Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway

Byway sign on the Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway

The Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway crosses the Continental Divide, linking Fort Collins with Walden in North Park. The road follows the Cache la Poudre River Canyon: once a transit corridor for Native Americans, then for European explorers and trappers, now for hunters, fishermen, leaf-watchers and other lovers of the great wild outdoors.

The Cache la Poudre River is Colorado's only National Wild and Scenic River and, in season, tends to be swamped with rafters and fishermen. Cameron Pass (10,276 feet) on the Continental Divide is the eastern gateway to the Colorado State Forest State Park, a 70,000 acre preserve of large evergreen thickets among heavily glaciated mountains. North Park is a grass-filled, bowl-shaped valley full of deer, pronghorns, elk, moose, beaver, coyote, and waterfowl, all flocking to the highway that leads to North Park to hang out with the ever-growing hordes of people trying to escape the cities...

You'll find most traffic on the Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway during the fall when the leaves are changing and big game hunting season is on. Fall colors tend to peak around the third week of September but colors up high start changing earlier. Between aspen, cottonwood and gambel oak, there's usually a full spectrum of color available in season. Spring sees the river flowing high with snowmelt, then summer rolls in on an incredible carpet of wildflowers... There are several picnic areas along the way, the fishing is excellent and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest offers camping, hiking and wilderness just beyond the edge of the pavement.

Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway crosses the mountainous region of north-central Colorado with the Medicine Bow and Laramie Mountains to the north and the Mummy Range and Never Summer Mountains to the south. From the Byway you can get access to the Cache la Poudre, Neota, Rawah, Never Summer, and Comanche Peak Wilderness Areas. Just beyond the western boundary of the Colorado State Forest is Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. The 26 lakes in the region are usually well stocked with brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout. And in winter, many of the Forest Service roads become cross-country skiing and snowmobile routes.

I drove the road in late July and had nearly the entire distance to myself. I started out early in the morning and made it to Walden by mid-afternoon. What took so long: lots of stops in places like The Narrows, Cameron Pass, State Forest State Park and Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge with detours to hike around a bit in Cache la Poudre, Comanche Peak and Rawah Wilderness Areas.

A view in the area of Gateway Natural Area
Gateway Natural Area
A view along Highway 14, the Cache la Poudre North Park Scenic Byway
The Cache la Poudre River in the lower reaches of the canyon
Kayakers on the Cache la Poudre
Kayakers on the Cache la Poudre
A view of highly metamorphised rock along the byway with lots of striations in the tilted granite
Notice the striations in the tilted granite
A view of whitewater in the river
Some serious whitewater in the river
A view of rock pillars rising above the road
Pillars of rock rise above the road
A view of the rock cliff heading up at the edge of Cache la Poudre Wilderness
At the edge of Cache la Poudre Wilderness
A view near The Narrows in the river, along the byway
Coming to The Narrows
A view deep in the Narrows
Deep in The Narrows
A view of the Arrowhead Lodge Visitor Center
The Arrowhead Lodge Visitor Center
A view in the area of that spot on the map named "Kinikinik"
That spot on the map named "Kinikinik"
A view of the Nokhu Crags above Cameron Pass
The Nokhu Crags above Cameron Pass
A view of the Medicine Bow Mountains from North Park
The Medicine Bow Mountains from North Park
A view of the Nokhu Crags
The Nokhu Crags
Click on the photo to see a larger version

Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License