Last Update: 08/17/2012
Poudre Canyon ~350 miles
[click map for larger view]
SUMMARY:The Poudre Canyon loop allows you to ride one of the more beautiful canyons in northern Colorado -- along the Cache la Poudre River. You'll head east from Frisco on I-70 and then head north on the Peak-to-Peak Highway. The P2P Highway runs through the higher foothills with beautiful views of the high peaks to the west. Upon arriving in Estes Park, take US-34 east down Big Thompson Canyon, or perhaps travel via backroad in Devils Gulch, winding down to US-34 and the Big Thompson River Canyon. Powderhorn and Stove Prairie Roads, with little traffic and nice twisties, lead to CO-14 and Poudre Canyon.
Wild waters froth as they roar through sheer-walled Poudre Canyon. Beyond a range of craggy peaks, moose nibble wetland willows and songbirds trill. Along the Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic and Historic Byway, sights and sounds vary from wild to serene. As the byway heads westward, the canyon walls squeeze the river valley into a tight corridor, the Narrows. Sides of sheer granite soar 3,000 feet above, dwarfing all below. The river growls as it scours bedrock and careens around sharp bends. Then the canyon widens. Designated a National Wild and Scenic River for its outstanding scenery, recreation and water quality, the Cache la Poudre River lures rafters, kayakers and anglers.
The canyon floor broadens at Big Bend, known for its bighorn sheep viewing area. Travelers often spot them on the steep northern slope. As the byway climbs in elevation, stands of pines and aspen cover the hillsides. Spray spews above the river where Poudre Falls cascades -- its turbulent tumble awes those who descend the slope for better viewing. Near Chambers Lake, the Cache la Poudre River veers south while the byway continues west to North Park. The jagged silhouette of Nokhu Crags heralds the ascent up Cameron Pass. Cresting at 10,276 feet, the road descends into the thick lodgepole woodlands of Colorado State Forest, the state’s largest park. About five miles beyond the pass, Moose Visitor Center educates travelers about the park’s wildlife, especially its prized animal, the moose. The byway parallels Michigan River which meanders through bogs, wet meadows and willow thickets — prime moose habitat.
As the road enters North Park, the terrain transforms from thick forest to low rolling hills carpeted with sagebrush. Towering ranges rim the expansive basin. During the time when large herds of wild buffalo grazed here, Ute Indians called it “Bull Pen.” Cattle and hay fields now accent the landscape.
After a good lunch in Walden, the journey continues as you head south over Willow Creek Pass, and then head back to Copper Mountain via the Colorado River, Byers Canyon, Kremmling, and the Blue River. Another day of riding the awesome mountains and canyons of Colorado!!
GPS Data Files:
[NOTE: After downloading these files to your computer, you need to re-calculate the route in MapSource or your software before transferring them to your GPS.]
Photos From The Poudre Canyon Ride