People of a certain age think they know Chimney Rock. It’s a landmark along the Oregon Trail, after all. But if your memory of the green pixel video game serves you well, you’ll remember that Chimney Rock is in Nebraska.
I’m in Colorado, and today I saw Chimney Rock.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to research exactly what I saw because it turns out there are two Chimney Rocks in Colorado. The one in the south part of the state is a National Monument. (The one in Nebraska is a National Historic Site.) The Chimney rock I saw today was in northern Colorado and didn’t seem to have any sort of National attention.
For those keeping score, that’s 3 Chimney Rocks in 2 states. North Carolina also has one.
So it turns out I visited the least popular Chimney Rock in North America. I have had a hard time finding any information about this thing, but I know I saw it. I was there. I even grabbed a few snazzy pictures.
It is not easy to find this Chimney Rock. Outside of a few Internet sources, the only way I found to discover this mountaintop chimney is a simple highway sign on highway 40, north of Kremmling. It said “Chimney Rock” with an arrow pointing to ranch land.
The first hint that this is going to be a long trip is a sign politely informing you that the section of this dirt road are ranch lands, and public use is not allowed until you get onto state property – six miles away.
It didn’t give any guidance about finding Chimney Rock. It didn’t give any history. It didn’t even tell us what the name of the ranch we were trespassing on. It wasn’t like a National Park (or Monument (or Historic Site (or Marker))) with a ranger post and helpful flyers. It was just a long dirt road going up a mountain.
It was a surprisingly beautiful and friendly drive. I say friendly, because this was one of the most smooth dirt roads I have ever driven. Second, it was one of the most gentle mountain climbs I have experienced. Finally, it was friendly because it was populated with cows. Lots and lots of cows. So while a 20-mile round-trip may sound lonely, it wasn’t. There were plenty of cows willing to listen to me talk to them.
Yes, you read 20 miles right. The first six miles get you to the public land, then you still have to go another 4 or 5 miles to get to the view of Chimney Rock. And then you have to turn around and go back.
If you ever go to this specific Chimney Rock, you need to know that it’s further than you think, and it’s not necessarily obvious to find. Note in my photos that this thing is a LONG way away. That’s AFTER the 10 mile drive up a mountain, through herds of cattle, on dirt roads. If you actually made the drive, you need to know that it’s a northern view, and it’s very easy to miss, especially because it is still far away.
Was it worth it? For most people, no. For someone who loves to wander way off the beaten path, it was a nice and beautiful diversion.