Kawuneeche Valley in Colorado

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Kawuneeche Valley

Kawuneeche Valley is a vital source of life in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unique animals thrive in its aliments. The Colorado River begins its journey on the valley’s north end.

  • Kawuneeche Valley is the aftermath of the Colorado River Glacier 
  • A beautiful portion of Trail Ridge Road 
  • You’ll see the Colorado River and wildlife such as coyotes, moose, and giant elk 
  • Walk through an old 1920’s dude ranch 
  • Kawuneeche is an Arapaho word for “coyote”

Why should I drive the Kawuneeche Valley?

Kawuneeche Valley is the result of the Colorado River Glacier: a 20-mile long body of ice that carved out the valley and extended all the way to Shadow Mountain Lake.

As you drive through the valley you’ll be dazed by the vibrant green hues of the landscape, the Never Summer Mountain peaks, and unique wildlife of this thriving environment.

After hundreds of years of human activity, Kawuneeche Valley became a part of Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure its survival.

You can still find remnants of human history such as the Holzwarth Historic Site.

Where does the Kawuneeche Valley begin and end?

Kawuneeche Valley is the westernmost portion of Trail Ridge Road, which stretches from the north side of Rocky Mountain National Park southward to Grand Lake, Colorado.

Traveling southbound, the valley starts after the Timber Lake Trailhead and ends at the Grand Lake entrance.

How long does the Kawuneeche Valley take to drive?

Kawuneeche Valley is about 22 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to drive.

Take time to stop and hike the Holzwarth Historic Site and Coyote Valley Trail, which are both about 45 minutes. The trails are smooth, flat, and wheel chair accessible.

There are also pull-offs where you can view wildlife and take pictures.

What will I see along the way?

  • Trails/Campgrounds: You’ll see many trailheads, including Coyote Valley Trailhead and Onahu Trailhead. Explore the trails for a day, or backpack further into the wilderness. Stay overnight at a backcountry campsite. Timber Creek campground is easily accessible and is on the road’s north end. 
  • Holzwarth Historic Site: Never Summer Ranch Holzwarth Historic Site is a 1920s dude ranch. Explore the old cabins and structures that have survived the decades. 
  • Coyote Valley Trail: This trail offers more seclusion than the Holzwarth site and gorgeous views of the valley floor and the Never Summer Mountains. On this short traverse, stop to read the signs, which teach you about the history of the valley, its ecosystems, and the wildlife. 
  • Picnicking: Bring your cozy blanket and a packed lunch so you can enjoy a picnic at one of several rest areas. Harbison Meadows is on the southern portion of the drive, closer to the Grand Lake Entrance. Beaver Ponds picnic site is on the drive’s northern part, near Timber Creek campground. 
  • Colorado River: The Colorado River starts its journey from the Continental Divide, and its headwaters meander their way through Kawuneeche Valley. 
  • Wildlife: Uncommon species of wildlife are drawn to this habitat, including osprey, wood frogs, and river otter. Also keep your eyes open for coyotes, massive elk, moose, ptarmigan, pikas, martens, and hawks.

How much does Kawuneeche Valley cost?

The entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park is $20, and lasts for 7 consecutive days.