Red Feather Lakes, Northern Colorado's Best Kept Secret

I’m happy to share this gem of a place that my husband and I discovered during our cross-country travels. Red Feather Lakes is located in the mountains west of Fort Collins and is our number one destination during summer. Here’s my article published in GoColorado that gives away this best kept secret!

After two epic years of road-tripping across America by RV, we found our perfect spot for a summertime base camp in Red Feather Lakes near Fort Collins.

Between 2007 and 2009, we passed the turnoff to this hidden gem at least three times. Whenever we traveled to points north on U.S. Highway 287, we had no idea that beyond the rolling ranch lands that drifted west toward Walden lay deep blue mountain lakes, dramatic rocky outcroppings and a little frontier village that time forgot. If it weren’t for the affordable land showcased in local real estate magazines, we would have kept on searching for our dream property. Instead, we found exactly what we were looking for.

Red Feather Lakes is a place to escape the crowds.
Red Feather Lakes is a place to escape the crowds.

After telling friends that we finally found a place in the mountains near Red Feather Lakes, they asked, “Why do you live there? There’s nothing to do there!”

“Exactly!” I replied.

Red Feather Lakes is a place where northern Colorado locals visit to escape the crowds. While the tourists play in nearby destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park or kayakers swarm the Poudre River, laid-back locals quietly point their wagons — and ATVs — west on County Road 74E (Red Feather Lakes Road) to find solitude and summer fun.

Nestled in the Mummy Mountain Range at an elevation of 7,890 feet, this rugged alpine region was known as Mitchell Lakes in Colorado’s earliest days. But in the 1920s, the village of Red Feather Lakes was officially established and named in honor of Princess Tsianina Redfeather, a greatly admired Native American mezzo-soprano opera star whose great-great-great grandfather died nearby after a brutal battle between the Cherokees and the Pawnees. In celebration of the acclaimed singer’s connections, local lakes were re-christened with Native American names such as “Hiawatha” and “Shagwa.”

As word of this secluded getaway grew and nearby Estes Park boomed, local real estate developers dreamed of creating their own resort destination town. But development was slow, even after electricity came to the region in 1952. Dozens of quaint, lake-front log cabins were built and a few essential businesses were established, but the grandiose plans of creating another Estes Park never materialized. Maybe it’s because of the one-way-in, one-way-out paved road to get here, but today Red Feather Lakes remains virtually the same as it has been for the last 60 years.

Red Feather Lakes is an easy 45-minute drive from downtown Fort Collins, making it a great weekend destination. The community is surrounded by thousands of acres of the Roosevelt National Forest, where trout fishing, no-wake boating, hiking, riding and camping are the order of the day.

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