Jackson County, Colorado: Geography, History, and More


Jackson County, Colorado, is located in the northern part of the state and is the fourth least populated county in the state, with only 1,379 residents as of the 2020 census. Despite its small population, Jackson County boasts a unique geographical and cultural landscape that attracts visitors from all over.


  • Jackson County encompasses North Park, a large intermountain basin that holds the headwaters of the North Platte River.
  • Walden, the county seat and only incorporated municipality, is surrounded by pasture in the heart of North Park.
  • The county remains one of the best areas in the state to hunt, fish, and see moose and other wildlife.

Geography and Natural Beauty of Jackson County

The Landscape and Its Formation

The Jackson County area is situated in a high, relatively broad intermontane basin known as North Park, which covers 1,613 square miles. The basin is rimmed on the west by the Park Range and Sierra Madre Range, on the south by the Rabbit Ears Range and the Never Summer Mountains, and on the east by the Medicine Bow Mountains. Elevations range from 7,800 to 12,953 feet above sea level.

Wildlife and Natural Reserves

The county contains the Never Summer Wilderness, the 71,000-acre Colorado State National Forest, and the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. These areas are home to diverse flora and fauna, including large populations of elk, mule deer, antelope, bison, and waterfowl.

Historical Overview of Jackson County

Early Settlements and Development

Evidence of occupation by Paleo-Indian and Folsom people in North Park dates back at least 9,000 years. Ute people began occupying the area around AD 1400. White ranchers and prospectors arrived in the 1870s, and the town of Walden was established in 1890 as a commercial hub for North Park’s ranchers.

Economic and Cultural Growth

Ranching has been a significant part of Jackson County’s economy since the early 20th century. In 1910, the county had 165 farms and ranches that collectively owned more than 31,000 cattle and nearly 2,000 sheep. Mining, particularly for coal, also played a role in the county’s development.

Cities and Towns of Jackson County

Walden: The Heart of Jackson County

Walden, with a population of 608, lies along the Illinois River in the heart of North Park. As the county seat and only incorporated town, Walden serves as the commercial center for the county’s ranchers and visitors.

Smaller Communities and Their Charm

Unincorporated communities like Cowdrey and Rand contribute to the county’s diversity and appeal. Cowdrey lies north of Walden along State Highway 125, while Rand is located in the southern part of the county.

Outdoor Activities and Attractions

Recreational Opportunities

Jackson County offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, hunting, and skiing. The State Forest State Park and the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge are popular destinations for these activities.

Economic Landscape of Jackson County

Current Economic Drivers

Tourism, centered around the county’s scenic landscapes and recreational opportunities, is a significant driver of Jackson County’s economy. Ranching also continues to play a role in the local economy.

Infrastructure and Services

Transportation and Accessibility

State Highway 14 traverses the county westward from Cameron Pass through Walden, while State Highway 125 runs from the Wyoming border south to Rand. The remote nature of the county can present transportation challenges.

Public Services and Amenities

Despite its small population, Jackson County offers essential public services, including healthcare, education, and emergency services.


What are the main attractions in Jackson County, Colorado?

The main attractions in Jackson County include the Never Summer Wilderness, Colorado State Forest, Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, and the town of Walden.

How does the economy of Jackson County primarily sustain itself?

Tourism and ranching are the primary industries that sustain Jackson County’s economy.

What outdoor activities are available in Jackson County?

Jackson County offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and skiing.

Can you provide information on the history of Walden, Colorado?

Walden was established in 1890 as a commercial hub for North Park’s ranchers and serves as the county seat and only incorporated town in Jackson County.

What are the challenges facing Jackson County today?

As a remote and sparsely populated county, Jackson County faces challenges related to transportation, economic development, and access to services.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.