in the upper 40s.
Thursday Thu Sep 03 60%
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Cloudy in the morning with scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 67F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Friday Fri Sep 04 60%
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Mostly sunny early. Scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 69F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Saturday Sat Sep 05 20%
Mostly sunny skies. High near 70F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.
Sunday Sun Sep 06 0%
Sunny. High 68F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph.