Jefferson lies in a large open valley at the northern end of South Park. There’s a general store, gas station, and seasonal cafe in town, The Hungry Moose Caboose. A historic railroad depot and one-room schoolhouse still stand from earlier times.
The unincorporated Park County community is located about twenty minutes east of Fairplay on Highway 285, at the western start of Kenosha Pass. The elevation of Jefferson is 9,501 feet, and it is surrounded by Pike National Forest with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Jefferson’s documented history begins in 1879 when the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad laid tracks in the area. The railroad built a depot in Jefferson, and soon after a post office was established.
Willard Head laid out the town because he was the rancher who donated land to the rail line. His property became known as Head Ranch and was said to have encompassed over one thousand acres in the area. Forty of these acres were designated for the town, which eventually served as a supply center for surrounding ranches.
Only 5 years later in 1884, the town had grown to include a general store, two butcher shops, a saloon, and a hotel. There was also a small schoolhouse that became a church every few weeks. The population in the town was always quite small, but it was an important place for nearby ranchers to meet up and restock supplies, similar to how it is today.
Jefferson Lake – This recreation area features a slew of nearby campgrounds, though none directly on the lakeshore. Fishing is popular at the lake, as well as picnicking. Backpacking and day hike trails are accessible along the Colorado Trail, which passes through the recreation area. It also goes by Georgia Pass, which is a rugged 4×4 route to Breckenridge.
- 1 mile east of town, make a right turn on Lost Park Rd and continue for about 20 miles. It dead ends at a Lost Park Campground, which has 12 sites and is first-come, first-serve. Alternatively, there are primitive campsites before the designated campground that are much easier to reach.
- Kenosha Campground is only 5 minutes from Jefferson and has several car camping sites with minimal amenities. It is located on the Colorado Trail for convenient hiking access.
- Read about the camping near Jefferson and South Park.
Fishing – Jefferson Lake is the closest and most popular place to cast a line, but there are also numerous small creeks in the area that you could shore fish from.
- French Pass trailhead is 7.8 miles out and back along French Creek and makes for a peaceful day hike. There are plenty of wildflowers in the warmer months.
- The Colorado Trail has a trailhead for Section #6 just 5 minutes away and offers a moderate hike to beautiful views of the mountains.
There are no hotels in Jefferson, but Fairplay has plenty of options to check out and is only a 20-minute drive away.
Activities near Jefferson
- Antero Reservoir (39mi)
- Jefferson Lake (7mi)
- Lost Creek Scenic Area
- Lost Creek Wilderness Area (15mi)
- Pike National Forest
- Tarryall (29mi)
- Boreas Pass (7mi)
- Georgia Pass (12mi)
- Guanella Pass (11mi)
- Kenosha Pass (4mi)
- Staunton State Park (33mi)
State Wildlife Areas:
- Tarryall Reservoir SWA (16mi)
- Alma (21mi)
- Aspen Park (39mi)
- Bailey (23mi)
- Como (7mi)
- Conifer (36mi)
- Evergreen (46mi)
- Fairplay (16mi)
- Georgetown (35mi)
- Grant (11mi)
- Hartsel (34mi)
- Pine (36mi)
- Shawnee (18mi)
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