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Explore history near Winter Park, Colorado

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Texans love skiing in Colorado during the winter, but they also love hiking and biking in Colorado’s cooler summer climate. And there’s plenty for history buffs—or those just curious about days gone by—to explore.

Winter Park and the Fraser Valley, located just 67 miles from Denver, might be known as Colorado’s Favorite Playground today, but historically the area was known for railroads, ranches and mining. The past comes alive at three of Winter Park’s most notable historic sites: Moffat Tunnel, Cozens Ranch Museum and Rollins Pass.

Cozens Ranch Museum
Cozens Ranch is the site of the first ranch and stage stop in the Fraser Valley. The original 1876 house has been beautifully restored and is open to the public. Throughout the house you will find photographs of the Cozens family and early life in the Fraser Valley. Original wallpaper and carpet pieces in the main house are combined with family and antique items contemporary to the period. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and is located at 77849 U.S. Highway 40 in Fraser.

Rollins Pass
Rollins Pass stretches to 11,660 feet and sits about five miles east of Winter Park. Today, the pass is popular for its spectacular views of Devil’s Thumb and is best accessed by car or mountain bike in the summer or snowmobile in the winter. During the summer you can get about three-quarters of the way up before you have to get out and hike.
Back in 1865 J.A. Rollins built a toll road for wagons to cross the Continental Divide. The Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad eventually carved a 27-mile path up the pass, though the trek was arduous. Once the Moffat Tunnel was opened in 1928, rails were taken off the pass. But travel across Rollins Pass occurred long before white settlers showed up. In fact about 10,000 years ago Native Americans camped and hunted high on Rollins Pass.

Moffat Tunnel
This tunnel, which stretches an impressive six miles and cost a total of $18 million to construct in the 1900s, is one of the most famous railroad tunnels in America. It is the sixth-longest tunnel in the world, and it took 800 people working around the clock three-and-a-half years to build. The tunnel was named after Colorado railroad pioneer David Moffat, and it provided Denver with a way through the Continental Divide, rather than passing over Rollins Pass. The water tunnel, which delivers a portion of Denver’s water supply, and the railroad tunnel parallel one another. The West Portal of the tunnel is accessed near Winter Park Resort.

Information courtesy of Gaylene Ore, Ore Communications, gaylene@orecommunications.com

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