ALLENSPARK - Sitting along Colorado’s famous Peak-to-Peak highway is the tiny community of Allenspark.
Just outside of Estes Park and about 17 miles northwest of Boulder, it has a population of about 530 people.
But what it lacks in permanent residents it more than makes up for during fall, when the leaves on the aspen trees surrounding it change color, making for a stunning setting.
Visitors can enjoy those colors by horseback riding, hiking in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park or four-wheeling — all popular activities in the area.
The median sales price for all-size properties in Allenspark is $351,800, according to real estate website Trulia.com. Apartment rents for a one-size bedroom, meanwhile, run about $850 a month.
It’s not too hard to decipher how Allenspark got its name.
In 1859, a hopeful miner named Alonzo Nelson Allen came to the area hoping to join the lucky few who had found gold in Colorado’s mountains. He ended up settling on the St. Vrain River outside of what is now Longmont.
On a prospecting trip in 1864 he found what he believed to be a valuable mineral deposit at the foot of Taylor Mountain. Wanting to be able to continue to work there easily, Allen built a cabin near the site and became the first to settle in what would become Allen’s Park and later Allenspark.
Farmers and ranchers slowly came to the area in the late 1890s after the Allen’s Park Land and Townsite Co. acquired the land and began selling small lots. In the early 1900s there was a second mining boom in the area and a permanent village began to emerge.
But it was tourism that would lead to the real growth of Allenspark. Vacationers bought land and built cabins for the summer months.
In the 1920s and 1930s the area was even home to international ski jumping competitions at the Rock Creek Ski area which remained in operation until 1952.
Saint Malo’s Chapel on the Rock
While many do not know the actual village of Allenspark, many more recognize its most famous site: a chapel was built in the hills of Colorado in the 1930’s and donated to the Archdiocese of Denver.
Called Camp St. Malo, priests and seminarians used it to lead a camp for boys. It continued as a camp until 1984 when it closed for several years before reopening as a retreat and conference center in 1987.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II was in Colorado for World Youth Day and he visited the property and even blessed the Chapel.
But the camp would be forced to close in 2011 when the retreat center was destroyed by a fire. Much of the surrounding landscape was also damaged in 2013 during the devastating floods.
However, the chapel has remaining a very popular spot for visitors along the Peak to Peak highway to takes pictures, walk around and learn about the chapel’s history. It’s also available to host weddings.
In 2016, the Archdiocese of Denver also began a major project to renovate and preserve the chapel and Camp St. Malo. Since construction began, the chapel itself has been closed to visitors. Work on the chapel is expected to be completed soon. A new retreat center is also being built as should be finished by 2019.
While Allenspark is a small community, there are still several options for those who want to visit. For example, tourists can stay a while at Hideout Cabins, Pines Grove Cabins or the Allenspark Lodge B&B, mountain resorts offering private getaways, hot tubs, riverfront views, and more.
Allenspark even has few options for grabbing a bite while checking out the fall leaves. Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria (6 Ski Rd E) and Meadow Mountain Café (441 CO-7 BUS) both offer quick bites and friendly, fast service.
You can also pick up a unique item to remember your visit at the Distant Harbors gift shop (79 CO-7 BUS), or visit The Old Gallery (14863 CO-7), an artist community where national and regional musicians play music and showcase art in an intimate setting.
Nearby rivers, trails and mountain peaks are popular spots for horseback riding, hiking, four-wheeling and fishing. Some of the most popular trails include: the 5.8-mile Allenspark Trail which leads to the Calypso Cascades waterfall; the Sandbeach Lake Trail, an 8.7-mile trek to a lake surrounded by a sandy beach; and the 8.4-mile Saint Vrain Mountain trail, following a river to this 12,000-foot peak.
While the nearby ski area closed long ago, cross country skiing remains a popular wintertime activity in Allenspark.
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