Lost Elk Ranch is a picturesque Colorado high country ranch nearly surrounded by national forest featuring excellent wildlife habitat, water resources and luxury improvements. The 1,378± acre property consists of 738± deeded acres plus adjacent 640± acres of state land controlled by the ranch. It is an exceptional wildlife property featuring trophy-caliber elk, mule deer, black bear and an occasional moose. A diverse landscape of aspen groves, dark timber, mountain meadows, sagebrush and creeks flow over multiple drainages, providing excellent habitat and attracting game from surrounding public lands. The ranch has abundant water with three streams, stocked fishing ponds, historic water rights and irrigated meadows. The recently constructed 5,700± square foot home incorporates the finest materials and a well-designed floor plan for guests and entertaining. Located less than 30 miles south of Steamboat Springs in the secluded upper Morrison Creek valley, the ranch is bordered by over 5 miles of national forest with the Gore Range and Sarvice Creek Wilderness to the east and Green Ridge to the west.
Just the Facts
- Located less than 30 miles south of Steamboat Springs in the secluded upper Morrison Creek valley, the ranch is bordered by over 5 miles of national forest
- 738± deeded acres plus adjacent 640± acres of state land controlled by the ranch
- A diverse landscape of aspen groves, dark timber, meadows, sage and willowed creek bottoms flow over multiple drainages, providing excellent habitat and attracting game from surrounding public lands
- The ranch has abundant water with three streams, stocked fishing ponds and historic water rights
- The recently constructed 5,700± square foot home incorporates the finest materials and a well-designed floor plan for guests and entertaining
The largest ranch in the upper Morrison Creek valley, Lost Elk Ranch spans from the national forest on one side of the valley to the national forest on the opposite side. The ranch itself is made up of predominantly gently rolling country, while the mountain ranges on either side are steeper and more rugged. This distinctive setting creates one of the unique characteristics of the ranch - the combination of beautiful mountain scenery with land that is very usable for a Colorado high country ranch.
A number of drainages flowing off the national forest come through the ranch on their way to Morrison Creek. The most significant of these, Clear Creek and Muddy Creek, are both year-round live water creeks. They add their flows to Morrison Creek which meanders through the State lease portion of the ranch for 2.5± miles. The lower elevations on the ranch are defined by the riparian corridors which are comprised of old growth spruce, willows and tall grasses. There are a number of springs and ponds located throughout the ranch, providing year-round sources of water.
The multiple side drainages flowing directly from the national forest onto the ranch result in a variety of slopes with many aspects. This geography provides for diverse ecology including aspen groves, riparian areas, sagebrush, secluded meadows and north slopes with dark timber. The majority of the trees on the ranch are aspen with smaller numbers of spruce, fir, lodgepole pine, willows and mountain oaks. There is an appealing blend of open meadows and areas of mixed grass with scattered trees throughout the ranch which are a huge attractant for big game.
Elevations range from just over 8,000 feet along Morrison Creek to near 8,600 feet at the highest elevations along the national forest boundaries. Beyond the ranch to the east and to the west, the mountains in the national forest lands rise to over 10,000 feet in elevation.
The ranch enjoys excellent access with two private ingress/egress points with locked gates along County Road 16. A graveled interior ranch road provides access to the various improvements locations and destinations throughout the ranch. From the main entrance gate, the ranch road crosses Muddy Creek and a pond as it climbs to the owner’s residence. The road then proceeds to the northwest, crossing a meadow to Clear Creek, where the ranch headquarters structures are located along with a pond, sporting-clay throwers, and a gate into the national forest. Beyond the headquarters the road splits, with one fork traveling through the State lease and connecting back to County Road 16, and the other providing access to the spotting cabin and a number of spur roads which lead to additional national forest access gates as well as ponds and the upper Beaver Creek drainage. The interior ranch roads have been well built and maintained, providing easy vehicular and foot access to nearly every corner of the property.
