My dad wanted a picture of a moose, so of course we took him down Long Draw Road. Mere minutes after turning off Highway 14 a young bull sauntered in front of our truck, posing briefly, before hoofing it up the other side, into the woods and out of sight. As always Long Draw Road delivered for our out-of-town guests.
A drive down Long Draw Road is a must while on our annual Chambers Lake camping trip. Best to go around dusk for best results, but I’m not sure there’s a time of day we haven’t seen at least one moose. Although on our most recent visit the kids enjoyed yelling “there’s one” just to make us look. By their tally, we saw dozens.
A Road Less Traveled
About an hour and a half up the canyon, Long Draw Road is just off the beaten path making it a perfect camping destination or Upper Poudre Canyon side trip. The old forest road opens to cars in late June or early July and remains open until snow makes it impassable, though still available to snowmobiles and snowshoes. The dirt road follows mountain creeks and provides access to Trap Lake and Long Draw Reservoir both known as prime fishing locales. The road has changed a lot in recent years due to the pine beetle epidemic that greatly affected this area. At first I was devastated but have since grown to appreciate it in new ways. Once a drive through a lush forest, it is now a road with amazing views that were before hidden by tall pines. Eventually it opens to gorgeous meadows at the base of the Never Summer and Mummy ranges.
There are an abundance of dispersed sites along the road and two established campgrounds, Grandview and Long Draw. All sites are first come first serve and despite not being right off Highway 14, can still fill up on the weekends. Long Draw campground has 25 sites and is open to tents and small RVs. Grandview, the highest campground in the canyon clocking in at an elevation of 10,220 ft, has only nine sites and is also home to my dream site. Maybe next year we’ll leave the kids at Chambers with the grandparents and take our tent and finally snag the best spot in Poudre Canyon.
One of my favorite hikes with kids is off Long Draw- Trap Park Trail. Other trail access includes Coral Creek and La Poudre Pass Trailheads which both feed into Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a popular place to begin a backpacking adventure into the backcountry. The road ends at the La Poudre Pass Trailhead that not only takes you to the remnants of Lulu City, an old mining town, but eventually leads you to the headwaters of Poudre River, Poudre Lake in RMNP. We’ve visited Poudre Lake off of Trail Ridge Road and it kind of blows my mind you can walk from the RMNP lake to the end of Long Draw, which in my geographically challenged mind, two completely different places. This wormhole connecting two different canyons is now on my hiking bucket list.
Be sure to visit the Forest Service website before heading up for more details and to ensure it’s open, then come back and let me know how many moose you spotted.
Drive Time: Approximately 1.5 hours from Fort Collins
Season: Late June or Early July until there’s too much snow, otherwise open to snowmobiles and snowshoers
Activities: Wildlife watching, camping, hiking, fishing
Usage: Typically not too much traffic, campsites fill up quickly on weekends
Amenities: Vaulted toilets at the end of the road near the La Poudre Pass Trailhead, Established campgrounds have water and vaulted toilets