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If you’re even a little bit interested in the history of Granby, Colorado or Grand County, come check out this historic hike to the Rowley Homestead and the Just Ranch in Granby, CO. It’s about a 4-mile hike, round trip, and while there are a few very small ups and downs, it’s an easy walk.
What to bring:
Your usual day pack, with lots of water since quite a bit of this trail is open and exposed. It gets really hot and dry during the summer! You’ll also want to bring a bright headlamp or flashlight in case you want to go in the gold mine, but more on that later!
If you’re not sure what you should carry in your day pack, download my day hiking gear checklist here.
This trail and the historic sites are on Snow Mountain Ranch – YMCA of the Rockies property, which is located on Highway 40 between Fraser and Granby, Colorado. You’ll need to either be staying at Snow Mountain Ranch as a guest or stop in to the Programs Building to purchase a day pass and get a map to access to the trails and facilities of this 5,000+ acre YMCA.
I started this hike from Silver Sage lodge, but Aspenbrooke and Indian Peaks lodges and the Commons dining hall are all close by as well, so you could also start from any of those.
There are 3 must-see stops along this hike, the Fred Rowley Homestead, the gold mine, and the Just Ranch. And, of course, there are beautiful views of Snow Mountain Ranch and the Continental Divide all along the way.
Starting from Silver Sage and Aspenbrooke lodges, take a right onto County Road 53 towards Sombrero Stables. Okay, so it’s not a trail exactly at this point. You will be walking along the dirt road for a while, but that’s what makes this hike so easy. If you have kiddos with you, you’ll want to stop and see/pet the goats and sheep at Sombrero Stables.
Walking along CR 53 you’ll see Ninemile Mountain on your right, and Snow Mountain (aka Sheep Mountain) on your left. At the first fork after the stables, stay to the left to stay on CR 53. There will another fork soon after that, stay to the right, that dirt road becomes 538 and there will be signs for the Homestead.
This is one of my favorite parts of the hike because you’re finally in the trees here. You’ll see Aspens, Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, and the few scraggly Lodge Pole Pines that survived the beetle kill. Keep following signs for the Homestead until, suddenly, you’re there!
The homestead was built in 1919 by Fred Rowley. He, his wife, and three children kept up the homestead, but he also had to take up extra work on the railroad and do some timbering to support his family and the property.
They say you’re not a true Grand County resident unless you’re working 3 jobs. I guess that was true even back in those days!
You can mosey around the homestead and check out the logger’s cabin, the old barns, farming equipment, smokehouse, and lastly, the Rowley home. If you’re lucky and visit during a summer day, there may be a YMCA volunteer there to give you a more thorough tour 😊 You can also read more details about the Rowley homestead here.
After you’re finished exploring the homestead, take a right out of the homestead entrance gate, onto the trail that goes down the hill towards the small creek at the base of the homestead. You’ll cross over the small creek on a rickety log bridge and keep following that trail straight. Keep an eye out for some beaver dams and wildlife on the left, along Pole Creek, and Coyote’s Tooth rock formation on the right.
Then you’ll come up to the dirt road that is County Road 53 again, take a left here. In about a quarter mile or even less, you’ll see the “gold mine” on the right hand side of the road.
I say “gold mine” because – spoiler alert! – no gold was ever found in Grand County, but the locals didn’t know that at the time and he was convinced there was gold in the side of that mountain. So he dug, and dug, and dug for seven years and about 100 feet in until he finally gave up. It’s still a cool place to see and explore. You can go in the mine, but in the Spring as the snow is melting it gets pretty wet in there. If you wait until later in the summer it does dry out and you can go all the way to end of the mine.
Coming out of the goldmine, go right on CR 53, this will take you back towards the main campus of Snow Mountain Ranch and to the Just Ranch. At the 4-way intersection, stay to the left to stay on 53. Then at the at T, go right to stay on 53 and you’ll start walking uphill here. Then there will be another T, where you’ll stay to the right again and head back towards Sombrero Stables.
On the way back toward the lodges, you’ll have great views of the Continental Divide and of Snow Mountain on the right side. Continue walking past the stables, past the lodges and the Commons dining hall, and then take a right onto Just Lane (another dirt road.) At the end of Just Lane is the Just Ranch. This is only about a 10-15 walk from the Silversage and Aspenbrooke lodges.
The YMCA has definitely focused their efforts on restoring the Rowley homestead for now, but many of the original buildings of the Just Ranch are still there for you to see and explore. The Just Ranch was established in 1893 on 320 acres. Over the years the Justs expanded their land to over 3,000 acres. The YMCA purchased the land from Della Just in 1965 and created the Snow Mountain Ranch you see today.
You can find more details about the Just ranch and Just family here.
After you’re done wandering around the Just Ranch, it’s a short walk back up Just Lane to the main lodges where you started.
If you’re in the Granby, CO area, I hope you get to enjoy this hike and leave me a comment below to let me know how it goes!