Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Estes Valley Plan

Planning Area 6 - Fall River Road


The majority of the planning area consists of a narrow canyon which forms the boundaries for the Fall River drainage as it flows from the northern park entrance to the downtown area. The topography in the western portion of the planning area consists of a single river valley with steep walls. The valley opens up as it approaches the downtown, providing developable areas on both sides of the river. The area also includes the residential development along the US 34 bypass to the MacGregor Ranch boundary.

Elevations range from a high of 8,800 feet at the peak of Castle Mountain, which forms the northern edge of the planning area, to a low of 7,600 feet along the Fall River as it enters the downtown area. The valley slopes are heavily forested on both sides of Fall River. In the lower elevations along the river, willow, cottonwood, and other riparian species are dominant.

The only watercourse within the planning area is Fall River, flowing from west to east.

Numerous rock outcroppings exist within the planning area, visible on both sides of the valley. Of national significance, Old Man Mountain is a large rock formation which has which has been identified as a sacred site by Native Americans. Old Man Mountain is located in the southern part of the planning area, just west of downtown. Castle Mountain is another landmark found within the planning area.

The ridge of Castle Mountain forms the boundary between the Fall River Planning Area and the North End Planning Area. The Southern boundary of the planning area is formed by Deer Ridge, which separates it from the Beaver Point Planning Area to the south. The western boundary includes the former Fish Hatchery property which is owned by the Town of Estes Park.

Wildlife is abundant within the planning area. Deer and elk migrate through the planning area, following the Fall River. Bighorn sheep are very prevalent; one of their primary habitats is MacGregor Mountain, located in RMNP immediately northwest of the planning area. Bighorn sheep can frequently be seen on south-facing slopes along the highway. Mountain lions are also found in the area.

The viewsheds within the central portion of the planning area are limited due to topography and heavy vegetation. The western end of the planning area provides panoramic views from the highway into RMNP. The steep hillsides, open meadows, varied vegetation and streams create diversity which contributes to high scenic quality. Views in the eastern portion of the planning area expand once the confines of the narrow valley are left behind.


The Fall River Road Planning Area is bounded on two sides by public lands. To the north of the planning area is MacGregor Ranch and Rocky Mountain National Park. The western and a portion of the southern boundary is also RMNP.

Land uses within the planning area consist primarily of single-family residential and accommodations uses. Accommodations exist primarily west of the intersection of the US 34 bypass and the US 34 business loop, on both sides of the highway.

Single-family development occurs primarily within the eastern portion of the planning area. Development is composed almost exclusively of single-family development north of the US 34 bypass. This includes Al Fresco Place and Mount View Park subdivisions. The area south of the bypass within the planning area is also primarily single-family residential, although there are pockets of multi-family development.

Land Use Classification
Number of Parcels
Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations 44.00 173.98 10.49
Commercial 17.00 83.20 5.02
Commercial Unimproved 23.00 47.85 2.88
Condominium 17.00 14.66 0.88
Duplex 2.00 3.82 0.23
Institutional 10.00 165.94 10.00
Multi-Family 12.00 9.78 0.59
Private Open Space 3.00 2.16 0.13
Public Open Space 1.00 1.50 0.09
Residential Unimproved 115.00 460.52 27.76
ROW 11.00 103.62 6.25
Single Family Residential 343.00 588.24 35.46
null 4.00 3.41 0.21

The land uses found within the planning area are generally compatible with one another. This is partially due to the small scale of most of the accommodations uses, in keeping with surrounding single-family development with the scale of the valley. Care has been taken to preserve existing vegetation, which blends development into its surroundings.

There are several parcels of undeveloped land zoned for commercial or multi-family use. An area of concern within the planning area is the commercial frontage in Fall River Estates. Intense development on these lots could adversely impact Fall River and the neighborhood.

Neighborhood residents have specifically stated that they do not want to see highway commercial uses (e.g., fast food, convenience store).

An historically significant parcel within the planning area is the original power plant constructed by F.O. Stanley. The plant is located near the west end of the planning area, on Fall River. Several outbuildings exist adjacent to the power plant. Stanley's original house is also located along the US 34 bypass.


