North Routt Elk River Guest Ranch back on the market |

North Routt Elk River Guest Ranch back on the market

— One of Steamboat's longstanding North Routt guest ranches is back on the market three years after it most recently sold.

Christy Belton, of Ranch Marketing Associates, has listed the Elk River Guest Ranch on Seedhouse Road/Routt County Road 64 for $995,000. After operating it for 15 years, previous owners Bill and Kathy Hinder sold the guest ranch in December 2009 to a group led by Peter Fleps, of Chicago, for $1.4 million.

And while it still is a turnkey guest ranch operation with U.S. Forest Service permits for horseback rides and wilderness drop camps in place, the ranch also has potential as a family compound for new owners who enjoy trout fishing, hunting, boating and hiking.

The ranch includes a piece of Elk River frontage for fishing in the freestone stream, and it's possible to saddle a horse and ride directly onto National Forest land.

Since the 2009 sale, the ranch has been operated by managers hired by the owners. Guest ranch operations have been suspended, but the dinner sleigh rides, a commercial activity permitted by Routt County on the ranch, continued throughout winter 2012-13.

The 38.84-acre ranch includes an owner's residence/office and four cabins set in trees overlooking the Elk River. They range in size from 378 to 750 square feet. There also are teepees for the enjoyment of guests and corrals and sheds including a barn suitable for equipment and tack, Belton said.

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Routt County officials recently confirmed to her that the main residence could be enlarged or replaced with no limitation on total square footage. The county's special-use permit also would allow use of the cabins as private residences.

Three water wells, including two licensed by the state for commercial uses, are critical to the operation. But Elk River frontage within the property, and just across Seedhouse from the buildings, increases the value and appeal of the ranch, Belton said.

Elk River access includes one-third of a mile of private access, 900 feet shared with five adjacent lots and another 900 feet that is exclusive to the Elk River Guest Ranch, Belton said. There also is a public stretch of the river just upstream. And ranch owners who own horses easily could trailer them to nearby trailheads leading to wilderness lakes for a day trip.

"The home and cabins are very comfortable. It would be an ideal hunting and fishing retreat for a large family or group of people but also an opportunity for somebody wanting to continue guest ranching operations," Belton said. "Because it has been a guest ranch for so many years and profitable for most of those, I believe it can still be profitable again.”

Within the past two years, the nearby Dutch Creek Ranch, across a county road from Steamboat Lake State Park, with more substantial buildings on 98 acres sold for $1.46 million in January 2012.

The closest competition on the market today is represented by the historic Columbine Cabins. Just northwest of Steamboat Lake on Elk River Road/Routt County Road 129, the Columbine compound is listed for sale by Darrin Fryer, of Prudential Steamboat Realty, for $1.4 million. It has nine rustic cabins, some dating to the 1800s, plus a small store and a modern lodge with showers.

Belton, who ranches with her husband, Matt, farther down the Elk River Valley, said the North Routt community has become much more socially connected in recent years. Elk River Guest Ranch is within minutes of the Clark Store and post office where fresh produce, pastries and staples are conveniently available. There are three restaurants, one at Glen Eden and two more near Steamboat Lake in Hahn's Peak Village.

But the real game changer, she said, is the public North Routt Community Charter School where she takes her son to school and pauses to exchange conversation with the far-flung neighbors.

The Hinders told the Steamboat Today in 2009 that dinner sleigh rides offered in winter had become important economic contributors to their operation with a typical 40 guests per night during the height of ski season and as many as 3,000 sleigh ride participants per winter. The ranch faced new competition for sleigh ride guests during the season that is just winding down after Steamboat Ski Area began hosting dinner sleigh rides at Haymaker Golf Course.

There was an era 30 years ago when there were grander plans for Elk River Guest Ranch, which now is flanked by two luxurious guest ranches, The Home Ranch in Clark and Vista Verde Guest Ranch farther up Seedhouse Road toward Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.

Routt County approved a plan in 1983 by then-owner Robert H. Moss to add 17 guest units on adjacent property as well as a lodge and swimming pool. Those additions were never realized, but Elk River guest Ranch remains a landmark commercial operation with a location close to the most scenic attractions in the greater Yampa Valley with recreational permits that would be hard to replicate.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email