The History of Glen Haven, CO

(This article was originally written for the summer/fall edition of the ‘Discover Estes’ magazine published in 2004. It originally opened up with a promotional piece about visiting Glen Haven, CO, but I decided to just put the historical section of my article in this post). Additionally, since then, there have been a couple of floods that have affected the town which I have not spoken of in this article.


While standing in the beautiful Estes Valley, take a moment and let your eyes scan northeast to the end of the unusual rocky ridge-line known as Lumpy Ridge. Perhaps as you gaze at this mysterious spot, an unusually shaped cloud will drift up from the hidden gulch, and for a moment, you might think it is smoke, or possibly, devils escaping upwards. It is thought that this is how travelers, hunters, and trappers of old gave it the name Devils Canyon, as the clouds appeared to be smoke or devils rising from the pits of hell.

In 1877 Devils Canyon appeared in Hayden’s Atlas showing no obvious trail leading down the gulch. It was, however, around 1874 when the first settlers took solace in the beauty of the valley at the bottom of the gulch. A few cabins were built by trappers and hunters, and a cattle ranch was built by P. J. Pauley, who later became the owner of what is now McGraw Ranch, owned by the National Park system. These new homes were built only short distances from the many summer Indian trails, used for centuries by the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute Indians, for hunting and summer foraging camps. Before 1895 these cabins were isolated and accessible by only one trail that led to a secret valley with wildflowers too numerous to count, thick with pine trees and swamped with predators and other wildlife: bears, mountain lions, bobcats, elk, deer, wolf, and coyotes.

In 1896 the first signs of more permanent settlements started to lay ground when a sawmill was set up along the North Fork of the Thompson River by Ira Knapp and his father and brothers, first on Miller Fork and later across the road from the stables now in town. A road was built in order to get the lumber to Loveland. It traveled through Cold Canyon down to Miller’s Fork and on to join what is now Hwy. 34 at Drake. In 1897 the Knapps laid claim to the land that is now known as Glen Haven. A lot of this road was built much higher up than it is now and was moved closer to the river by Larimer County over the years.

In 1899 the road leading up Devils Gulch (as the canyon later became known) to the Estes Valley was a very long and steep haul only suitable for horses or a spring wagon and team. The road had logs laid across it width-ways to prevent washouts. Called a corduroy road, a trip up it would have been bumpy indeed. In the early 1900s, George Dennis built a summer hotel at the bottom of Devils Gulch. Dennis improved the road up the gulch by widening it slightly and adding some hairpin turns to relieve the steepness. This section of road is still there, though it has since been widened and paved to handle modern-day traffic. A few years ago guardrails were added as an extra safety precaution.

Since 1896 the area had been commonly known as “Knappville,” but in 1903 Ira Knapp and the Reverend W. H. Shureman decided to change the name of the town to “Glen Haven,” and at the same time founded the Presbyterian Assembly Association. His intention — to make the area a summer resort for Presbyterians.

In 1903 the association had 19 stockholders; and 30 at the end of 1904. The main function of the association at this time was to sell lots to new stockholders and maintain the roads and bridges up Fox Creek and North Fork. The association had little effect on the original residents at this time.

In 1921 the Glen Haven store was built by the association and was run by several different people over the years.

In 1923 the Presbyterian Assembly Association was reincorporated as “The Glen Haven Resort,” in the hopes of encouraging prospective landowners to become members, without requiring them to be a Presbyterian.

Over the next few years, the General Store added several rooms including a dining room and kitchen, and the outward appearance was improved. Sunday services were held at the store and a piano was secured for use at these services. Around town more buildings went up, a Post Office was maintained and roads, bridges, and forest were improved upon.

By now the wildness that the Indians and rugged outdoorsmen such as “Mountain Jim” probably hunted in, and loved, had been “tamed.” Bounties were offered for the killing of snakes, and most of the mountain lions that had roamed the area freely had been killed. Unwanted pests such as the pine beetle were under control, and brawling behavior from the two-legged beasts was strongly discouraged.

The town continued to grow and soon offered two restaurants: The Glencrofter Country Store and Wild Bill’s Cook Shack. Additionally, there was Calico Kate’s Gift Shop, the Glen Haven Lodge (now the Inn of Glen Haven), Buckskin Bo’s Livery Stables, a Town Hall and many new homes. The Cheley Trails End camps for boys and girls were also established. The Post Office was moved around town several times and the Glencrofter store burned to the ground. Two gas stations appeared and disappeared, the names of the stores changed, amazing characters came and went. However, most of the buildings still remain and continue to offer visitors a leisurely, uncrowded way to pass a few hours.

The stores may have changed, but Glen Haven still offers a touch of the old west, for those wishing to escape the constant rush of modern day life.

~ Roxy Whalley ~ 2004 – All rights reserved


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