Where’s the Front Range?

Letter from Roger Kirkpatrick

Geography – January 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Hi Ed,

This is sort of a homeland question, did you move to Salida from the Front Range, as you state on page 45, or was it really the Great Plains?

I suspect you grew up on the Great Plains and that you, like most of Colorado’s population, used “Front Range”, even if incorrect, because it sounds better than Great Plains.

It’s like Coors claiming to use “Rocky Mountain Spring Water” even though I believe all of their brewing water comes from South Table Mountain sitting firmly in the Great Plains, for the same reason as above for your Front Range reference. Ironically, their industrial water — power plants, railcar and truck cleaning, etc. — come from Clear Creek which originates in the Rockies, partially from springs.

The vast majority of the Denver Metroplex is on the Great Plains although the western areas have (unfortunately?) been pushing up the foothills into the actual Front Range.


Roger Kirkpatrick



We can start with the simple stuff. I moved to Salida from Kremmling, which sits in Middle Park between the Front Range to the east and the Gore Range to the west. The northern boundary of Middle Park is the Park Range. So I didn’t move to Central Colorado from the Front Range. I grew up in Greeley, which is definitely on the Great Plains, and lived there and in Longmont before moving to Kremmling.

Now, as to what we mean by the Front Range, the unabridged dictionary at hand defines it as “a mountain range extending from central Colorado to S. Wyoming; part of the Rocky Mountains. Highest point Grays Peak, 14,274 ft. (4350 m.)”

Of course, we can get into boundary questions. Where do you leave the Great Plains and enter the Front Range? What are the borders of the transition Foothills zone?

In popular parlance, though, “Front Range” means not just the mountain range from Pike’s Peak in Colorado to Laramie Peak in Wyoming, but also something like “those parts of Colorado lying east of the Front Range where the Front Range is visible on clear days.”

When I took Colorado geography in college (circa 1970), that zone was called the “Front Range Piedmont,” piedmont being “a region lying at the foot of a mountain or mountain range.” That’s the term we ought to use for that area, and if we can remember to use it here, perhaps it might catch on elsewhere.

Ed Quillen