Located a stone’s throw from Timber Creek Campground in the Kawuneeche Valley at the foot of the Never Summer Mountains, Holzwarth Historic Site is a collection of 20th-century ranch buildings that give visitors a glimpse into ranching life in the early modern era.
Originally homesteaded at the turn of the century, the original 160 acres were abandoned, sold for tax purposes and finally purchased by the Holzwarth family in 1916, German immigrants who moved from Denver in search of a quieter, less debaucherous life for their son. As the story goes, while living in Denver, the son of wealthy saloon owners John-Marie and Mama Sophie Holzwarth, John Holzwarth III, started getting into trouble by the age of 13. As a way of quelling his rebelliousness, the family looked north to the mountains for an escape, and they found one in the 160-acre plot in the meadows of the Kawuneeche Valley. Recognizing its open space and dense grasses as an opportunity to raise cattle, the family built a cattle ranch, but within a couple of years they converted it to a dude ranch with the purpose of hosting travelers from Denver seeking the solitude and rugged experience of the Rockies. Business flourished, and Holzwarth family hosted visitors until John Holzwarth, Jr. sold the ranch to The Nature Conservancy in 1973. It was sold thereafter to the National Park Service, who integrated it into Rocky Mountain National Park as a historic site.
Today the Park Service hosts regular tours of the original homestead, Mama's Cabin, and also allows self-guided tours in select buildings in the site. From the parking lot, the homestead is a short half-mile hike along a dirt road across the Kawuneeche Valley and the Colorado River, which originates just 10 miles up the valley in the Never Summer Mountains. At the homestead, several rustic cabins are open to exploration, including the original homestead, two guest cabins, a taxidermy workshop and supply sheds. Inside, the Park Service keeps bedrooms and kitchens in their original condition, showcasing many of the accessories of 20th-century life. Highlights include a vintage range and a footstool constructed from the legs of a deer. Keep an eye out for dad's still in the kitchen, evidence that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree in Prohibition America. Rumor has it the elder Holzwarth had a much larger still hidden away in the forest. Scattered throughout the site are the homestead’s original equipment, slowly decaying in the open air. Holzwarth Historic Site is a charming reminder of early life in the Rockies.