Surrounded by the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and White River and Routt National Forests, Meeker is a gateway to exploring the grandeur of northwest Colorado’s expansive public lands. There is easy access to peaceful spacious trails and uninterrupted family fun.
Plus, Meeker offers exciting getaways year-round — with snowmobiling in the winter, horseback riding in the summer and other outdoor activities, plus one-of-a-kind events like the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials.
As you drive along the Flat Tops Trail scenic byway, the collage of golden-hued aspens and rolling hills will inspire you to pull over and snap some photos. Detour off the highway to hike the Trappers Lake Loop Trail, a 5.5-mile path that encircles the second-largest natural lake in Colorado and is the birthplace of the American Wilderness Movement. In 1919, surveyor Arthur Carhart was looking at a site for a cabin resort development, but the lake’s sheer beauty inspired him to fight for the area’s protection, leading to the wilderness conservation movement we know today. Due to pristine wildlife-preservation efforts, the vicinity is home to the largest indigenous herd of elk in the world, as well as bald and golden eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, and more.
Each year, thousands flock to Meeker on the hunt for elk, deer, moose, and pronghorn to stock their freezers and feed their families. Wild game is one of the leanest meats you can consume, and hunting provides this for many. Most hunters these days respect the balance between wildlife- habitat control and the desire for a trophy. Hunters will encounter lower-elevation terrain and peaks more than 12,200 feet tall. This variation in altitude means more opportunities to hunt diverse species of wildlife and appreciate the autumn scenery.
One of Colorado’s unique events — the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials — takes place every September the week following Labor Day. This is the 33rd consecutive event, and border collies from the U.S., Canada, and South Africa and more gather each year to show off their herding prowess. Seven hundred and fifty yearling Merino Ewes are separated from their flock and summer home above Vail and Wolcott to be herded by these incredible dogs. The event is used as a way to educate, promote and preserve efficient and humane stock management. After you see these hardworking and well-trained dogs compete, enjoy the Jammin’ Lamb Festival — a culinary competition with unique cuisine from regional chefs, a beer garden and the opportunity to mingle with trainers and locals.
Since Meeker is tucked off the beaten path, winter-sports areas are less crowded than those at surrounding ski resorts. Hop on a snowmobile and traverse the 178 miles of trails in Rio Blanco County — 78 miles are groomed while the other 100 miles areseemingly endless untouched powder terrain, supplying a challenge for even the most skillful of riders. Check out the Yellow Jacket, Flat Tops and Ripple Creek Pass areas, where you can cruise steep canyons and hills before stopping to play in the snow in open parks and meadows.
If you’re more of a snowshoer or cross-country skier, the Marvine Snow Trail leads to the Marvine Creek Yurt — a cozy warming hut complete with furniture and a propane stove. Along the way, you’ll see breathtaking Colorado beauty — bright white powder sitting atop tree branches and the peaceful sounds of the natural forest.
Try your hand at drilling a hole in the ice as the early morning light peeks behind the mountain tops on an ice-fishing expedition. Pick up coffee and a breakfast burrito at one of Meeker’s breakfast and barista businesses before heading out on the ice to chill in your chair and catch a few. Lake Avery and Rio Blanco Lake are two top ice-fishing options, with trout, crappie and bluegill swimming free beneath the frozen surface.
If you’re in town on the first Wednesday of December, the Parade of Lights brings the holiday spirit to downtown Meeker. There is a community parade, tree-lighting ceremony, hot chocolate and caroling at the historic Meeker Hotel, or visit the first weekend in March to attend the Meeker Sled Dog Race, when musher-led teams of agile dogs race on a 1-mile cross-country course.
Once the snow thaws, Meeker’s lush wilderness begins blossoming. Get on the green at the Meeker Golf Course, a nine-hole course nestled at about 2,600 feet, surrounded by verdant hills and streams. There are three sets of tees for different skill levels and a new dining spot.
Then jump on your ebike or lace up your hiking boots at Phillip and Dorcas Jensen Memorial Park. Take the China Wall Trail to panoramas of the White River Valley and snow-capped mountains in the distance. For a picture-perfect moment, hike up at sunrise.
Warm up at the free White River Museum, located in seven historic structures built in 1880 by the U.S. Army soldiers who were stationed in the area to keep the peace between Ute Indians and settlers. The museum’s collections contain artifacts from the 1880s through the 1950s. Be sure to spend some time in the Ute Room, where Chief Colorow’s peace pipe resides — a Ute chief who was involved in treaty negotiations with the U.S. government — and check out the guns used in the 1896 Meeker Bank Robbery and interesting sights like a mounted two-headed calf.
You can also learn about the last major confrontation between a Native American tribe and the U.S. Army by visiting Mill Creek Battlefield Park, a memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 1879 Battle of Mill Creek.
As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, Meeker becomes a playground for action-packed adventures. Horseback riding is one of the best ways to experience the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, White River National Forest and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, and Meeker has many outfitters and guides to choose from. Trails traverse landscapes thriving with blooming wildflowers, primitive lakes and wildlife. On most trips, a mule deer, elk or moose may make a celebrity appearance on your ride.
Prefer motorized transportation? Roam the area on all classifications of OHV, from ATVs to dirt bikes along the East Wagon Wheel OHV Trails, more than 250 miles of trails and 16 interconnecting loops in the White River National Forest.
For fishing enthusiasts, the White River is one of the best-kept secrets by Colorado fisherman. Its crystal-clear waters offer opportunities for everyone — from experienced anglers to families. There are several public access points within a couple of miles of town, plus hundreds of mountain lakes and ponds for shore fishing and canoeing.
The warm-weather months are also packed with exciting happenings. The Summer Rodeo Series runs from early June through late August and has bull riding, barrel racing, team roping and mutton busting every Thursday night. Since 1938, Meeker has celebrated its Western heritage with the annual Meeker Range Call on the Fourth of July weekend. The event includes concerts, a barn dance, historical re-enactments of the Meeker Bank Robbery, a parade and one of the greatest fireworks displays on the Western Slope.
Photo credits: Biking and views, Joseph Rose; Downtown Meeker, David Petty; Flat Tops Wilderness, Gina Ray; Fall views in Meeker, Toni N. Francis; rest, Meeker Chamber of Commerce.