Like many areas of the Western United States, the Morrison Creek valley was recently impacted by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. During the 2000s, the combination of drought, overcrowding and old age led to stressed lodge pole pines which became susceptible to the beetles. Desiring to create healthier forests on the ranch and State lease land, current ownership has been engaged in an extensive timber management regimen including the selective harvest, thinning and removal of infested and dead pines. Over the course of nearly a decade, these efforts have resulted in the growth of high quality browse and beneficial undergrowth for wildlife as well as allowing immature generations of pine and aspens to thrive.
Formerly the beetle-infected areas consisted of a monoculture of lodgepole pines lacking variety in age class. The trees were so closely spaced that they were nearly impenetrable and with the thick canopy blocking sunlight there was little ground-level vegetation. This ongoing timber management has resulted in much broader diversity of tree species and age classes as well as more abundant grasses. Not only is the newly varied landscape more beautiful to look at today, but the regenerating habitat is significantly healthier and more beneficial to a wide range of wildlife species.
There is a reason the Morrison Creek valley has historically been a “high-end neighborhood.” It is a beautiful Colorado mountain valley that is relatively secluded, yet allows landowners back-door access to vast national forest and wilderness areas. It is proximate to Steamboat Springs and Stagecoach while at the same time off the beaten path and regarded as one of the best areas in northwest Colorado for wildlife and big game hunting. Lost Elk Ranch is an exemplary property of the Morrison Creek valley. Combining exceptional land and superb improvements, it is befitting that this ranch anchors the head of the valley.
Learn about the locale
Lost Elk Ranch is located in the beautiful Morrison Creek valley of Routt County in northwest Colorado. The ranch is approximately 28 miles south of Steamboat Springs, 17 miles southeast of Oak Creek and 10 miles southeast of Stagecoach Reservoir. The ranch is accessed by County Road 16, a gravel road maintained throughout the year. County Road 16 connects to paved County Road 14 to the north at Stagecoach Reservoir, about midway between the ranch and Steamboat Springs. County Road 14 then connects with paved State Highway 131, the main artery between Interstate 70 in the Vail Valley and Steamboat Springs. Heading in the other direction from the ranch, County Road 16 continues to the southeast over Lynx Pass to State Highway 134, which is the shortest summer access to Kremmling, I-70 and Denver. The scenic 28 mile drive from the ranch to Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Ski Resort is driven in about 40 minutes. The local general aviation airport is located on the northern edge of Steamboat with commercial air service available at the nearby Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden (70± minutes), the Eagle County Regional Airport serving the Vail Valley (1.5 to 2 hours) or at the Denver International Airport (3 to 3.5 hours).
The Morrison Creek Valley is a quintessential Colorado mountain valley replete with rushing streams, lush meadows, abundant wildlife and beautiful scenery. The Gore Range and Green Ridge mountains of the Routt National Forest flank the valley to the east south and west. Gently rolling hills and open meadows at the heart of the valley transition into timbered mountainsides interspersed with rugged rock outcroppings. The upper Morrison Creek valley is comprised primarily of national forest lands, with a limited number of private properties consisting of equestrian estates, guest ranches and recreational retreats. The valley is unique in that while secluded, it is easily accessible on well-maintained roads from the Steamboat Springs resort area throughout the year.
Steamboat Springs (pop. 12,100) is a dynamic community that balances its stature as a world-class destination resort along with a proud western heritage and character. The area provides a blend of working ranches, mountain retreats and world-class skiing along with a wide variety of complementary amenities and services. Regarded as a four-season resort town, Steamboat is home to a wide range of shopping and dining options, and boasts excellent public and private schools as well as modern health care facilities. Oak Creek is a smaller town with all the basic services including local restaurants, fuel, convenience, banking and grocery stores. The Stagecoach area is a bedroom community for Steamboat and attracts residents and visitors with a variety of recreational opportunities. Formerly home to a small family ski resort, the area is now anchored by the 820-acre Stagecoach reservoir on the Yampa River.
A combination of valley floor exposure and elevations ranging from 8,000 feet to 8,600 feet insure that the ranch benefits from mild temperatures during the heat of the summer, while enjoying warmer temperatures than the surrounding mountains during the winter months. Its location on the western slope of the Continental Divide also contributes to the ranch’s lush vegetation, which provides higher-quality grazing for wildlife and livestock than that experienced at the same elevation on the eastern slope of the divide.
