Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area
Location: Georgetown, Colorado
When to visit: Any time during daylight hours (late fall/early winter is peak viewing season)
Cost: Free to visit, but quarters are needed to use the telescopes
Time needed: 15-30 minutes
On my big road trip a few years ago, Yellowstone was the highlight for wildlife, but there was one creature I failed to see in that grand park – the bighorn sheep. Sheep are sometimes referred to as “the rock stars of the Rockies.” With an awesome title like that, how can you not want to see them?!
So while driving past Denver just a week after Yellowstone, I was excited to see a bighorn sheep viewing spot in Georgetown. Be aware, this is not a peaceful nature experience.
The viewing center is next to a highway, and you actually look across to the other side of the highway at the top of the mountains, so you’ll be putting up with the rumbling of hundreds of vehicles. You can try spotting sheep with the naked eye, but chances are you’ll need to use the scopes at the center, which offer a few minutes of viewing for a quarter.
I was there during the middle of the afternoon in the summer – the worst time of day and time of year to see sheep. After 10 minutes of looking through the scope, I was about to give up, when I suddenly saw something move against the rocks.
It was my first bighorn sheep sighting ever! Within five minutes, I spotted three more sheep close by. They were lying down and were hard to see until they moved.
There are four bighorn sheep in this photograph, in the rocks on the upper right. I know you can’t see them, but trust me, they are there!
Even if there are no sheep present when you visit, the pavilion gives some good information to educate visitors about bighorn sheep. One poster depicts the full life cycle of a sheep.
Ewes usually give birth to one lamb between May and July. Small groups of female sheep and their young spend the summer together, growing and finding food. Male sheep (rams) tend to spend the summer together in their own groups. In late fall, the “rut” begins as males fight each other for the right to mate with the females.
Ewes begin mating around age 2. Sheep can survive to be 10-15 years old if they can stand the harsh, snowy winters. Cool!
Revisiting the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area in Colorado, 2020
UPDATE: On another recent trip through the Denver area, I found myself back at the sheep viewing area, so I stopped by again. The second trip wasn’t as successful. I didn’t see any bighorn sheep this time around. Oh well, you can’t get lucky every time.
If you really want to see sheep in Georgetown, stop by during the annual Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival, which takes place in November. There, you can celebrate with lots of other sheep enthusiasts and take part in hikes, craft activities, and group sheep viewing events.
It looks like a fun, quirky event. I commend the folks in Georgetown for their efforts to market and publicize their sheep and try to bring in tourists for the event!
If you’re in the Georgetown area, make sure to check out some of Colorado’s other highlights, such as: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired visitor center in Rocky Mountain NP, the ski towns like Keystone, and America’s tallest sand dunes.