Vagabond Ranch – Colorado

Vagabond Ranch House is a unique vacation retreat offering comfortable furnishings.  The house is designed to accommodate large groups and gatherings.  Five bedrooms and large open floorplan provide comfortable accommodations with plenty of space that sleeps up to 15.

The Vagabond Ranch is located in Grand County, Colorado, and consists of approximately 76.22 (now 108) acres at the 9,300–foot level. The entrance to the property is just off County Road #4 near Stillwater Pass. … (Bill and Willow Creeks flow through the Ranch year around.) Most of the Ranch is surrounded by the Arapaho National Forest. It is perhaps one of only three privately–owned parcels within this part of the Arapaho National Forest.

The history of this area dates back hundreds of years when it was a favorite hunting ground for the Ute and Arapaho Indians. The place where Bill Creek meets Willow Creek is reputed to be a sacred ground for the Ute Indians and perhaps was used as an area for wedding ceremonies.

Later, in the 1800’s– the Vagabond Ranch site was used as a stagecoach stop on the route from North Park in Wyoming to Middle Park in Colorado. There was some activity in the area in the late 1800’s when gold was Placer–mined along Willow Creek. The Homestead Entry Survey for 106.12 acres is dated 1882. Later still, there is some evidence that the ranch also provided housing for workers in a nearby Gilsonite mine. (Gilsonite, a mineral somewhat like coal, was used not only to produce heat but as an electrical conductor in early telephone receivers.)

Today one can still find the remains of the inactive Gilsonite mine near the ranch, and there is an easement across the ranch property identified on maps as the “Gilsonite Trail,” which was probably the route used to haul the product to market. Just as was the case with La Mesita Ranch in New Mexico.

Over the years others have used the ranch for hunting, trapping, and raising cattle, but the harsh winters and high altitude have made it difficult even in the best of times. From about 1925 to the late Forties, an industrialist named Apperson from Chicago used the ranch as a private hunting retreat and sometimes a camp for Denver orphans and other disadvantaged children. He reputedly traveled in his own rail car from Chicago to Granby and made the last 20 or so miles by automobile. Apperson built Parkview cabin near the ranch gate.

When Apperson neared death, he had his grave dug on the ridge above Willow Creek and asked that the ranch be sold to someone who would use it to continue to care for the disadvantaged. Apperson was not buried on the ranch, but the property was sold in 1949 to Charles and Veronica Pavek, grade school teachers at the Rumsey Hall School in Washington, Connecticut, who had already developed a traveling summer program for young people called “Camp Vagabond.”

During the Fifties and Sixties, the Pavek’s operated the ranch as a summer camp for students from the East Coast. Up to 125 campers were accommodated at a time. The students helped to construct many of the buildings on the property, including the main Ranch House and the additions to the old stagecoach building now known as the Bunkhouse. The ranch was also used as a base camp from which smaller groups took trips as far away as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park. Thus the adopted name, Vagabond Ranch, a place for the “vagabonds” to gather.

When the Pavek’s retired in 1973, they put a majority of the property up for sale, reserving a 27.79-acre section for their personal use. (Now part of the Ranch) Three successive purchasers signed agreements of sale, went bankrupt, and defaulted. During this time, with ownership tied up in the courts, the ranch was neglected for nearly two decades, and the heavy winter snows, summer varmints, and fall hunters took their toll on the buildings and facilities.

Richard and Linda Kelley purchased the property from the estate of Charles and Veronica Pavek and their five children in 1989. Since that time, the Kelley’s have done a great deal of work to bring the buildings and facilities up to the condition you find them in today.

Presently there are six main buildings on the property, three of which are winterized for year-round Living. The ranch has its own utility systems that provide solar-based electricity, water, heat, and sewer.  Other amenities and activities include a heated swimming pool, hot tub, volleyball court, baseball diamond, archery area, horseshoe pits, and barbecue area. Limited fishing is available in Willow Creek.

With the exception of several cats, there are no domestic or farm animals on the ranch, but in the early hours of the morning and early in the evening, evidence of black bear, elk, deer, and moose can be found as they cross the property or nearby.  It resembles the Wyoming Twin Creek Ranch in that respect.

Numerous activities are yours at the Vagabond Ranch.  Just bring your favorite “toys” and enjoy exploring on your own, the on-site manager will point you in the right direction.  There is plenty of wood for the fireplace and to build a bonfire to make s’mores and tell ghost stories.  Create lasting memories with your Family and Friends with a vacation at Vagabond Ranch.

Vagabond Ranch
Stillwater Pass, Granby, CO