Updated on March 7, 2017
The Knoll-Willows Nature Preserve
Across the street from Sunrise Ridge, you can see a large open space with a rocky hill (the Knoll) dotted with trees and a bubbling stream called Black Canyon Creek and the wetland around it (the Willows) running across it.
This is called the Knoll-Willows Nature Preserve and it covers almost 20 acres. It was almost developed to become an outlet mall at one time, but it was thankfully saved in 2002 and turned into an open space for everyone, people and animals alike, to enjoy.
You’ll notice two structures in the open space, an old cabin known as The Birch Cabin and a decaying stone structure up at the top, called The Birch Ruins. These are important structures to Estes Park history and are preserved to give visitors a glimpse of the past.
Keep a keen eye on the nature preserve, almost daily we see mule deer walking in the trees. A neighbor told us that just last Spring there was a mama bear raising her cubs up there and they’d regularly see them climbing and playing up in the trees. Mother elk also use the shelter of the low trees to give birth to their calves. This happens around mid-May through July.
You can hike through the Knoll-Willows nature preserve and visit The Birch Ruins and The Birch Cabin. There’s a parking lot on Wonderview Avenue just across from The Stanley Hotel you can park in that takes you on the trail up on the ridge. You can access the willows by parking at the parking lot near the Estes Park Library and taking the trail behind the police station.
Here’s a video I found that takes you through the trail and gives you some great views from town. Even though you see a dog in this video, please note that dogs are not allowed in this open space area.