When you think of Steamboat Springs, we hope you think best of the West. When you’re visiting, you might see working cowboys walking down Lincoln Avenue on Saturday night or popping into Yampa Valley Brewing Company after a long day outside. It is not uncommon to hear an occasional y’all, and anyone can eat locally at the Community Agriculture Alliance, which stocks every kind of meat and cut you can imagine from ranches within an hour’s drive.
So how do you get to understand our corner of the west and be part of the heritage that founded this valley? Take a tour through your destination’s ranch history and go on a tour of our historic local barns. Rife with both preserved and working barns, our community invites you to tour its past so you can be a part of its present.
More Barn (or, the Steamboat Barn)
The More Barn is the most famous barn in all of Steamboat Springs - so much so that it is often referred to as “the Steamboat Barn.” Featured on ski resort marketing for decades, most iconically on a 1970s poster of two horseback riders in deep snow with skis across the top of their pommels, the More Barn sparks the Western imagination for skiers and riders. Located in between downtown and the mountain in a residential neighborhood, Barn Village, anyone can visit the four-acre park and create their own iconic photo of the barn and the slopes at any given time. Approaching its centennial, the barn was built between 1926 and 1928 and truly symbolizes the evolution of downtown Steamboat from pasturelands to subdivisions.
Mad Creek Barn
Accessible by hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking, the Mad Creek Barn is everyone’s reward after a gentle uphill hike. Nestled in a meadow just 1.5 miles in on Steamboat’s most popular hiking trail, it is accessible to nearly everyone as hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders are welcome. The barn is a perfect stop for someone doing the nearly nine-mile loop or a family who wants to rest before heading back down the trail. Unlike some other barns in Steamboat, this one is open for you to explore, with the option to climb into the second-story hayloft and see views of the creek and the aspen grove you just climbed through. The barn was built in 1904 by homesteader James Ratliff and has since been preserved through combined efforts of the county, US Forest Service, and local historical organizations including a massive local, state, and federal renovation in 2000.
Welcoming you to Mt. Werner Circle, the road that grants ski resort access, is the landmark Arnold Barn. Built in 1928 by the Arnold family, who ranched 160 acres at the base of Mt. Werner – then known as Storm Mountain - the barn was an integral part of the family’s ranch and dairy operation. Then the barn has a bit of a sad history: when the ski area purchased Arnold’s property, there was no use for the barn except storage, and it slowly deteriorated at the edge of the Meadows Parking Lot. This story has a happy ending though. In 2018 a group of local organizations, led by Historic Routt County, moved the barn up the road to its current position, restoring it to its former glory and establishing a constant visual connection between the ski areas and the working ranchers who founded this community. Park in the nearby Meadows Lot and walk up the hill to explore the site.
Hahn’s Peak Pole Barn
Spend thirty minutes and drive north of town to see one of the oldest barns in the county, located in Hahn’s Peak Village. Originally a gold mining camp and the county seat from 1877-1912, the village is home to a host of historical structures including the historic Pole Barn. The Pole Barn onsite is maintained by the Hahn’s Peak Historical Society and shows off mining relics from back in the day when there was “gold in them hills,” with plenty of scope for the visitor's imagination about the miners who chased the yellow metal dream. Summer is the best time to explore the area and the other historic structures, including a cabin, jail cell, and schoolhouse, as they are open for free from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Carpenter Ranch Barn
Drive thirty minutes the other way, heading west to Hayden, and you’ll encounter the beautiful Carpenter Ranch. If you’ve ever flown in or out of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, you’ll have passed this historic local spot many times! The Carpenter Ranch was founded in 1903 by J.B. Dawson, who eventually sold it to his ranch hand, Farrington Carpenter in 1926. To this day, Carpenter Ranch remains a working ranch and education facility operated by The Nature Conservancy, with its barn and ranch house designated by the Colorado Historical Society. Since it is still a working ranch, it is not as easy to visit as other public sites. However, the ranch is a birding paradise, and always partners with the annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival for public festival events. Additionally, you can call anytime to try and arrange a visit to check out the barn and property, although that is of course dependent on the work of the day.