About North Routt / Elk River Valley
Stretching from just north of Steamboat Springs to the Wyoming border and beyond is some of the most beautiful and rugged landscape in Colorado. The Elk River Valley, with it’s namesake river as its spine, winds its way from the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area south until meeting the Yampa River just west of Steamboat Springs. The Zirkel Wilderness has a total of 159,935 acres. All of this wilderness is located in northwestern Colorado and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
This Wilderness area is home to the headwaters of the Elk, Encampment and North Platte Rivers, as well as some 70 lakes, high mountain peaks (including the 12,180 foot-tall Mount Zirkel for which it is named) and a portion of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. It straddles the Continental Divide and encompasses the rugged Sawtooth Range, as well as portions of the Park and Sierra Madre ranges.
Ranching is deep rooted and remains that way with historic ranches and multi-generation outfitting and dude ranch operations. Hunting and fishing, along with snowmobiling, snow shoeing and back country skiing are enjoyed winter or summer. Numerous forest service roads offer easy access deep in the wilderness.
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The Elk River Valley area, which is bordered by Steamboat Springs to the south and by Clark to the north, offers country living close to town. It is quiet and pastoral, with rolling hills that light up at sunset, plenty of open space and expansive views of nearby hills and forests.
Homes in this area are a top choice for any horse lover who wants to live near town. The area has two major subdivisions, Elk River Estates and Deer Mountain Estates, which together have about 100 family homes.
All of the homes are fairly new, with the oldest dating to the early 1970s. Houses range in size from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet, and sit on one to three acres of land in Elk River Estates, or about five acres of land in Deer Mountain Estates.
Doug and Ellin Smith live with their two small children in Elk River Estates. Their house backs up to the woods, so it has the feel of privacy and space, Doug Smith said. One characteristic of the development that the Smiths enjoy is that it is kid friendly, Smith said. Most of the Smith’s neighbors have children, and with little traffic and big lots, the children have room to move around.
"It’s close to town, and yet far enough out that you’re not in town, and it’s convenient and friendly," Doug Smith said. "We really like it."
North of these two subdivisions are homes that sit on even larger tracts of land. Subdivisions such as Elk River Mountain Ranch split land into 35-acre lots.
Further north, these lots get even larger. Numerous historical and recreational ranch properties are for sale. Several of these ranches include land bordering the Elk River as well as prime hunting areas.
All of the homes in this area are on well and septic, so potential homebuyers should be aware that there can be extra costs associated with these features.
One of the Yampa Valley’s luxury land developments is the Marabou Land Preservation Subdivision. Using a private stretch of the Elk River winding its way on the westerly quarter of the property, the development encompasses 1,800 acres with only 62, 5-acre parcels dotting the remaining open space.
Venture a little further north and you're in an even more different world...
Chris King has seen or lived in most every place in the state of Colorado, but he is quick to say Clark is special.
"I’ve lived all over the state, and although this is not the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, it’s in the top three," King said.
That says a lot, considering that this area, which stretches north from Clark to the Wyoming border, is not a hot spot for tourists. But the beauty of North Routt County, residents say, is enhanced by its remoteness. Clark is a 30-minute drive north from the center of Steamboat Springs, while traveling further north to Hahn’s Peak adds another 20 minutes.
Unlike other areas around Steamboat Springs that can best be characterized as "Western" environments with dry landscape, Clark and the rest of North Routt sit a little higher and so are characterized as "Alpine" environments. That means tall, sweet-smelling pines, crisp air and clear, sharp light.
There’s a rural feel here, and life is ruled by both ranching and recreation. The area is home to a mix of ranchers and professionals, so residents who aren’t driving cattle around nearby fields are usually driving their cars back and forth to Steamboat.
Most homes between Clark and Hahn’s Peak sit on large plots of land as stand-alone units, but there are some subdivisions. Near Willow Creek Pass, lots are under an acre and homes range in size from smaller modular homes to large custom homes. These homes are serviced by water and sewer.
Hahn’s Peak Village is a little town north of Willow Creek Pass that is quaint and cool. The light around town shines differently, visitors say, giving a glow to buildings such as the historic "Little Green Schoolhouse." The town’s dirt road offers views of both the pyramidal spire of Hahn’s Peak, which seems to rise out of nothing, and the glassy blue expanse of Steamboat Lake.
Housing styles in Hahn’s Peak run the gamut from tiny old cabins built in the 1920s to new, expansive homes. Subdivisions around the lake are split into lots of two to 35 acres. These homes are new – most were built during or after the 1980s.
North still of Hahn’s Peak is Columbine, where a series of cabins provides summer and winter getaways for visitors. There aren’t many homes in this area, and those that are standing are usually summer or second homes.
The area does have a public school. The North Routt Charter School opened in the fall of 2001 and provides services to kindergarten through eighth-grade students. Students may also attend school in Steamboat Springs if they choose.
Short-term supplies are easy to get at Steamboat Lake Outfitters or down in Clark’s Country Store, but many residents find themselves making a trip south to Steamboat at least once a week.
"It puts another twist on life when you’ve got a 40-mile commute to get a gallon of milk," King said.
But the commute is worth it for professionals looking to live outside a busy resort town. It’s also worth it for outdoor enthusiasts, who thrive on the range of outdoor activities that are accessible from the front and back doors of every North Routt home. During the winter, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing here are top-notch, with North Routt drawing "powder hounds" from around the state. During the summer, residents find themselves with easy access to fishing, camping, rafting, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and hunting.
Big open spaces, large lots and ranches, gorgeous views and a pastoral, agricultural feel are all characteristic of the Elk River area. Residents say it’s almost surprising to have all of those features only 15 to 30 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs.
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Listing information last updated on May 24th, 2020 at 2:45pm MDT.