Cache La Poudre – North Park Scenic & Historic Byway is a 101 mile trek of twists, turns, rises and straight-aways that winds its way from Colorado’s plains and jagged hogbacks through water-carved Poudre Canyon to the breathtaking vistas of Cameron Pass and Jackson County’s timeless North Park, to the town of Walden and the world renown Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge.
Follow the Byway out of Fort Collins via State Highway 14, and prepare yourself for sights, sounds, and a hauntingly similar feel that greeted those who first ventured into America’s western wilds. To take full advantage of what this byway has to offer – abundant wildlife, RAW and extreme recreation, ROUGH and hand-hewn history – plan to stay a while in Jackson County/North Park, where the frontier is alive and thriving, and the REAL West resides.
Along the route …
Cache la Poudre River – The first river in Colorado to be designated a National Wild & Scenic River, the Poudre and its rushing water boasts “generational” significance in agriculture, business, and recreation. The river’s early place in American history is one established by varying roles relative to native tribes, expeditions, trappers, and trading companies. The river’s name, Cache la Poudre (“where powder was hidden” in French), is believed to have been coined when a group caught in a snowstorm buried provisions, much of which was powder, along the river banks to lighten their load. Returning later in the year, the “cache” was retrieved by members of the group and successfully transported to its final destination.
Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests – These forests, intersected by the Byway, contain 1.5 million acres of public land, ten wilderness areas, spectacular views, and access to trails that lead to diverse and amazing recreational opportunities along the Byway route.
Cameron Pass – 10,276 feet in elevation, Cameron Pass is home to the Seven Utes Mountain and serves as a gap between the south end of the Medicine Bow Mountains and the north end of the Never Summer Mountains. Named for Robert Cameron, founder of the Fort Collins Agricultural Colony in the 1870s, the pass has a mild approach from the east (Fort Collins), with its west side approach/descent rising steeply out of or dropping steeply into North Park. Parking lots at its summit and on its east and west sides allow access to popular summer-hiking and winter cross-country ski trails. Only three miles north of the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, recreational opportunities and dramatic scenery off of the pass abound. Although Cameron Pass usually remains open year-round, it does receive large amounts of snow during winter months and is prone to avalanches. An interesting note: the pass is drained on the north side by Joe Wright Creek, a tributary of the Cache la Poudre River in the basin of the South Platte River. It is drained on the south side by the Michigan River, a tributary of the North Platte River in North Park.
Nokhu Crags – Perhaps most spectacular of all the sights along the Cache la Poudre Scenic & Historic Byway is the breathtaking 12,490-foot Nokhu Crags peak that dramatically appears and then dominates the view as drivers near the summit of Cameron Pass from the east or the ascent to Cameron Pass from the west. Located in State Forest State Park, 2.5 miles south of the pass, the Nokhu Crags name is derived from Arapaho “Neaha-no-xhu”, meaning “eagles nest”. A landmark of sorts, visible throughout the southern North Park basin, the peak is also locally known as “the Crags” or “Sleeping Indian” for its resemblance to the form of a reclining chief.
State Forest State Park and the Moose Visitor Center (Gould) – 71,000 acres of rugged wilderness terrain, the State Forest State Park offers cabins, yurts and campsites for extended stays; and hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. The Moose Visitor Center includes exhibits that that highlight the “story” behind the North Park moose and the park’s other wildlife. A primary draw – about a third of the moose in North Park call it home and are often seen along County Road 41.
Gould – This small community is well known for winter recreation, including snowmobiling and hunting opportunities.
Walden – Year-round, diverse recreational opportunities, lodging, shopping and “down-time” amenities – Walden is Jackson County’s county seat and also home to the Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge, the North Park Pioneer Museum, popular annual events that include the North Park Never Summer Rodeo and the North Park Pioneer Reunion.
Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge (Walden) – Established in 1967 to provide nesting, rearing and stopover habitat for migratory birds, the 25,521-acre refuge, boasting sage-steppe uplands, wet meadows, willow riparian areas and open-water wetlands, now supports the diverse plants and wildlife that populate the high valley of North Park. With nature trails, auto tours, fishing access, and interpretative signs throughout the refuge, birding, wildlife viewing, recreation, and photographic opportunities make the refuge a place to visit at all times in all seasons.
North Park Pioneer Museum (Walden) – Housed in a three-room ranch home originally built in 1882 on the North Platte River, two “new” additions, and a recently-donated historical North Park cabin, the Museum offers three floors and 27+ display areas packed with artifacts reflecting pioneer life in Jackson County. Including rooms titled “the kitchen”, “the bunkhouse”, “the depot”, “the buggy shed”, and “the laundry”, visitors can spend hours and days envisioning back-in-the-day.
Additional information: North Park Loop Tour