Highlands Ranch, Colorado

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Highlands Ranch
Location in Douglas County and the state of Colorado
Location in Douglas County and the state of Colorado
Coordinates: 39°32′40″N 104°58′5″W / 39.54444°N 104.96806°W / 39.54444; -104.96806Coordinates: 39°32′40″N 104°58′5″W / 39.54444°N 104.96806°W / 39.54444; -104.96806
Country United States
State Colorado
County Douglas[1]
 • Total 23.5 sq mi (61 km2)
 • Land 23.5 sq mi (60.9 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation[1] 5,682 ft (1,732 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 96,713
 • Density 3,018.3/sq mi (1,162.8/km2)
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP code[2] 80126, 80129, 80130, and 80163
Area code(s) 303, 720
FIPS code 08-36410
GNIS feature ID 1867085
Website Highlands Ranch Metro District

Highlands Ranch is a census-designated place (CDP) in Douglas County, Colorado, United States. The population was 96,713 at the 2010 census;[3] it is one of the most populous unincorporated communities in the United States.[4] ZIP codes 80126, 80129, 80130, and 80163 – assigned by default to the adjacent City of Littleton – serve Highlands Ranch.[2]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1990 10,181
2000 70,931 596.7%
2010 96,713 36.3%


Like many parts of the Colorado Front Range, the first residents of Highlands Ranch were Native Americans. The area was populated by a number of nomadic tribes, including the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Because it was part of the Mississippi River Drainage Area, Highlands Ranch was claimed for France by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and it was named as part of "Louisiana" in 1682. The Spanish gained Louisiana in 1763, and returned it to France in 1801. Highlands Ranch was in the Louisiana Purchase when it was sold to the United States in 1803.

The Stephen Harriman Long Expedition of 1820 entered the Highlands Ranch area at the beginning of July 1820. That was the first documented exploration of the Highlands Ranch area by European or United States explorers.[6]

Much of the Denver Metro Area began to be settled as ranch land starting in 1859, but because of a lack of water in the Highlands Ranch area, it was not permanently settled until around 1870. The first legal settler of the area was Curtis H. Field, who purchased land just on the west side of Santa Fe Drive from the US government on 25 February 1870.[7]

The Highlands Ranch Mansion (or "Castle Isabel") was built over a period of several years, from 1891 to 1904. For many years, people believed the house was built by John Springer, an eastern businessman, but the first owner of the house was called Samuel Allan Long, according to a page in the Highlands Ranch website. The name "Rotherwood" was found etched above the original front door that led experts to believe so.

20th century[edit]

The Colorado Gold Rush brought people to Colorado in droves during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city of Denver, located approximately 12 miles to the north, grew considerably during this time. However, Highlands Ranch remained a series of farms and ranches, and many residents would visit the town of Littleton, a few miles northward, when they needed to purchase clothing, supplies, or other items.

The Springer land was bought and sold several times throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1937 it was bought by Lawrence C. Phipps, Jr., who used it to raise cattle and hunt fox. After Phipps died in 1976, the land was bought by Marvin Davis, the owner of an oil company.

Becoming a suburb[edit]

In 1978, Highlands Ranch was purchased by The Mission Viejo Company. As the suburbs of Denver expanded, the company desired to build a new planned suburb in northern Douglas County, akin to its first planned development of Mission Viejo, California (a suburb of Los Angeles). Initial plans were drawn up, many of which are still being realized. These plans laid out several major streets and called for several schools and recreation centers, as well as a town center and public library. Large parcels of land were sold to private housing developers, such as Richmond Homes. As these developments appeared, they often carried their own names, creating a series of segmented neighborhoods throughout Highlands Ranch. Plans for Highlands Ranch also included a snaking "green belt" which provided for undeveloped land for recreation. The plans also allowed for a large number of public parks and bike paths.

The first homes in Highlands Ranch were built in 1981, near South Broadway Blvd. Simultaneously, the state built a new beltway through the area, SH 470, which opened in 1985. Many of the first residents of Highlands Ranch complained about the initial lack of commercial development. Residents had to drive many miles (usually into Littleton) for groceries, video rentals, or medical care. The first public school, Northridge Elementary, opened in 1982. The same year also saw the completion of the Northridge Recreation Center, an athletic club available to all Highlands Ranch homeowners. The first secondary school, Highlands Ranch Jr/Sr High School, opened in 1987. This institution became solely a high school, named Highlands Ranch High School, in 1991 with the building of nearby Cresthill Middle School. The first Highlands Ranch branch of Douglas County Libraries also opened in 1991, housed in a strip mall off Broadway and Springer Drive.

Massive growth[edit]

Over the next twenty-five years, the population of Highlands Ranch grew greatly. Highlands Ranch celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1991 with a population of 17,000 residents. Over the next ten years, Highlands Ranch continued to develop on a large scale. In 1997, The Mission Viejo Company was acquired by Shea Properties, which continued to expand the community. This included bringing a regional office of Lucent Technologies, and later in the same complex Avaya Communication, to the area. The year 2000 saw the opening of a much larger Highlands Ranch Library as well as the establishment of the Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce.


