Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Estes Valley Plan

Planning Area 1 - The North End


The topography within the North End planning area can be characterized as gently rolling, with several natural drainages dispersed throughout the area. The area generally consists of open meadows, with a steeper, wooded landform in the center. The portion of the north End which is to the east of Dry Gulch Road consists of heavily forested mountainous terrain. The established Stanley Heights subdivision is forested and rolling. The western portion of the planning area consists of MacGregor Ranch, which includes open meadow areas bordered by steeply sloping and forested hillsides. Lake Estes forms the southern boundary of the planning area. Lake Estes is currently used for recreational activities such as boating, sail boarding, and fishing, and is a prominent landmark for people arriving in Estes Park from US 34 and US 36.

The elevation within the North End ranges from 9,000 feet along the northwestern boundary, to approximately 7,500 feet at Lake Estes. Several water courses lie within the boundaries of the planning area. Black Canyon Creek drains into the Big Thompson River. Dry Gulch drains the eastern portion of the planning area before draining directly into the Big Thompson River below the dam. A number of intermittent drainages flow into Dry Gulch.

Several prominent rock outcroppings are within or adjacent to the planning area. Eagle Rock, which is a large, solitary formation, is in the northeastern portion of the planning area. It is a landmark for visitors and residents. Lumpy Ridge, located within Rocky Mountain National Park, consists of spectacular rock formations. This ridge forms the northern boundary of the planning area, and is a visual landmark for the entire Valley.

Wildlife, found throughout the entire study area, is especially abundant within the North End. Elk and deer are very common in the area in both summer and winter.


The primary land use within the North End Planning Area is large-lot, single-family residential development. Lot sizes range from less than 1 acre to over 40 acres. A large area currently under County jurisdiction has been zoned for residential development with a minimum lot size of 10 acres. The majority of the land is undeveloped. However, much of the area has been previously subdivided into smaller lots.

There are small enclaves of residential development scattered within the northern portion of the planning area which include summer cabins and cabins converted to year-round residences. Typically, the lot sizes are less than one acre within these areas.

The commercial development along the US 34 corridor makes up a small portion of the total acreage within the planning area. The primary commercial uses along US 34 consist of commercial accommodations. Visitors to Estes Park form their first impression of the Town while traveling this corridor.

On the north shore of Lake Estes is the marina. This receives extensive use in the summer, from locals and visitors. There is also a 9-hole golf course. Below the dam, there are several highway-oriented commercial uses, including commercial, recreational, a small accommodations parcel, and a manufacturer of pewter sculpture.

Land Use Classification
Number of Parcels
Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations 17.00 79.21 1.21
Agriculture 21.00 620.34 8.43
Commercial 33.00 145.32 2.23
Commercial Unimproved 16.00 33.86 0.52
Condominium 31.00 29.69 0.45
Institutional 15.00 1456.89 22.32
Multi-Family 4.00 2.14 0.03
Private Open Space 17.00 1266.64 19.41
Public Open Space 13.00 392.79 6.02
Residential Unimproved 147.00 576.26 8.83
Right-of-Way 28.00 148.28 2.27
Single Family Residential 474.00 1816.15 27.83
null 23.00 27.72 0.42
2.00 0.65 0.01

The Eagle Rock School is located within the planning area. Physically, the impact of Eagle Rock School is minimal on the planning area. It is not visible from Dry Gulch, and the only indication of the school's existence is the drive that accesses the property.

The trail system around Lake Estes will serve as the hub to a Valley-wide trail system. It is centrally located, and will provide a natural focal point for trails which can develop adjacent to the various waterways.


Extensive development within the open meadow areas found in the North End Planning Area would significantly alter not only the visual integrity of the area, but would impact the image of the entire Estes Park area. The North End is visible form a number of locations within the Estes Valley, and the perceived openness of this area, if lost, will affect the image of the entire Valley.

The redevelopment of the Lake Estes area could have a positive impact on the overall perception of the Estes Valley. All the primary transportation corridors pass by Lake Estes. Careful consideration must be given to the quality of any type of development in this area.

Key Issues.

  1. With the recent water and sewer line completion to serve the Eagle Rock School, a large portion of the area is developable.
  2. Numerous drainages can be found within the planning area, creating sensitive wildlife habitat. Theses areas should be preserved from development and "setback/no disturb areas" established.
  3. Abundant wildlife is found within the planning area, and design considerations should be given to maintaining and enhancing habitat, and minimizing disruption to migration routes.
  4. Steep slopes exist within the planning area. Development should not be allowed to negatively impact the visual sensitivity of these areas.
  5. Given that the majority of the planning area is in open meadow, it is very important to preserve existing native vegetation, and locate buildings to minimize disruption and intrusion.
  6. Uses along US 34 range from stables to commercial lodging facilities and large undeveloped tracts. The image of Estes Park will be affected by the development along this highway corridor. Future development within the area should enhance the open quality of the area, and be visibly unobtrusive.
  7. Development along US 34 has allowed continuous access points along the highway, creating potentially unsafe turning movements, and creating a visually unattractive street scene.