Lost Elk Ranch is rich in history, having been homesteaded in 1916 by the Miles family after they recognized that its rich soil, abundant water and easy terrain made it ideal land for raising hay and cattle. With only three owners since the original land patent, the ranch continues its rural heritage and celebrated its 100th year of operation in 2016. Today the attractive natural resources have been accentuated by significant investment in roads, infrastructure, improvements, new ponds and timber management to position the ranch beautifully for the next century. Additionally, previous owners of the ranch have elected not to restrict the ranch with any conservation easements, leaving all potential preservation and development options open to future owners.
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
Deeded Acres: 738±
State Leased Acres: 640±
Total Leased Acres: 640±
Total Acres: 1,378±
Lowest Elevation: 8,000
Highest Elevation: 8,600
Lost Elk Ranch holds the agricultural lease on 640± acres of adjoining state trust land, (Lease Number AG 45036). The lease grants usage of the land including the private access road traveling between County Road 16 and the ranch deeded lands. Access by the general public is prohibited March 1 through August 31 and thereafter only foot and horseback usage by the public is permitted. This lease may be assignable to the purchaser subject to the written approval of the State Land Board. The state trust land is not included in the purchase price nor is there any value in purchase price associated to the lease. The seller will relinquish its rights in the lease at closing. The application for the lease is the responsibility of the purchaser after closing and the assignment. The State Land Board may charge a fee for approval of the assignment.
From its stately setting on an elevated bench at the edge of an aspen grove, the owner’s residence overlooks a pond and meadow framed by the backdrop of timbered hillsides in the national forest rising up from the ranch. This location allows both intimate views of the immediate forest and local wildlife as well as expansive 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain landscape.
The ranch residence complements its magnificent natural surroundings. Constructed in 2007, the contemporary mountain home incorporates the finest in building materials and finishes. The well-designed floor plan creates ample space for both entertaining and comfortably accommodating guests. Featuring 5 bedrooms and 5.5 baths, the 5,705± square foot home features high-quality natural stone, granite slabs, timbers, flooring, systems, fixtures and finishes throughout.
With its soaring ceilings, towering rock fireplace and two-story window wall, the great room serves as the central gathering place. The adjacent gourmet kitchen is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances, custom cabinetry and spacious granite countertops with plenty of room for prep and informal dining. The warm dining room is highlighted by its own fireplace and opens onto the expansive outdoor patio and entertainment area.
The home’s main-floor master wing includes an office with built-in cabinets and shelves, and a stone fireplace.
The spacious master bedroom is exquisitely finished and features an exceptional en-suite bath that is both modern and functional.
A large guest bedroom suite, powder room, foyer, laundry and mud room complete the main floor interior of the home. The upper level features a living area with fireplace, an exercise room and three additional guest suites.
An attached 936± square foot garage provides heated parking for three vehicles. Large outdoor patio areas compliment the interior living spaces and provide plenty of spaces for dining, entertaining and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Located to the west of the owner’s residence, the structures of the headquarters area of the ranch consist of a log building with two large sliding doors used for equipment storage, two small historic cabins, and two small wooden structures overlooking a pond which house remote-control clay target throwers. The ranch corrals with three pens incorporate a wagon-wheel design to facilitate sorting and shipping. Just past the headquarters, a private gate provides access directly into the national forest along the Clear Creek drainage.
Capping off a scenic ridge at the opposite end of the ranch from the main residence is a rustic cabin beloved by hunters and non-hunters alike. Nestled beneath two huge ponderosa pine trees, this historic cabin was relocated to this spot because it offers an excellent viewing platform for the western part of the ranch. From the cabin, the land slopes down to the Beaver Creek drainage and then back up again as it rises and undulates through the ranch and continues into the national forest on Green Ridge. A vast area of prime wildlife habitat can be viewed from this location and consequently many fall days begin and end at this cabin.
