For many tourists, Loveland is the city they pass through on US 34 on their way to Rocky Mountain National Park. It is often congested with traffic, especially shoppers going to and from the major box stores in town. Just when one is ready to label the town as obnoxious, the road opens up onto Lake Loveland and its stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Joggers round the banks and families fish from its shores. Then when you finally break free of the town proper, you see signs pointing out the weird rock formations known as the Devil’s Backbone. You realize there must be something more to Loveland than shopping and traffic.
Settlers in the 1850’s to the region (later to be known as Loveland) first established a coach station for the Overland Stage Line while farmers set up homesteads around the Devil’s Backbone and the Big Thompson River. When word came in the 1870’s that a line of the Colorado Central Railroad would be constructed through the area, an enterprising flour mill owner named David Barnes began platting a new town on eighty acres next to the surveyed line of the railroad. In 1881, the town of Loveland became incorporated, named after the president of the railroad, William Loveland. Loveland grew as a shipping point for ranchers and farmers.
Rather unbelievably, the principal crops were sugar beets and cherries. The Great Western Sugar Company operated out of Loveland from 1901 until 1985. In the 1920’s, the Spring Glade was the largest cherry orchard west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, droughts, blights, and killer freezes brought cherry farming to a close by 1960, but Loveland does hold an annual cherry pie celebration in July and cherry everything can be bought in tourist shops along 34. Now Loveland thrives as part of the Colorado high tech industry and forms a metropolitan region with its close neighbor, Fort Collins.
So what is there to do in Loveland besides shop? Start with Lake Loveland. Although originally formed out of a swampy depression in the 1890’s for farming irrigation and is now mainly owned by the City of Greeley as a public water supply, the lake and surrounding park offer all sorts of outdoor activities from swimming to tennis courts. The Benson Sculpture Park is located just north and boasts over a hundred sculptures in a beautiful outdoor setting. In fact, Loveland is an artist community with special art festivals in August.
Devil’s Backbone offers over two thousand acres and twelve miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking as well as up close views of the towering rock formations.
If nothing else, at least add some extra romance by sending your prestamped valentine’s card in a larger envelope to the Loveland Postmaster and have it imprinted with the official Loveland Valentine.