The Mont Alto Picnic Ground of today has a rich history which began on April 6, 1883 with the Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific narrow guage railroad. The RR's first train, nicknamed "Switzerland Trail", left Boulder for Penn Gulch (later named Sunset). The route went up Fourmile Canyon to Sunset where wagons completed the journey past Mont Alto to the mining operations in Ward.
In 1897 the Colorado and Northwestern Railway extended this narrow guage railway north to Ward and south to the Eldora, Nederland, Cardinal and Caribou areas. To serve these mining communities an order was placed for three powerful locomotives, to be numbered 30, 31 and 32. (Boulder owns Engine #30 today). The trains during this period usually carried mining supplies and ore to the mills.
When the mines started to play out this railroad retooled the line as a tourist route and renamed itself "The Switzerland Trail of America". "One need not go to Switzerland for sublime mountain scenery", touted the railroad ads. The line built a large lodge at Mont Alto that was used for concerts and dances. On the day the park opened, the city of Boulder closed for business so that everyone would have a chance to go to the "open house". Tourists packed the trains (which also carried kegs of beer packed in snow) for a fun filled day of picnicking and baseball. Music and dancing was enjoyed long after sunset.
This historic railway was bought in 1909 by The Denver Boulder & Western. The trains ran for several more years but finally the line closed down in 1919. Today the rails are gone but the route continues as a forest service road (FDR327) to be enjoyed by modern explorers. The Mont Alto Lodge is also gone... Today it's a picnic ground with a chimney and fountain to remind us of the "old days".
To enjoy the whole trail start at N40°01.069 W105°30.551 (Just north of Nederland) and drive east to Sugarloaf Mountain. At the Sugarloaf Mt. parking area turn left and drive W by NW to the town of Sunset. Turn right then left again on FDR327 and follow the railroad bed to Mont Alto.
My 4x4 club enjoyed a historical trip to the area in 2001. Hikers and bikers also share the Switzerland Trail today.