Site Details

descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Accessible Big Thompson Canyon - Larimer County
Aliases: Viestenz-Smith Park
Ownership: Multiple
Description: The 25-mile drive through the foothills from Loveland to Estes Park along US 34 provides access to ponderosa pine habitat and Roosevelt National Forest, although hiking trails are few. A stop at Viestenz-Smith Park (managed by the City of Loveland) is worthwhile and offers parking for access to a hiking trail. Several county parks offer public access: Glade at mile 87.0; Narrows at mile 81.1; Forks at mile 76.0 - abuts national forest; Sleepy Hollow at mile 70.6. (Note: these city and county parks were closed indefinitely due to flooding in 2013). American Dipper frequents the Big Thompson River year-round. Watch for Golden Eagle and White-throated Swift in the lower part of the canyon where cliffs provide nesting habitat. Lazuli Bunting, Virginia's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat breeds in the lower foothills. Steller's Jay, Townsend's Solitaire, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak are common higher in the canyon. Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee and Cordilleran Flycatcher are found throughout. Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds are southbound migrants from late June to early September. Northern Pygmy-Owl is regular in the canyon during the winter, although it is not always easy to see.

Habitat: Foothills, Cliff Face, River, Ponderosa Forest
Elevation: 4900 to 7500 ft ASL
Directions: From US 287 in Loveland, drive west about 8 miles on US 34 to mouth of canyon. Viestenz-Smith park is about 4 miles further west (entrance on right).
Restrictions/Hazards: High speed traffic; sharp curves; flash flood zone
Other Wildlife: Bighorn sheep, Tassle-eared (Abert's) squirrel
Other Attractions: Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch; fly fishing; cabins
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CBRC Records from Big Thompson Canyon

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Eastern Towhee2004-71/22/2004 - 1/31/2004