A landscape as unique as the Rocky Mountains has to have a unique history to go along with it. From the first pioneers to take on the challenge of crossing the rugged terrain, to the cowboys who settled it, the Rockies weren't a home for the faint of heart. But the allure of the fresh mountain air and incredible beauty in this part of the country made it worth it. Pay tribute to the early settlers who helped shape Grand County and made it what it is today with this tour through some of the most historic and beautiful spots.
The Kauffman House Museum is the region's oldest hotel building and the area's only log hotel built prior to the 1900s. Ezra Kauffman built it in 1892 and ran it as a hotel until he died in the 1920s; from there, his widow took over, keeping it in business until WWII, when she sold it. It changed hands a few times before it was preserved as a museum in the 1970s. The log cabin-inspired architecture makes it easy to picture what the hotel was like back in the early 20th century, filled with tourists drawn to Grand County for its fishing, hunting, mining, and stunning beauty. Besides the historic building, items on display here also paint a vivid picture of life in the past; look for clothing, furniture, dolls, iron kitchenware, books, quilts, skis and winter sports equipment, stereopticon photos and more.
Within the boundaries of the Rocky Mountain National Park is the Holzwarth Historic District, the remains of a guest ranch/homestead founded by John Holzwarth Sr., a saloonkeeper who, after Prohibition closed his bar, decided to try his hand at hosting tourists. The National Park Service incorporated the district into Rocky Mountain National Park in the 1970s, and it's a pretty wild spot to explore-- it almost feels like a ghost town.
For access to the serene and gorgeous Fraser River, head to Kaibab Park. It might be small, but it offers the chance to experience nature close to the town of Granby. It's an especially nice spot to spend an afternoon if you're with kids; they’ll like the small fishing pond and playground here. It's the perfect way to get a feel for what life was like in Colorado before cities began to sprout up.
The Fraser Experimental Forest is a 23,000-acre outdoor lab with some stellar hiking trails. It's been around since the 1930s, and scientists today mostly use it to study the changing relationship between water, forests, and other physical and biological processes in high-elevation subalpine areas. Check in at the forest headquarters and then head off on the 4.6-mile looping trail through the woodland!
Hot Sulphur Springs is a cute little town that dates back to the earliest settlers in the region, so it naturally has a great Pioneer Village Museum. Housed in the town's former 1920s schoolhouse, the museum contains early clothes and tools, archaeological artifacts, displays on skiing, and even railroad snowplows and a caboose! Plus, here you can also visit the original early 20th century Hot Sulphur courthouse and county jail, a blacksmith shop, and a re-creation of a typical early 1900s ranch house.
Pioneer Park is Hot Sulphur Springs's best hidden gem. Here, you'll find 80 acres of nature for exploring. The fishing and hiking are great, and the no-fee tent and RV camping sites make this the perfect spot to stay while you explore the town. Speaking of the town, downtown Hot Sulphur Springs, with its warm geothermal pools, shops, and restaurants, is walkable from here. It's even great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter!
For some classic mid-century diner vibes, head to the Parshall Inn. Built in 1950, the P.I. still serves up classic, home-cooked dishes like burgers, fried chicken, burritos, and home-cooked potato chips. Or, enjoy a beer and a round of pool, some darts, or horseshoes with some locals. Either way, this joint is a local favorite for a reason; it hasn't changed in years, because it doesn't need to!
Go even further back in history (like, 72 million years), head to the Kremmling Cretaceous Ammonite Locality, a fossil ridge loaded with ancient remains. It contains a particularly high density of ammonite fossils. Ammonites were enormous half-squid, half-snail beasts that lived in the inland sea that once stretched across Grand County from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. You can also see the fossils of clams, snails, brachiopods, crabs, gastropods and fish. The site is free to visit, but it's fenced off because collecting fossils from here is strictly prohibited. You won't be able to get up close and personal with the fossils, since they're very rare and fragile and they're still being studied. There's still a lot to learn from studying where these fossils lay, so be respectful when you visit, and seeing them in their natural habitat is still fascinating.
The Kremmling Heritage Park is an impressive collection of six historic buildings that speak to the ranching heritage of this part of Colorado. There's the MacElroy livery barn, a ranch house, a 1915 Forest Service building, a fishing cabin, plus the old jail and railroad station (still under restoration) from the town. It's right on the banks of the Colorado River, so you get a really nice picture of various aspects of past lives in Kremmling.
From fossils to log cabins and ranches to retro diners, the history here still shapes the atmosphere. It's a place that was settled by people who loved the land, and you can still sense the respect for the history and natural beauty. Explore each small town and experience as much history as you can along the way.
Only 67 miles from Denver, Grand County is brimming with natural beauty, adventure and authentic Colorado heritage. Each of our 5 towns - Granby, Grand Lake, Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs and Winter Park - has its own distinct character and story to tell. Don’t just vacation. Go Grand.