Holzwarth Historic Site

This is a gentle walk through the Kawuneeche Meadow and also through some of the history of the valley. Watch for moose and elk, cross the Colorado River, and visit a historic ranch to get a glimpse into life in the early 1900s. A number of the buildings are open during the summer months, allowing you to get a real taste of life back then.

The Stats

  • Distance RT: 1.1 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 10
  • Hiking Time: 45 minutes
  • Time to Go: morning
  • Season: June through October
  • Primary Ecosystem: montane
  • Views: meadows, Colorado River, historic cabins
  • Possible Wildlife: moose, elk, forest animals
  • Trail Conditions: gravel road
  • Reminder: Avoid the open meadows during storms.
  • Elevation Start: 8,911’
  • Highest Point: 8,931’
  • Total Elevation Gain: 49’
  • Trailhead: This hike begins at the Holzwarth Historic Site.

Hike Description

This hike begins on the south side of the parking lot. You’ll find a path heading directly south to a small cabin about 100 feet down the trail. This is an old homestead cabin that you can visit and get a taste for what life was like for the first settlers. Continue with your back to the cabin heading west into the Kawuneeche Meadow following the wide dirt path.

As you walk westward look up to the mountains in front of you and notice the large gash along their side. This is the Grand Ditch, which diverts water from the west back to the east side of the mountains. It was built in the early 1900s and still operates today.

While you walk across the meadow, keep your eyes open for moose, especially in the mornings. It is also possible you may see elk or coyotes out there as well as a large variety of birds. Along this level path you’ll see numerous educational signs and a few benches to sit and soak in the quiet beauty of this place. Soon the path crosses over the Colorado River, which is only about ten miles old at this point. It is amazing to think what this river will become and where it will go.

Crossing the Colorado River on the way to the Holzwarth campsite

On the other side of the river you’ll find a number of old farm implements and old fencing that suggests a small horse corral. Just beyond this the trail gently climbs up toward the trees and into the old Holzwarth Ranch, which later became the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. You then reach an intersection. This is the start of a loop through the ranch. Turn to the right here and go around counterclockwise.

You’ll pass a number of small cabins that were part of the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. Many of them are now used as housing for seasonal park staff, so don’t try to visit any of these cabins. Soon the large path turns to the left and here you’ll find a public vault toilet on your right. As you reach the south end of this loop and begin to turn again to your left you’ll reach the historic buildings that are open to the public. The first one will be the tent house, which was built in 1919. Next you’ll pass the Ice House and the taxidermy shop. Then you’ll be at the main lodge called Mama Cabin, which was built in 1917 and served as the heart of the site. Be sure to go inside, as it is well preserved along with many artifacts from that era. As you loop around you’ll find a couple of other guest cabins that you can also visit.

One of the cabins you can visit at the Holzwarth Historic Site

The trail then leads you back to the intersection; turn right to head back into the meadow and return to the parking area.