The main highway corridor that runs through the planning area is US 34. In the eastern portion of the planning area, the highway splits into the bypass, extending north around the downtown area, and the business loop, which passes directly through downtown. They rejoin US 36 on the eastern edge of downtown. Going west, the highway follows the Fall River and begins to climb above the river as the road nears the north entrance to RMNP.

Access to the various accommodations parcels are well identified and designed to provide safe turning movements in and out of the various properties. The parking areas are set away from the road, screened by existing vegetation, or are designed to be small enough in scale to create minimum visual impact.

No trails exist within the planning area. Discussion has been held regarding development of a trail along Fall River from RMNP to downtown. There are many obstacles to overcome in developing such a trail, including road crossings, river crossings, and easements across private property.

US 34 through the Fall River Planning Area is the northern gateway to RMNP. It currently presents a positive image for visitors driving through the area, due to interesting land form, forested hillsides, rock outcrops, interesting views, and sensitive development of a small scale in character with the mountain environment. While the Beaver point Planning Area supports a US 36/34 connection, the Fall River Planning Area has expressed concern.


The proposed joint development of a public/private Visitors Center at the north entrance to RMNP is setting precedent within the National Park System. The development of a park visitor center outside the park, as part of a private development, can provide benefit to the owner as well as to the Park by limiting environmental impacts within Park boundaries. The site is immediately outside Park boundaries, on the site where a commercial development was destroyed by fire.

A connection from the US 34 business loop and US 36, crossing Deer Ridge, has been discussed for years. This construction would have major land use ramifications for both the Fall River Planning Area and the Beaver Point Planning Area. Other key issues include:

Key Issues.

  1. Due to the steep topography and Fall River floodplain, development opportunities are severely limited within the planning area.
  2. The National Park Service has proposed to develop a public/private visitors center adjacent to the north Park entrance which may have national significance.
  3. There is potential for the downtown commercial district to expand to the west.
  4. The potential for a vehicular connection from US 36 to US 34 may have significant impacts on land use within this planning area.
  5. Redevelopment of existing accommodations properties, and new development along the river may change the character of the district, especially the drive along US 34 to the entrance to RMNP.
  6. Hillside development must be evaluated to insure that the quality of the physical and visual environment is not negatively impacted.
  7. Land uses along the US 34 bypass must be carefully considered to ensure that the character of the area is not lost.
  8. There are wetlands within the planning area, and any new development must minimize impacts in these areas.
  9. Wildlife is abundant within the planning area. Bighorn sheep frequent Fall River Road to the east of RMNP.
  10. Old Man Mountain is a prominent rock outcrop within the planning area, and is a sacred site to Native American Indians.
  11. It is important to maintain the vistas from Fall River Road into RMNP and from Fall River Road to Fall River itself.
  12. There is an opportunity to provide a trail along Fall River from RMNP into the downtown.
  13. RMNP adjoins the planning area on two sides. There is the opportunity for the Park and the Town to work closely to ensure that development within the area benefits both entities.
  14. There is a concern regarding additional metal buildings along US 34.
  15. An important elk migration corridor connecting RMNP with MacGregor Ranch and the North End is located within the Fall River Planning Area (Bennett property).
  16. It may be necessary to modify the commercial zoning in the planning area to make potential uses more compatible with the neighborhood, and to prohibit highway convenience commercial uses.
Development Guidelines


The guidelines listed below are unique to the Fall River sub-area and are intended to address the various issues, of Fall River which were identified throughout the future land use planning process.

FR 1. Develop riverfront planning, design, and architectural guidelines for the Fall River area which encourage pedestrian and wildlife access along the river while maintaining private sector riverfront accommodation uses and accessibility.

