Throughout the years many great women have helped shape the Estes Park area. Through books, businesses, politics and athletics, the women of Estes Park have put this great town in the world’s spotlight. Their contributions are felt and their sentiments are reflected, whether known or unknown, every time someone falls in love with Estes Park.
Although Isabella Bird wasn’t native to the Estes Park area, or even the U.S., her time here made a lasting impact. On her expedition to Estes Park in 1873 Bird became the second woman to summit Colorado’s famed 14er, Longs Peak, just one month after Anna E. Dickson summited. Isabella Bird’s experiences during that autumn stay in the Estes Park area were documented in the book A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. The book is a collection of letters Bird sent her sister and tells tales of rustic ranchers, hearty settlers and hints of romance with a certain “Rocky Mountain Jim”. Her book, and others like it, were integral in sparking the interest in establishing national parks.
One of Estes Park’s pioneer female entrepreneurs, Ann Wolfram homesteaded land near Lily Lake to construct a teahouse for passing travelers. Known as the “Wigwam” Wolfman’s teahouse sold refreshments and Native American handicrafts to passing travelers. Wolfman went on to own a curio shop downtown Estes Park and was known as one of the first, and most successful, entrepreneurial women of the area.
The Estes Park Women’s Club
Organized in 1912, The Estes Parks Woman’s Club’s first year focused on building mountain trails around Estes Park to make scenic areas accessible to hikers and horseback riders. The group raised funds to support Enos Mills, the “Grandfather of Rocky Mountain National Park” in his efforts to get the park established and a key early member, Mary Belle King Sherman, gave one of two keynote speeches at the park’s dedication ceremony in 1915. Later, they turned their attention to the town. In 1922 The Woman’s Club’s efforts led to the construction of the Estes Park Public Library. For over 100 years the Estes Park Woman’s Club has assisted with many community-focused efforts from historical preservation to national park improvements, scholarships to flood recovery.
Margret Fuller Boos
In 1928 Margaret “Peggy” Fuller Boos became Rocky Mountain National Park’s first ranger-naturalist. With a PhD in Geology, Boos led dozens of hikes and taught evening programs for the park. She went on to pen over 50 publications and established the Department of Geology at the University of Denver. While a ranger, Boos wore the same uniform as the men and helped pave the way for future women in the National Park System. Today, she has a mountain named for her in central Alaska – “Peggy’s Peak”.
Wendy Koenig Knudson
While attending Estes Park High School in 1972 Wendy Koenig Knudson was approached to compete in her first Olympic Games for track and field. Her running career continued to have many successes, including three All-America awards and a profile in Sports Illustrated. Koenig competed again in 1976 Olympic Games, where she became the second American to break the 2-minute mark for the 800 meter race. She still holds Colorado State University records for the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters. Today, Koenig serves as a Trustee for the Town of Estes Park.
Truly a woman reaching new heights, Paige Claassen is a professional climber from Estes Park. Claassen has made numerous first females assents including Grand Ole Opry at the Monastery, Colorado and Motley Crux in Deep Creek, Washington. Continually pushing the limits Claassen helps make a name for female climbers around the world and uses her sport to draw attention to non-profit efforts for women and children around the world through her ‘Lead Now’ video initiative. Paige still resides in Estes Park part-time where she concocts high-altitude baking recipes and trains in Rocky Mountain National Park.