The business of Bigfoot: Sasquatch tourism brings cryptid-curious to Colorado (2024)

For $650 a head, Jim Myers leads cryptid-curious folks from around the world into the wilderness of Colorado’s Park County for a three-day camping expedition in search of the elusive Bigfoot.

Myers’s business, Rabbit Hole Adventures, provides tents, meals, guides, first aid kits and satellite phones as part of the quest. He also brings night-vision binoculars, thermal imagers and cameras.

To tackle the trek on horseback, Myers charges $1,400 a person. For a Sasquatch search easier on the wallet, the lifelong Bigfoot devotee hosts $125 night hikes with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the hairy creature. On expeditions he’s deemed successful, Myers said trekkers have witnessed a pair of uniquely glowing eyes through the trees or large, expertly woven branches forming a Sasquatch nest as evidence the mythical forest-dweller walks among us.

“Bigfoot is a lot more mainstream than it used to be,” Myers said “The number of people openly interested in the topic as opposed to not wanting people to know they’re interested for fear of being considered a nutcase has definitely increased. America is infatuated with Bigfoot.”

The business of Bigfoot: Sasquatch tourism brings cryptid-curious to Colorado (1)

Bigfoot can mean big business for Colorado’s rural and mountain towns. The National Paranormal Network hosts annual Bigfoot Adventure Weekends in Colorado to gather Sasquatch lovers to search for the creature, an activity often referred to as Squatchin’. Bigfoot-hunting professionals host private forest tours to show off their Sasquatch know-how and sighting spots. And businesses across the state rent out shuttles, cars or bikes for Bigfoot hunts.

Myers has been a Bigfoot aficionado since he was a kid after laying eyes on the famed Patterson-Gimlin film, footage captured in 1967 depicting a large, hairy creature walking on two legs through a Northern California forest.

The cryptid consumed Myers’ life so wholly that when he and his wife were rebuilding a 150-year-old grocery store in Bailey in 2012, they ditched the groceries and dedicated the store to Bigfoot instead.

Now the Sasquatch Outpost — a souvenir shop and museum dedicated to all things Bigfoot — is one of the more well-visited attractions in Bailey, Myers said.

“For a little town like Bailey, it’s a very popular destination,” Myers said. “We send people to the local restaurants, the gift stores and things just because once they’re in Bailey, then they want to do other things. We try to help everybody else along, as well.

Bigfoot travellers

It’s not easy to gauge Sasquatch’s economic footprint in Colorado. Believe it or not, the state doesn’t track the financial impact of Bigfoot tourism.

The Denver Post emailed the state tourism office requesting an interview to discuss the impact that unusual tourist attractions have on smaller, rural communities. The message was forwarded to an outside public relations firm, which declined to set up an interview.

“I actually do not know that much about Bigfoot tourism in Colorado,” a representative of Handlebar Public Relations conceded.

But Kevin McDonald, the special events coordinator for the town Estes Park, was game for a cryptid conversation.

The Larimer County town that serves as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park has hosted the Bigfoot Days Festival since 2019, luring Sasquatch enthusiasts from near and far.

“We celebrate all things Squatchy,” McDonald said.

About 5,000 people attend the festival, which features Bigfoot-themed vendors, Sasquatch celebrities from reality television shows like “Finding Bigfoot,” live music by the likes of Denver-based band That Damn Sasquatch, a contest to see who can do the best Bigfoot call and more.

The night before the event — Estes Park already Squatched it up in 2024, but the 2025 festival is set for April 26 — is the Bigfoot BBQ, where 150 people purchase tickets for an intimate dining experience with their favorite Sasquatch celebrities. This year, the dinner attracted people from eight states, McDonald said.

“It’s a very engaged crowd, and people do travel for their Bigfoot,” he said.

Nearly 75% of surveyed festival attendees said they came to Estes Park specifically for Bigfoot Days, McDonald said, according to a 2024 economic development survey of the event. More than 72% of people surveyed said they stayed in Estes Park and 88.2% said they spent the night in commercial lodging for an average of two nights.

According to the most recent state tourism report, visitors who stayed in a Colorado hotel, motel, or short-term vacation rental spent a combined $17.3 billion in 2022.Travel spending in Colorado increased 25.2% from $22.1 billion in 2021 to $27.7 billion in 2022, the state tourism report found.

Estes Park and its surrounding forests are ripe with Bigfoot lore.

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That’s why Andy Hitch, owner of Estes Park ATV and Jeep rental shop Backbone Adventures, said he wrote a blog post advertising an ATV travel guide for spotting Bigfoot.

Initially, Hitch was reticent to share his own Sasquatch encounters, having grown up in the mountains around Estes Park.

“I’m not huge into it,” he told The Post, admitting there was “a rumor mill” about spotting the creature.

Later, Hitch admitted to an experience of his own while dirt-biking through the mountains 14 years ago.

“Something ran in front of me,” he said. “It was tall and had dark-colored hair. I can’t say exactly what it was, but I don’t get riled about anything, and this made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’m not saying I saw something, but I’m not saying I didn’t.”

Hitch figured others might be looking to have a similar encounter. He was right.

Since writing his post, folks come to his business looking for an ATV or Jeep to get further back into the forest, he said, in the hopes of spying Bigfoot.

“Get out there and keep your eyes open,” Hitch said. “Who knows what you’re going to see out there? You might find antlers. You might just see Bigfoot.”

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“The wonder and mystery of what we don’t know”

The Bigfoot hunting expeditions don’t generate enough income for Myers to make a living. His bread and butter is the Sasquatch Outpost store and museum, while the expeditions are more of a hobby to continue fueling his passion, he said.

What keeps Myers and other Squatchers hooked?

“It’s the magic of the whole paranormal cryptid world,” Myers said. “Bigfoot is just one of the many unidentified, uncategorized species in the world. If Bigfoot are real — and they are — what else could be real? Are fairies real? Dogmen? Mothmen? It’s the wonder and mystery of what we don’t know and understand.”

Last year, a Bigfoot sighting in southwest Colorado went viral after photos and video taken from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad showed a Bigfoot-esque creature traipsing through nature. Debates ensued about whether the sighting was a marketing campaign or prank.

The Post reached out to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to see whether the sighting sparked more Bigfoot believers to come aboard, but the train folks were tightlipped.

Bigfoot has a number of talents most don’t know about, Myers said, including mind-reading and the ability to put thoughts into people’s brains.

Another skill? The ability to draw a crowd.

People from all over the globe have ventured out for Myers’ expeditions, he said, but even more have visited the museum and store to gaze upon the wonders of a 6-foot-tall fiberglass Bigfoot replica and a 7-foot-3-inch animatronic Sasquatch. Around 90,000 people have braved the cryptid models, plaster footprints, video footage and educational information in the museum over the years, he said.

Myers houses the merchandise — Bigfoot and Yeti salt-and-pepper shakers, plush toys, boxer briefs, Bigfoot foot-shaped soap and more — among 27 real trees he brought inside. He built a cave system for kids to run through and a small theater where Myers gives “cave talks” — his version of TED talks.

“You won’t find any store like it in the world,” Myers said.

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The business of Bigfoot: Sasquatch tourism brings cryptid-curious to Colorado (2024)
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