The guidelines listed blow are unique to the North End and are intended to resolve or address the various issues of the North End which were identified throughout the future land use planning process.

  1. Prepare a streetscape master plan for Highway 34 and provide for Pedestrian/Bike access.
    • As properties along Highway 34 develop or redevelop, require construction of a Highway 34 streetscape with defined access points.
    • Provide for pedestrian/bike trails on Highway 34, Dry Gulch and Devils Gulch Roads.
  1. Establish a procedure to either renovate or remove uses or structures to conform to the future land use plan for the North End.
  • Remove drive-in theater screen.
  1. Protect critical natural resource areas within the North End which may be adversely affected by future development.
    • The natural drainageway to the North End shall be protected by developing building setback and non-disturbance criteria. (e.g., 100' from centerline of drainageway)
    • That portion of MacGregor Ranch, on the east side of Dry Gulch Road, should be maintained as open space.
    • Development should allow for wildlife migration. Fences should reflect traditional construction and design (as evident in Stanley Heights) using natural materials.
  1. Revise the Regulatory System to encourage low density, low impact development in the North End.
  • Develop or update standards for domestic animal density.
  • Maintain the low density character of the North End.
    • Annexations should occur through an annexation agreement between property owners and the Town.

The North End Future Land Use will generally consist of low-density residential classifications and parks, recreation and open space. Some commercial and accommodation uses are identified along US 34; within these areas, access control will be an important consideration in shaping future development.

Natural features such as drainage ways should provide a framework for future development. In general, impact should be minimal within these areas and the definition of specific lots, building envelopes, and access should take the natural features into consideration.

Eagle Rock School, the Storer Ranch, and the MacGregor Ranch Trust properties represent significant individual parcels within the planning area. Eagle Rock and The Reserve (portion of Storer ranch) have set aside significant open space. Cluster development patterns should be utilized to enhance open space opportunities. (Cluster development groups building sites on a parcel and preserves or leaves open the remaining land. The Concept allows for savings in development and service costs and for preservation of open Space.) On the Storer Ranch property, some limited commercial or accommodations development would be suitable along US 34.

Land Use Classification
Number of Parcels
Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 31 74.35 1.13
Commercial - Commercial - C 33 40.86 0.62
Commercial Recreation - CR 7 18.91 0.29
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 48 44.93 0.68
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 157 251.02 3.83
Public/Semi-public - INS 8 31.98 0.49
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 24 36.15 0.55
Parks/Recreation/Open Space - PR 33 2320.61 35.38
PUD-Commercial - C 1 1.95 0.03
PUD-Residential: 1/4 acre min - R 47 11.83 0.18
Residential: 1/4 acre min - R 80 22.72 0.35
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 41 29.12 0.44
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 67 297.14 4.53
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 279 3228.38 49.22
null 31 149.46 2.28

Land Use Classification
Number of Improved Parcels
Improved Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 24 65.48 2.35
Commercial - C 27 32.51 1.17
Commercial Recreation - CR 6 17.43 0.63
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 32 22.32 0.80
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 133 220.97 7.93
Public/Semi-public - INS 8 31.98 1.15
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 23 35.22 1.26
Parks/Recreation/Open Space - PR 3 11.07 0.40
Residential - PUD-R 31 7.88 0.25
Residential: 1/4 acre min - R 68 19.29 0.69
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 36 24.83 0.89
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 54 217.44 7.81
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 195 1929.04 69.27
null 31 149.46 5.37

Land Use Classification
Number of Vacant Parcels
Vacant Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 7 8.87 0.23
Commercial - C 6 8.35 0.22
Commercial Recreation - CR 1 1.48 0.04
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 16 22.61 0.60
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 24 30.05 0.80
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 1 0.93 0.02
Parks/Recreation/Open Space - PR 30 2309.54 61.19
Commercial - PUD-C 1 1.95 0.05
Residential - PUD-R 16 3.95 0.10
Residential: 1/4 acre min - R 12 3.43 0.09
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 5 4.29 0.11
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 13 79.70 2.11
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 84 1299.34 34.42

Next chapter - Chapter 6-2 - Fish Creek/Little Prospect Mountain

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.