Learn About Winter Park and the Fraser Valley and Grand County
This information is compiled to assist guests who rent our Condo at the Zephyr Mountain Lodge. If you've arrived at this page as a result of a web search on Colorado Rafting, we hope you benefit from the information. And if you need lodging, thank you for considering us.
Grand County is 1869 square miles [roughly 40 miles by 45 miles]. Grand County is 75 % publicly owned land by either the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the US Park Service. The county was chartered in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state. The total population of Grand County is 12900, just 4100 of whom live in the incorporated towns [the remaining people are ranchers or have homes nestled within the forest]. According to the census, the Grand County population grew 70% from 1990 to 2000.
The Union Pacific Railroad and Us Highway 40 both cut through the center of Grand County. The headwaters of the Colorado River are in Grand County. Grand County is also home to the western entrance to Rocky Mountain Park. Grand County's highest peak is 13,535 feet [Pettingell Peak].
Temperatures in Grand county range from -40 F in the winter to +85 in the summer [the all time high is +98 and the all time low is -56] . Grand County is one of the few places in the lower 48 states where it has snowed every month of the year. In fact, Fraser records only 16 frost free days per year. October is the driest month of the year...April is the wettest.
Winter Park was founded in 1979 when the small village originally known as Hideaway Park voted to change its name. Today the official population of Winter Park is just 662. But there are over 1200 housing units -- most are second homes. The area is served by about 70 businesses.
The present day town of Winter Park has neither railroading, nor mining, nor logging, nor tourism at its 1800 and early 1900 foundation. Railroading was centered at the Moffat Tunnel by the Ski Resort, in Fraser, and in Tabernash. Logging was an early industry for Fraser and for Old Town. Tourism was centered in Hot Sulphur Springs and Grand Lake. Winter Park -- known in these early days as Hideaway Park -- was simply a rough and tumble collection of a few buildings, a mountain inn, and a few restaurants and taverns. The businesses catered mostly to the ski resort which had been slowly expanding since 1940.
Fraser was originally founded by loggers and railroaders as the town of Eastom in 1903. The town was built around sawmills. It served as a German prisoner of war camp in WWII. In the 1950's it was a favorite winter testing location for automobile manufacturers. This earned it the nickname: "Icebox of the Nation". Back then winter temperatures frequently dipped to 45 or 50 below zero. Today there are 910 full time residents and almost 250 businesses -- mostly services to the Winter Park tourist industry. The wonderful summers and cobalt blue skies make up for any winter inconvenience.
William Zane Cozens was the first to homestead a ranch in the Fraser Valley. He opened a stage stop, ranched, and raised a family. The Cozens' house is now a museum and worthwhile visit. Doc Susie is Fraser's legendary pioneer woman physician.
Fraser is best described as homey -- an affordable place to live -- with many local workers living in tiny homes clustered along the rail road tracks. It is the workingman's town of east Grand County. It hosts a hardware store, an appliance store, a rental yard, and numerous building supply businesses.
Tabernash is a small town between Fraser and Granby. Now populated mostly
by locals who work at the ski resort, Tabernash was once the hub of East Grand
County Commerce. Shortly after the railroad arrived, Tabernash became the
district maintenance headquarters. There was a huge engine maintenance
shack and a state of the art round house. Hundreds were employed.
Today, nothing remains except plentiful cinders and a generous supply of old
rail road spikes. Today, Tabernash's most noticeable landmark might be
Nelson's Fishing Store.
Granby is the "hub" of Grand County. It is where the locals live,
work, and play. Today, the population is 1525.
In recent times, Granby is best known as the home of the bulldozer tank
driven by Marvin Heemeyer. On June 4, 2004 Heemeyer crashed
his armor plated bulldozer through the walls of 13 Granby buildings.
Due to the flat wide stretch of land marked only by rolling meadows, and with a warmer climate, the railroads selected Granby as a temporary home in the late 1800's. The railroad was the key to growth providing a method of bringing people to the area and transporting products to cities. The town was officially platted in 1905.
These early settlers learned that the crisp climate was ideal for growing lettuce, and a new industry was born. The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New Your City advertised "Granby Head Lettuce" on its menus. Lettuce farming boomed until a blight settled into the soil and ruined the business.
After the lettuce misfortune, serious ranching plodded on as the mainstay industry of the area helped by a booming summer tourist season. I-70 was not yet built and so US 40 was the main trans-Colorado highway. Just after WWII enterprising ranchers realized the opportunity with Dude Ranching and the industry took off in the 50's and 60's. Granby slowed in the 1970's as I-70 took the majority of auto traffic and as the region's tourist economy switched from dude ranching to snow sports. But the reputation lingers and people still call Granby the "Dude Ranch Capital of America".
Hot Sulphur is the county seat for Grand County. The town is also
well know as a resort and ranching area. It is nestled in the
western corner of a very picturesque valley and on the eastern edge of
spectacular Byers Canyon. The town was founded in 1906.
Today, there are 1521 residents. The main "business" for Hot Sulphur Springs is the county government
which is centered in the local courthouse.
The Colorado River, which offers anglers great places to cast their lines, runs the length of the valley. Hot Sulphur also boasts Grand County's hot springs which were a summer camping spot for Indian tribes. In 1870, William Byers [of Byers Peak fame] built a resort alongside the springs. Numerous repairs and improvements have kept the property an attractive destination for over 135 years.
