On our third day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we visited the Fall River Visitor Center, hiked the Alluvial Fan, and stopped at the Moraine Park Discovery Center. Our plan was to then explore Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, and Sprague Lake, but we discovered that Bear Lake Road was closed due to crowding.
At that point, our options were to drive all the way to the Estes Park Visitor Center to catch the free park shuttle in or wait until 3:30 pm to come back when the crowds thin and Bear Lake Road reopens to personal vehicles. We decided on the later, which meant we had time to kill, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do…
We drove to the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park to hike to Copeland Falls, we hiked to the Birch House Ruins in Estes Park, and we visited Chapel On The Rock.
Sitting at the base of majestic Mount Meeker, Chapel on the Rock — also called The Stone Chapel and officially named Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel — is a church that is famous for it’s elaborate stone work and location atop a large rock formation.
The gorgeous little Catholic church in Allenspark, Colorado is one of the most unique chapels in the country and it’s setting near Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely stunning. It is also the only historic chapel we have visited that allowed us to access the entire church, even the upstairs balcony, which was pretty amazing.
While Chapel on the Rock is very well maintained and cared for, the surrounding landscape clearly hasn’t recovered from the horrible fire and floods that ravaged the property in 2011 and 2013. Consider leaving a donation if you visit to help the fundraising efforts.
About Chapel On The Rock
Monsignor Joseph Bosetti came across a large rock formation just east of Rocky Mountain National Park in 1916. Inspired by the scripture Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I’ll build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” Bosetti envisioned a church built on the rock.
He fought for years to not only raise the funds needed to build the church, but to keep the rock intact. Eventually, the land on which Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel stands today was generously donated by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Malo to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.
Chapel on the Rock was designed by Denver architect Jacques Benedict, and built by the Coulihan Brothers and Charlie Miller from Allenspark. Native stone from the surrounding area was used in the Chapel construction, which was completed in 1936. The chapel was dedicated by Archbishop Urban Vehr in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena.
The stunning, colorful stained glass window shows St. Catherine holding the body of Christ on the cross. It was designed by the world-renowned Franz Mayer and Sons Glass Works in Munich, Germany and was installed in 1937.
The property was named Camp St. Malo and was used as a boys’ camp led by priests and seminarians until the 1970s when it opened to girl campers as well. In 1984, Camp St. Malo closed temporarily then reopened in 1987 as the St. Malo Religious Retreat and Conference Center.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II prayed at Chapel on the Rock during his visit to Colorado for World Youth Day. During his visit, he blessed the chapel and later hiked the trail on the St. Malo Camp property, which was later renamed the John Paul II Trail.
In 2011, the 60,000 square foot conference and retreat center behind the church was burned to the ground in a fire, but thankfully the Chapel on the Rock survived untouched. Then in 2013, the 100 year rains produced massive flooding and created a devastating 5.0 mile landslide. The mud and rocks slid ferociously down Mount Meeker to the foot of the chapel, destroying the land and the historic Pope John Paul II Trail, but once again sparing the church.
The Archdiocese of Denver is currently working to preserve Chapel on the Rock, restore the Pope Saint John Paul II trail, and build a new visitor and heritage center.
Know Before You Go
- Chapel on the Rock is located on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway at 10758 Colorado Route 7, Allenspark, Colorado 80510 in Boulder County.
- The Chapel on the Rock, officially Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel, sits on the grounds of the Saint Malo Retreat, Conference, and Spiritual Center of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.
- It is open to the public every day from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm weather permitting. It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Mass is held at the chapel every Wednesday at 12:00 noon.
- There is a small, rough, dirt and gravel parking area outside the chapel. There is also limited parking near Saint William Lodge.
- There are no restrooms inside the chapel, but there are restrooms inside Saint William Lodge.
- Boulder County designated the Chapel a historic site in 1999.