Last updated: 24 September 2000


This premier national park, with mountains, lakes, wild animals, and crowded roads can be accessed from near the town of Estes Park, about 1 hour drive from the ranch (go to Nederland, take the 10 o'clock exit from the traffic circle) on the Peak-to-Peak highway. After descending into the valley just south of Estes Park, look for the Mary's Lake Road on the left, which bypasses Estes Park and puts you near the Park entrance. There are hiking trails in the southeast corner of the park that can be reached via turn-offs well before Estes Park; many more are within the main part of the park. One of the highest paved roads in the United States (Trail Ridge Road) crosses through the park but is closed from about October through May. In summer months, take the one-way, dirt Fall River Road up to the summit. Estes Park has numerous motels and restaurants and is a good base-camp for exploring the northern Colorado Rockies.


The mountain on the skyline south of the ranch is Starr Peak. It hides several additional peaks in the Mt. Thorodin complex just beyond. These mountains form the center of Golden Gate State Park, which also has some nice small canyons, meadows, and views of the Continental Divide. The park is criss-crossed by hiking trails named after local animals. There is an easily accessed view from Panorama Point, about a mile inside the northwest corner of the park along Gap Road. The Visitor Center is in the southern part of the park, where two alternate roads to Golden divide. (If it appeals to you, drive down to Golden to tour the massive Coors brewery.) Daily passes to the park cost $4. An annual park pass ($40) gives access to many remarkable state parks, including Colorado State Forest north of Rocky Mountain National Park and El Dorado Canyon State Park south of Boulder (rock climbers paradise).


If gambling and restored Old West towns is your thing, Central City is your place. Historic buildings, mine tours, and the newly erected casinos draw weekend crowds from Denver. Blackhawk (a newer version of Central City with monster casinos) is about half-an-hour drive south of the ranch on the Peak-to-Peak highway, several miles past the road southern entrance to Golden Gate State Park. Central City is a mile west of Blackhawk. The precipitous "Oh My God" road leads from Central City down into Idaho Springs on I-70.


Roads range from the well-engineered Peak-to-Peak highway, connecting Clear Creek Canyon and Estes Park to rough mountain trails marginally accessible by 4-wheel-drive. A lovely circle day-long tour on good roads, across 2 mountain passes, is to drive to the west side of the Continental Divide, through the resort towns of Winter Park and Fraser, near Devil's Thumb Ranch (a cross-country skiing center). Berthoud Pass (US 40) diverts from I-70 west of Idaho Springs, providing year-round access. In summer months, the circle can be completed through Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park (there is no other road across the Divide between these two routes). There are pretty roads from the Peak-to-Peak Highway up toward the Divide: the paved route to Brainard Lake from Ward, the rough road from Nederland through Eldora to the Fourth of July trailhead, the even rougher (and much longer) road from Rollinsville past Yankee Doodle Lake to Rollins Pass (the road is permanently blocked a mile short of the pass in stark alpine country around 11,000 ft.), and the 4-wheel drive road to the trailhead for James Peak Lake (which cuts off from the rough passenger- car roads connecting Rollinsville, Tolland, Apex, and Central City). Longer trips include the road to the top of 14,000-foot Mt. Evans (exit from I-70 at Idaho Springs, pay a hefty toll, closed after Labor Day) and Guanella Pass above Georgetown. (Many roads are closed in winter; watch for flash-flooding during thunderstorm season and spring run-off.)


This is the major local sport, of course. Eldora Resort, a few miles west of Nederland, is the closest, less than 25 minutes from Rancho Europa; it has cross-country ski trails, too. Winter Park (route over Berthoud Pass is described above) is the next closest. The major ski center is in Summit County, just over the Divide beyond the Loveland Pass ski area, through the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70: Aaraphoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain; A Basin and Keystone are most conveniently reached via Loveland Pass, just before the tunnel, provided that it is open (less than 90 min. from the Ranch to the small but spectacular A Basin). (Vail and Beaver Creek are farther west.) Expect steep prices unless you pick up coupons at urban supermarkets. Sometimes there is limited summer skiing at one or two resorts.


Hiking is the major summer recreation. The most popular trails are often crowded on weekends, but there are many wonderful trails where you encounter nothing but wilderness scenery all day. Hiking maps are available in many stores, including Ace Hardware in Ned (The "Trails Illustrated" map #102 of Indian Peaks/Gold Hill covers the whole neighborhood, including the region of Rancho Europa, Rollins Pass, the Indian Peaks, and west to Winter Park). Horseback riding is fun (the closest stables to the ranch are in front of the Sundance Motel, just north of the intersection of Magnolia Road and the Peak-to-Peak highway, south of Nederland). Fishing, canoeing, and boating on the many lakes and streams is popular. There is plenty of room to go backpacking and camping, but be forewarned that overnight camping is forbidden in the Boulder Canyon area (i.e. northwest of Magnolia Road); permits are required in the summer season for the extensive Indian Peaks Wilderness area northwest of Nederland. Rock climbing is popular in Boulder Canyon and, especially, in El Dorado State Park south of Boulder. There are popular folk and rock festivals in places like Winter Park and Lyons.


Good nearby restaurants are: (1) The Wondervu Cafe, south of the ranch, 7 miles along Lazy Z, County Rd. 97, Coal Creek Canyon Rd. (C72), Mexican cuisine, an outdoor patio, closed Wednesdays; (2) The Sundance Cafe, a few hundred feet north of the intersection of Magnolia Drive and the Peak-to-Peak Highway, near the crest of the highway south of Nederland, full dinner menu, fantastic sunset-over-the-Divide dining from the outdoor deck. Guests recommend Annie's Cafe in Nederland for breakfast. The Wolf Tongue in Nederland is a microbrewery; the Acoustic Coffee House has nightly music. There are several other restaurants and cafes in Ned, including a large, new German restaurant; we like the small Kathmandu Restaurant. An expensive wild-game restaurant is the Red Lion Inn about 4 miles before reaching Boulder down Boulder Canyon Drive. Boulder itself has numerous restaurants, many on or near the Pearl St. pedestrian mall in downtown Boulder, two blocks north of Canyon. We like the Mediterranean, the Orchid Pavilion, Japango, Antico Roma, Rio Grande, but there are many others; for exceptional food, away from the pedestrian mall, there's the Full Moon Cafe and the pricey Flagstaff House (with its enormous wine list and views over the Boulder Valley). The Oasis and Walnut microbreweries are within half-a-block of Clark's office at Walnut and 11th.

Cultural activities abound in Boulder, including rock performances at the Fox and Boulder theaters, more varied performances at Chautauqua and on the University of Colorado campus. There is a summer farmer's market on Wednesdays and Saturdays just south of downtown near Boulder Creek; walking and bike trails radiate throughout Boulder from the paths along the creek. Theaters range from the "mystery dinners" at the rustic Gold Hill Inn in the mountain town of Gold Hill to professional plays and musicals in Denver (the center of the big city, less than a one- hour drive from Rancho Europa, also has museums, professional sports, and all the rest). Red Rocks, less than an hour's drive from the Ranch just south of Golden, is a spectacular summertime, outdoor venue for a concert.

Available Abstracts, Preprints, Articles.

Clark R. Chapman's Publications.

Clark R. Chapman's Home Page.

SwRI Boulder Office (Dept. of Space Studies) Web Site

SwRI Web Site