Due to the East Troublesome Fire in 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho National Forest, and the BLM land near Granby have fire damage and trail closures. Recent burn areas can be dangerous as it is still an unstable environment. Please check the Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park websites before you head into these areas.
The fire first started east of Kremmling on October 14, 2020. In the first three days, high winds and low humidity allowed the fire to spread to more than 10,000 acres. It spread east, causing state Hwy 125 to be closed on October 17, with 90 homes put on mandatory evacuation orders. From there, it grew to 30,000 acres, with winds gusts up to 60 mph shifting east toward Grand Lake, blanketing the entire area in a “mushroom cloud” of smoke.
Fueled by strong winds, fire activity increased dramatically on October 21. The fire crossed Highway 125 that afternoon and by evening, the fire exploded from 30,000 acres to 170,000 acres in about 24 hours. Moving at a rate of 6,000 acres (or 9.375 square miles) per hour, the fire raged through lodgepole pine forests and the Grand Lake and Lake Granby neighborhoods west of US Hwy 34. The fire narrowly missed the town of Grand Lake itself. Between late afternoon on October 21 and the early afternoon of October 22, the fire grew to 187,093 acres, spreading eastward into Rocky Mountain National Park. From there it crossed the Continental Divide and headed west toward Estes Park.
From the area north of US Hwy 40 near Granby and extending east to Grand Lake and Estes Park, there were more than 7,000 structures threatened and 35,000 people placed under a mandatory evacuation. With a total of 193,812 acres burned, it was the second-largest fire in Colorado recorded history and one of the most rapid-fire expansions ever. Red-flag weather conditions created by high winds and dry conditions, along with drought, numerous dead and down beetle killed trees, and poor humidity recovery overnight contributed to this historic fire behavior.
Approximately 30,000 acres (nine percent) of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) was impacted by the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires. The West Entrance to RMNP in Grand Lake was closed from October 21 to December 10, 2020. It is currently open for 10 miles to the Colorado River Trailhead. Trail Ridge Road from that point on (toward Estes Park) is always closed in the winter and remains closed currently. The Kawuneeche Visitor Center also reopened in late December. There is visible and extensive damage especially within the first five miles of entering at the Grand Lake entrance.
Watersheds affected by the fire include the Poudre River, North Fork of the Big Thompson River, North Fork Colorado River, Three Lakes (Grand, Shadow and Granby), Willow Creek, and the East Troublesome Creek. Sedimentation, debris flows, and water contamination will threaten drinking water supplies for years to come. The impacts will reach far beyond Grand County, which supplies water to major cities on the northern Front Range. Northern Water provides water to more than a million people.
There were 366 homes and an additional 189 structures (barns, sheds, etc.) destroyed by the East Troublesome Fire. The Grand County Wildfire Emergency Fund was established by the Grand Foundation to support the needs of Grand County residents who were evacuated, displaced, or lost their home due to the fire. Please consider donating if you can.
Thank you to the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce for providing information about the fire.