  • Where cooperation exists, provide for a pedestrian/bike path along Fall River, from downtown to the Fish Hatchery/Park entrance.
  • Provide for riverfront accommodations which are residential in scale and present a lodge-like character. The area should present a mountain resort feeling that is compatible with the environment setting.
  • Develop standards that address hillside development.
  • Require large river setbacks.
  • Architectural standards (material and color) should be adopted to ensure that new building construction blends with the environment.
  • The scenic backdrops of Old Man Mountain and Castle Mountain need to be protected.
  • Prohibit new highway convenience commercial uses (e.g., fast food, convenience, gas, etc.)
FR 2. Develop wildlife mitigation standards.
  • Critical habitat and migration corridors include the river system, the U.N.C. property, the Bennett property, and the southern portion of the old Fish Hatchery property.
FR 3. Develop a detailed streetscape master plan for the Fall River Corridor and potential by-pass.
  • A new RMNP entrance should be appropriately scaled.
  • By-Pass connection between Highway 36 and 34 is needed.
  • Commercial uses should not be extended beyond their current existing locations. Commercial and T-Tourist should be rezoned. Potential for future highway convenience commercial (e.g., fast food) should be eliminated.
  • Prohibit metal buildings and non-residential uses in E-Estate.
  • Rezone highway commercial areas to a new accommodations district.
  • Phase out Bed & Breakfast uses in the E-Estate district if they quit operation (e.g., let business license expire.)
  • Provide zoning standards and districts that encourage redevelopment of the area between downtown and the By-Pass. In some cases, this area should redevelop as high density housing-small lot single family and high density multi-family.
  • Development along Fall River should leave the area between the river and highway open and unbuilt.
  • Create a special sign standard for the Fall River corridor which limits signage to low monument signs consisting of natural materials (wood, stone).
  • Don't allow proliferation of night lighting. Regulate/control lighting standards for both public right-of-way and private property
  • Provide allowances for clustering or P.U.D. approach so that sensitive land forms may be protected.

The Fall River Planning area includes US 34 bypass, or Fall River Road, which acts as the secondary access to Rocky Mountain National Park. This area generally consists of accommodation development along the river and single-family development set back from these areas. Within this area, development should generally be located across the river from the roadway and behind vegetation, if possible. Lodge-style buildings should be reinforced as an appropriate development type.

The river creates a unique visual amenity within this area. The integration of bike paths or river access should be promoted when opportunities exist.

A visitor's center is proposed which will need to be sensitively developed in keeping with the area's character. The old fish hatchery site is owned by the Town and also has the potential to influence the identity of this area. The northeast portion of the site may have some opportunities for affordable housing and in general the western portion of the property lends itself to open space uses.

Land Use Classification
Number of Parcels
Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 40 176.50 10.63
Accommodations: Low Density - A-1 14 53.06 3.20
Commercial - C 5 8.52 0.51
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 55 39.32 2.37
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 241 250.47 15.09
Giant Track Study Area - GT_stdy 58 489.46 29.48
Public/Semi-public - INS 9 90.70 5.46
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 138 60.38 3.64
Parks/Recreation/Open Space - PR 4 3.66 0.22
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 14 25.62 1.54
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 15 288.65 17.39
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 5 79.59 4.79
null 10 94.16 5.67
Land Use Classification
Number of Parcels
Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 37 162.35 14.10
Accommodations: Low Density - A-1 12 49.47 4.30
Commercial - C 5 8.52 0.74
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 46 30.72 2.67
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 179 186.60 16.20
Fall River Study Area - FR_stdy 40 391.90 34.03
Public/Semi-public - INS 8 90.28 7.84
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 115 38.13 3.31
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 12 22.69 1.97
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 3 53.44 4.64
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 2 23.54 2.04
null 10 94.16 8.18
Land Use Classification
Number of Vacant Parcels
Vacant Acres by Classification
Percentage of Total
Accommodations - A 3 14.15 2.78
Accommodations: Low Density - A-1 2 3.59 0.71
Estate: 1/2 acre min. - E 9 8.60 1.69
Estate: 1 acre min. - E-1 62 63.87 12.57
Fall River Study Area - FR_stdy 18 97.56 19.19
Public/Semi-public - INS 1 0.42 0.08
Multi Family: 3-8 du/acre - MF 23 22.25 4.38
Parks/Recreation/Open Space - PR 4 3.66 0.72
Two Family: 27,000 S.F. min - R-2 2 2.93 0.58
Rural Estate: 2 1/2 acre min - RE 12 235.21 46.27
Rural Estate: 10 acre min. - RE-1 3 56.05 11.03

Next chapter - Chapter 6-7 - Downtown

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