Activites on the Little Thompson River


The Little Thompson River, a hidden gem in the northern Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, flows more than 50 miles from its headwaters in the Roosevelt National Forest to its confluence with the Big Thompson River. This unique and beautiful riverine system is relatively remote and well-suited as a wildlife corridor.


  • The Little Thompson River is located in the northern Front Range of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, flowing from the Roosevelt National Forest to the Big Thompson River.
  • The river provides a diverse ecosystem and supports various wildlife species.
  • The Little Thompson River offers recreational opportunities such as hiking, fishing, and rafting.

Exploring the Natural Beauty of the Little Thompson River

The River’s Ecosystem and Wildlife

The Little Thompson River boasts a rich and diverse ecosystem, with many plant and animal species depending on its riparian habitat. The river banks were historically well-vegetated, and beaver activity has been prevalent, influencing the development of pools and the extent of riparian vegetation.

Hiking Trails Near the Little Thompson River

Hiking enthusiasts can explore the natural beauty of the Little Thompson River by traversing the trails along its banks. Some popular hiking trails include:

  • The Little Thompson Overlook Trail, which follows the river for several miles and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape
  • The Blue Mountain Trail, which leads to a scenic overlook of the river and the surrounding mountains

When hiking near the Little Thompson River, always prioritize safety by wearing appropriate footwear, bringing plenty of water, and being aware of weather conditions.

Water-Based Activities on the Little Thompson River

Fishing Along the Little Thompson River

The Little Thompson River is home to various fish species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout. Anglers can enjoy excellent fishing opportunities along the river, particularly in the sections below Lake Estes along Highway 34.

When fishing in the Little Thompson River, be mindful of the regulations and best practices:

  • Obtain a valid Colorado fishing license before casting your line.
  • Practice catch-and-release to help maintain the river's fish populations.
  • Use appropriate fishing gear and techniques to minimize harm to the fish.

The Thrill of Rafting on the Little Thompson River

While the Little Thompson River may not be as well-known for rafting as some other Colorado rivers, it still offers exciting opportunities for whitewater enthusiasts. The river’s fast-moving water and steep gradient in some sections provide a thrilling experience for experienced rafters.

If you’re planning a rafting adventure on the Little Thompson River:

  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket and helmet.
  • Go with experienced rafters or join a guided rafting tour.
  • Be aware of the river's conditions and potential hazards.

Environmental Conservation Efforts

Protecting the Little Thompson River’s Natural Habitat

Conservation efforts are crucial to maintaining the Little Thompson River’s natural habitat and ecosystem. Following the devastating September 2013 flood, which destroyed much of the riparian corridor, restoration projects have been underway to repair and protect the river’s environment.

As a visitor to the Little Thompson River, you can contribute to conservation efforts by:

  • Practicing Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out your trash and minimizing your impact on the environment
  • Supporting local organizations involved in river conservation and restoration projects
  • Educating yourself and others about the importance of preserving the Little Thompson River's natural habitat


What is the best time of year to visit the Little Thompson River for outdoor activities?

The best time to visit the Little Thompson River for outdoor activities is typically from late spring to early fall, when weather conditions are most favorable for hiking, fishing, and rafting. However, the river offers year-round opportunities for exploration and recreation, depending on your interests and experience level.

Are there any permits required for fishing or rafting on the Little Thompson River?

A valid Colorado fishing license is required for fishing in the Little Thompson River. For rafting, no specific permits are needed, but it’s essential to check with local authorities or guided rafting companies for any additional requirements or regulations.

What are some recommended safety precautions for hiking and water activities?

When engaging in hiking or water activities near the Little Thompson River, always prioritize safety:

  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.
  • Check weather forecasts and river conditions before setting out.
  • Let someone know your plans and expected return time.
  • Carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it.

Can beginners participate in rafting tours on the Little Thompson River?

While the Little Thompson River offers exciting rafting opportunities, some sections may be more suitable for experienced rafters due to the fast-moving water and steep gradient. Beginners can still enjoy rafting on the river by joining guided tours led by experienced professionals who can provide instruction and ensure safety.

How can visitors contribute to the conservation of the Little Thompson River’s natural environment?

Visitors can contribute to the conservation of the Little Thompson River’s natural environment by practicing responsible outdoor ethics, such as Leave No Trace principles. This includes packing out trash, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and staying on designated trails. Additionally, supporting local conservation organizations and participating in volunteer opportunities can help protect and restore the river’s habitat.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.