CRANE VIEWING LOCATIONS-updated 9/1/21
Download this page of viewing locations as a PDF here.
When viewing the cranes, please maintain a respectful distance and observe private property boundaries. Please remember, these are wild, migratory birds and don’t always behave in a predictable manner. If you have pets, please leave them at home or in the car. Click here to see the complete list of our Ethical Birding Guidelines.
The cranes roost at night in or near the Yampa and Elk Rivers west of Steamboat Springs. They fly out from their night roost at sunrise and head to nearby grain fields or wetland meadows. They will feed for several hours, then around 9:30-10:30 a.m. they return to the river to rest; a few cranes may continue to feed in fields for most of the day. Around 4:30 p.m. the cranes will fly out from the river and head back to the fields for another round of feeding. They return to the river shortly before or right after sunset.
The following are driving directions for crane viewing on your own.
IMPORTANT- Most of the cranes are staging on private property. Please respect the cranes by keeping your distance and respect private property owners by not trespassing. Unless you know that you are on public land, please view cranes from the side of the road. Always use caution when driving and exiting your car to observe cranes.
Directions from Festival Headquarters at Bud Werner Memorial Library, Steamboat Springs
(Areas where cranes have been seen, but no guarantee! ** = most consistently seen)
**Yampa Valley Regional Airport (CR 51) – From Steamboat, take Highway 40 past the Hayden Station Power Plant and Carpenter Ranch. Turn left (south) at sign for Yampa Valley Regional Airport (CR 51). Look for cranes in fields to the west after sunrise and before sunset. Continue along the airport access road (51A), looking for cranes in the fields to the north. When you are opposite the Galaxy Aviation building, look north for cranes in the distant fields by the airport. Look for cranes near the Uber/Lyft House on the north side of the road.
**CR 42 and CR 44 – Cranes are more often seen on CR42 than CR44. Drive west on US Hwy 40 for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto CR 42. Continue on CR 42 past the Silver Spur subdivision. As you head west on CR 42, look for cranes in the fields on both sides of the road, and especially in the fields opposite Marabou Ranch on the south side of CR 42. Admire the driveway with the “crane gates” but please, do not go down this driveway. Cranes often roost in the Elk River which is on the left before the “T” intersection with CR 44. CR 44 runs from Hwy 40 on the south to CR 129 on the north. At the intersection of CR 42 and CR 44, turn left or right on to CR 44. If you turn left (south) look for cranes in the meadows, especially opposite High Tide Ranch, 39765 CR 44, and in the meadows of the Zabel Ranch If you turn right (north) on CR 44, look for cranes on the right (east) just past the intersection with CR 46. Usually cranes are not seen past the cemetery on CR 44.
**CR 70 (Morgan Bottom Rd) – Drive west on US Hwy 40 for 18.4 miles. Make a slight right turn onto Routt County Road 70 (also known as Morgan Bottom Road). If you go over the railroad tracks on US Hwy 40, you have gone a little too far. RCR 70 is a gravel road. Cranes have been seen all along this road, but this year mainly in the Flanders Ranch wheat field just went of the intersection with CR 80 where the road bends sharply to the south. This road is a prime area for viewing pronghorn antelope, deer and elk, as well as cranes, both morning and evening.
**Hayden “Speedway” – Drive west on US Hwy 40 to the Town of Hayden. Turn left at Poplar Street (24.5 miles from Steamboat). Poplar St. becomes CR 53 after passing the Routt County Fairgrounds. Continue on CR 53 past the “speedway” (a bunch of old tires and a dirt track) to the ‘T’ intersection with CR 37. Turn left and look for cranes in all the adjacent fields (especially the cut wheat fields to the south) along this road for 1-2 miles (it becomes the Haul Road). If you don’t see many cranes in this direction, try heading back the other direction toward CR 53 and continue for ¼ to ½ mile and look back to the east of the road.
**69A – Drive west on US Hwy 40 for 21.2 miles. You will pass the Hayden Station Power Plant and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Take the first right turn (north) after the airport sign onto CR 69. Proceed less than 1⁄4 mile and turn left (north) onto CR 69A. Drive to the end of the road. Look for cranes in the wheat field to the east just before you get to the parking area. Walk to the viewing pad somewhat hidden in trees. Look north and west in the fields near the Yampa River. (Best at sunrise & sunset when the cranes are flying to and from their roost sites in the river, but cranes are seen at other times of the day as well.).
Yampa River State Park (State Park sticker needed to park here)- Drive west on US Hwy 40 through the Town of Hayden. Continue west approximately 2.3 miles; turn left (south) into the Yampa River State Park. (Must have a State Parks pass – daily or annual – to park here). Park in back lot by picnic shelter. Look for two-track “road” going west from the parking lot. Walk along the two track “road” passing tepees for approximately 400 feet (trail joins a gravel trail; stay left). At the fence and blind area, look to the meadow to the west for cranes.
Murphy’s Field – Drive west on US Hwy 40 through the Town of Hayden. Approximately 3 miles past Hayden, just past mile marker 104, look for a turn-off on your left (south). CAUTION- there is no sign or marker designating this turn-off and it comes up quickly! (Wild Life Zone sign is evident on opposite side of highway from where you turn.) Park in the small parking area and look in the surrounding fields.
Yampa River State Wildlife Area – Located south off of Highway 40 near the western border of Routt County. There are several entrances to this State Wildlife Area where cranes have been seen sporadically. The eastern-most entrance is just west of mile marker 102 and across from the rest area. Cranes have also been seen along Hwy 40 near mile marker 104 in the fields to the south (there are no large pull-offs on this section of Hwy 40).
ADDITIONAL CRANE VIEWING LOCATION IN CRAIG, CO
41180 N HWY 13, Craig, CO 81625
The Moon family is participating in our Crops for Cranes program and they welcome you to come out and view cranes on their property. In addition to supporting cranes, they own and operate Yampa Valley Fiberworks. You can visit their mill and store which features beautiful, useable yarn products. Visit their website at https://www.yampavalleyfiberworks.com for more information and directions to their property.
Thank you for helping to keep our cranes and our attendees safe and for respecting our crane-friendly private property owners.
Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc.