A moderate six-mile hike through the National Forest leads to a fascinating array of wreckage from a World War II-era B-17 bomber. Among a handful of other crash sites in Colorado, this one stands out for how well-preserved the pieces are, as well as the scavenger hunt of trail directions to get to the site.
In the evening of October 16, 1943, a B-17 bomber left its base in Rapid City, South Dakota, on a training flight. While the exact conditions causing the crash are not known, the area of northern Colorado where the wreck is located is notorious for challenging wind and weather patterns, and it was not uncommon at the time for young and inexperienced pilots to face these conditions.
The plane crashed into the mountainside, killing the eight men aboard. While cleanup crews removed the plane’s fuselage and guns after the crash, a wide variety of engine and body pieces still remain, more than 70 years later. The debris ranges from nearly full engines and large sections of wing, to small pieces of scrap metal.
The hike begins at the Stormy Peaks trailhead near the Colorado State University Mountain Campus, previously called the Pingree Park campus. By following clues along the trail, and small green “B-17” tags marking the trees, you will eventually come across the wreckage site.
The hike ends as the trail approaches a steep slope of boulders and a clearing in the forest where you will see the debris. Take care on the boulder field, as jagged metal and loose rock can cause injuries.