There are a variety of water resources which augment the wildlife component of the ranch. A total of seven ponds, two streams and a larger creek provide reliable sources of water for recreation, irrigation and aesthetics. Clear Creek and Muddy Creek drain the northeastern slope of Green Ridge and flow directly onto the property from the national forest. Both Clear Creek and Muddy Creek are small streams and tributaries to the larger Morrison Creek, which flows through the State lease portion of the property.
Morrison Creek is a fishable stream with populations of brook trout. The channel distance of Morrison Creek on the state lease portion of the ranch measures 2.5 miles. Additionally, three of the seven ponds have been previously stocked with brown or rainbow trout. The remaining ponds serve as reliable sources of water for both livestock and wildlife. The ranch holds all the rights in Muddy Ditch No. 1 out of Muddy Creek and for Muddy Ditch No. 2 out of Clear Creek, for a total of 9.7 cfs with appropriation dates in 1903 and decrees in 1916. In addition, there are three adjudicated springs with a total right of .09 cfs.
The most recent property taxes for the ranch were approximately $8,218.
Learn about the recreational amenities
Lost Elk Ranch truly stands out for its wildlife and big game hunting opportunities, especially for Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer. The ranch features a wide variety of terrain and vegetation, including open hillsides, secluded meadows, ridgelines, steep north-facing slopes, riparian areas, dark timber, glades, wallows and aspen groves. This diversity gives the ranch a large number of “transition zones” where one habitat type borders another. These edge areas are very desirable for healthy wildlife populations. Additionally, the slopes in the adjacent national forest are significantly steeper and more heavily treed than on the ranch. These serve as excellent cover and bedding areas for elk while the numerous meadow and transition zones on the ranch are magnets for the elk and deer to feed and water.
The gentle topography of the ranch also makes it a joy to hunt. It is easy to get around the ranch on vehicle or foot and there are a variety of good glassing points. A number of prime habitat locations with water are spread around the ranch. The multiple drainages allow a hunter to hunt one drainage and leave the others untouched. Because the hunting on the ranch has been carefully managed for many years, quality mature bulls are seen every year, including many who grew up on the ranch.
In fact, the Morrison Creek Valley, Green Ridge and the Sarvice Creek Wilderness areas surrounding Lost Elk Ranch have a long-standing history of producing trophy bull elk and mule deer. The habitat, water and protected nature of the ranch have consistently attracted mature bull elk and some exceptionally large trophy bull elk have been quietly taken in the area in the recent past. The ranch is also home to the occasional black bear, moose and Merriam’s turkey.
The ranch is located in Game Management Unit #15, which offers an unlimited either-sex elk archery license and unlimited bull tags for two of the four rifle seasons. This means that an elk hunter can purchase an over-the-counter license for either of the 9-day rifle seasons or the month-long archery season. It does not matter whether the hunter is a resident of Colorado or a non-resident. Moose, mule deer, antelope, black bear and mountain lion licenses are available for Unit #15 through the regular Colorado Parks and Wildlife draw process.
Lost Elk Ranch combines location and natural resources to provide a multitude of recreational opportunities. In addition to the exclusive big game hunting and fishing on the property, there is more available in the surrounding public lands in virtually every direction from the ranch. Outstanding lake and river fishing for trout is within 10 miles at Stagecoach Reservoir and the Yampa River Tailwater below the dam. Unlimited opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling exist on the property and in the adjacent Routt National Forest. Nearby 820 acre Stagecoach Reservoir, home to the state record northern pike, offers all forms of boating and fishing. World-renowned skiing and a number of tremendous golf courses are found at and around the base of nearby Steamboat Ski Resort as well as to the south of the ranch in the Vail Valley.
Learn about the general operations
Lost Elk Ranch is primarily utilized by current ownership as a recreational family retreat; however, the ranch’s long tradition of cattle grazing continues to this day. Carrying capacity is approximately 70 pairs or 100 yearlings for the grazing season including the permit on the State lands. The water rights are currently used for irrigated pasture; however, the hay meadows historically produced up to 150 tons annually without the use of fertilizer and could be hayed again by future ownership.