Highlands Ranch celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2006, reporting a population of 86,000 residents. Despite a growing number of local businesses, Highlands Ranch has often been labeled as a "bedroom community" of Denver. Many residents commute to Downtown Denver or the Denver Technological Center.

Highlands Ranch has experienced growing pains. Traffic continues to be a major issue on the town's arteries as well as SH C-470. Developers have engaged in battles for water rights throughout Highlands Ranch. Highlands Ranch now contains four recreation centers and six high schools, and continues to grow.


Highlands Ranch

Highlands Ranch is located at 39°32′40″N 104°58′5″W / 39.54444°N 104.96806°W / 39.54444; -104.96806 (39.544549, -104.968080).[8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 23.5 square miles (61 km2), of which, 23.5 square miles (61 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (0.09%) is water.


As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 70,931 people, 24,544 households, and 19,744 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,015.4 people per square mile (1,164.4/km²). There were 25,421 housing units at an average density of 1,080.7 per square mile (417.3/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 94.78% White, 0.33% Native American, 4.03% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.02% from other races, 1.01% African American, and 0.76% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.42% of the population.

There were 24,544 households out of which 49.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 73.0% were married couples living together, 5.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.6% were non-families. 14.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.89 and the average family size was 3.24.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 32.7% under the age of 18, 4.4% from 18 to 24, 41.9% from 25 to 44, 17.7% from 45 to 64, and 3.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.2 males.

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the CDP was $99,066, and the median income for a family was $103,516.[10] Males had a median income of $62,474 versus $40,910 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $34,707. 1.8% of the population and 1.2% of families were below the poverty line, including 1.7% of those under the age of 18 and 4.1% of those 65 and older. Highlands Ranch is generally a wealthier community (based on average household income) including large gated communities Falcon Hills, The Highwoods and The Backcountry with most households within similar income brackets.

Governance and community covenant[edit]

Highlands Ranch is an unincorporated community. As such, it is officially titled "unincorporated Douglas County" (despite the appearance of the name "Highlands Ranch" on many maps). The community utilizes police protection of Douglas County, contracts with the Littleton Fire Rescue for fire protection, and all public schools are part of the Douglas County School System.

As an unincorporated community, Highlands Ranch is ultimately governed by a three-member Board of County Commissioners. These commissioners are elected from three geographic districts in Highlands Ranch. Most municipal services, such as the construction and upkeep of arterial roads, parks and open space areas, are performed by the Highlands Ranch Metro District, which is funded mostly by property taxes and state lottery funds.[11] In addition, all Highlands Ranch residents are asked to sign and follow a community covenant as dictated by the Highlands Ranch Community Association or "HRCA". This covenant places firm guidelines on such issues as housing decoration, fencing, and contribution to the area's library and recreation centers. The Highlands Ranch Community Association obtains its funding through common homeowner association fees and covenant violation fines and, for this reason, is not usually recognized as a government, but rather as a local non-profit organization.[12]


As Highlands Ranch is a CDP, its boundaries are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau and have no legal standing. County Line Road and the cities of Littleton and Centennial border Highlands Ranch to the north; Quebec Street, the city of Lone Tree and Acres Green CDP to the east; and Santa Fe Drive and Chatfield State Park to the west.[13]


High schools[edit]

Middle schools[edit]

  • Cresthill Middle School
  • Mountain Ridge Middle School
  • Ranch View Middle School
  • Rocky Heights Middle School
  • Cherry Hills Christian School
  • STEM School

Elementary schools[edit]

  • Arrowwood Elementary
  • Acres Green Elementary
  • Bear Canyon Elementary
  • Ben Franklin Academy
  • Copper Mesa Elementary
  • Cougar Run Elementary
  • Coyote Creek Elementary
  • Eldorado Elementary
  • Fox Creek Elementary
  • Heritage Elementary
  • Northridge Elementary
  • North Star Academy Charter School
  • Platte River Academy
  • Redstone Elementary
  • Saddle Ranch Elementary
  • Sand Creek Elementary
  • Summit View Elementary
  • Stone Mountain Elementary
  • Trailblazer Elementary
  • Wildcat Mountain Elementary
  • Sky Ridge Academy
  • Skyview Academy

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ a b "ZIP Code Lookup" (JavaScript/HTML). United States Postal Service. 2007-01-13. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  3. ^ Colorado Trend Report 2: State and Complete Places (Sub-state 2010 Census Data). Missouri Census Data Center. Accessed 2011-02-25.
  4. ^ "About Highlands Ranch". Highlands Ranch Consolidated Metropolitan Districts. 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  5. ^ "CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING (1790-2000)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  6. ^ Bell, Captain John R. Stephen H. Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, 1820. Edited by Harlin M. Fuller, (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1957)
  7. ^ http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch/Detail.asp?PatentDocClassCode=SER&Accession=COCOAA+064987&Index=1&QryID=56552.03&DetailTab=1
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Highlands Ranch 2007 Income Estimates
  11. ^ http://www.highlandsranch.org
  12. ^ http://www.hrca-online.org
  13. ^ 2013 BOUNDARY AND ANNEXATION SURVEY (BAS): Douglas County, CO

External links[edit]