The mountains surrounding New Castle, Colorado are on fire. But don’t panic. They’re always on fire, under the surface, out of sight.
The town, 12 miles west of Glenwood Springs and an inevitable stop along I-70, is home to some of the oldest burning coal seam fires in the country. While the fires themselves smolder underground, barren scars on the mountain sides are a reminder of their presence.
You’ve most likely driven through the Hanging Lake Tunnel on Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs. You’ve probably never noticed a giant hanger door or at least paid it no mind. Just behind that door sits a full-time fire and rescue department and one of the most technologically advanced traffic command centers in the state.
There’s a lot of action going on in the 4,000 foot tunnel situated next to the Colorado River, much of it you’d never get a chance to see – until now that is.
At first glance, Hidden Valley Trailhead inside Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t seem like much. Two lonely structures sit near a small parking lot, surrounded by stunning scenery: white, yellow and purple wildflowers dot a lush, green opening inside a lodgepole pine forest.
What you can’t see is the complicated past of this area. On winter days between the 1950s and 1990s, the mouth of this valley used to hold a ski lodge, ski school and a 500-car parking lot. Hills were dotted with skiers, connected by ski lifts and rope tows.