Kremmling's has 1578 residents making it the largest town in Grand
County. Most residents are in agriculture or ranching businesses. Kremmling
has just 13 retail outlets, 14 places of lodging, and 4 restaurants
Kremmling was established in 1884 by Rudolph Kremmling who started a retail business on the north side of Muddy Creek to serve the needs of ranchers, miners, and farmers. Famed Western novelist Zane Grey stayed in several of the hotels while he wrote.
Today Kremmling caters to the sportsman with gold medal fishing on the Colorado and Blue Rivers. The town is less than an hour from 7 world class ski resorts.
Grand Lake is a cozy historical village nestled near the headwaters
of the Colorado River and tucked just beneath the nation's Continental
Divide. US34 -- which becomes Trail Ridge Scenic Highway a few miles
north -- bypasses the town center leaving Grand Lake to maintain a
charming pedestrian friendly down town feeling. In fact , a quaint boardwalk
-- with roots back to the 1880's lines both sides of the main street.
The town is named after and is next to the largest natural lake in Colorado. Grand Lake was formed by a glacier and now connects to man-made Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby through a series of channels.
Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Utes were the first visitors to the area. The first permanent settler, Judge Wescott, started the tourist business. But gold and silver mining discoveries in 1879 quickly diverted local attention. Grand Lake boomed and fought Hot Sulphur Springs for the county seat designation. The disagreement was settled by a surprise six-gun shootout by county commissioners on July 4, 1883.
Then the 1920's brought Denver's wealthy and elite for summer vacations. The 80 mile journey took 2 days to complete. Later, the area was a favorite vacation spot for people from the Midwest who wanted to get away from the heat of the plains. Today, Grand Lake continues as an upscale tourist Mecca for summer visitors who appreciate the wilderness and beauty of the area. Many of the homes along the shoreline have been in the same families for generations. Grand Lake is a gateway town to Rocky Mountain Park which forms its northern boundary.
There are 453 full time residents in Grand Lake. 100 business establishments cater mostly to tourism.
PAVED ROAD DRIVING TOUR
Suitable in any season.
See additional driving tours for scenic summer-only fun.
Berthoud Pass to Tabernash --
1.4 miles from Ski Area Base traffic light [.7 miles from the Zephyr Lodge] you quickly comes to the Rollins Pass Road [County Road 80]. This historic road follows an old stage route and railroad grade all the way to the top of the Continental Divide. The road is a rough ride and toward the top should only be attempted by sturdy, off road vehicles. The road ends at the top of the divide where the old Needle's Eye railroad tunnel sits [now closed]. This road is only open for about 3 months each summer.
Driving further north you come to the business district of Winter Park. Many good restaurants and souvenir shops are here. 2 miles further north the next town is Fraser. To the west of Fraser is a huge experimental forest where some of the Nation's top agricultural researchers study the impacts of modern man on forest conditions. The majestic peak to the west is Beyers Peak.
To Granby and Parshall
Granby itself seems a town frozen in the 1940's. Enjoy this page of middle America nostalgia.
Just outside Granby, Highway 34 exits to the right and heads north to Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain Park. Highway 34 then becomes the famed Trail Ridge Road which crosses the Continental Divide and descends into Estes Park. It follows an old Ute Indian trail as it heads to the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Trail Ridge Road is the longest continuous paved road over 12000 feet in North America. It rises to 12183 feet.
On the way to Grand Lake, you are treated to some of the best views in Colorado. You will see Lake Granby, which is Colorado's second largest body of water [it's really a reservoir]. Next comes Shadow Mountain Lake, and finally Grand Lake. The Indian Peaks tower behind each of these lakes.
As one continues on US 40 [leaving US 34 for another time], you soon get to Colorado Highway 125. Rte 125 -- or Willow Creek Pass Road -- climbs to a minor pass through some pristine forest. You get wonderful views of Radical Mountain and Park View Peak. At the top of Willow Creak Pass, one leaves Grand County and enters Jackson County.
Further down US 40 is the town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Hot Sulphur springs is the county seat and home to natural hot springs of the same name. If Granby is reminiscent of the 1940's, then Hot Sulphur Springs must be from the 1920's.
Just west of Hot Sulphur Springs, US40 enters narrow Byers canyon. Enjoy the rugged canyon and think how the early pioneers managed as they followed the Colorado River.
After exiting Byers canyon and before coming to the tiny hamlet of Parshall, look for County Road 3 on the left. It may be drivable even in Winter because this is a much dryer part of Grand County. The rugged countryside looks quite different from the lush forests of Winter Park. Ute Pass Road as County Road 3 is called heads south, meanders past the Williams Fork Reservoir, heads to a major mining operation and ultimately exits onto Colorado Highway 9.
Kremmling and the West --
Just 3 miles out of Kremmling on Colorado Highway 9, County Road 1 -- the Trough Road -- heads to the west. This dirt road takes you to back to the Colorado River below 1000 foot deep Gore Canyon.
US40 continues north out of Kremmling across 30 miles of sage brush prairie before climbing to Rabbit Ears Pass. Steamboat Springs [ski area and hot springs] lies 20 miles the other side of Rabbit Ears Pass. As you climb up Rabbit Ears Pass you are entering the wettest zone in Colorado. If it is the wildflower season of July and August, you may be treated to an exploding display of color.
Half the way to Rabbit Ears Pass is an intersection with Highway 134 which heads over a small pass and into neighboring counties.
Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash from top of the Ski Area
Pictures of the Town of Winter Park
Pictures of the Town of Fraser
Pictures of the Town of Tabernash