Lion's Paw Trail to Pierson Park, Lion Gulch Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Lion's Paw Trail to Pierson Park - 14.2 miles

Lion Gulch Trailhead

One of many large meadows along the Lion's Paw Trail to Pierson Park

One of many large meadows along the Lion's Paw Trail to Pierson Park

Round-Trip Length: 14.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 7,370' - 9,085' (9,145' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,715' net elevation gain (+2,872' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Lion's Paw Trail to Pierson Park - 14.2 Miles Round-Trip

The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged western expansion by opening America's land to agricultural settlement. To qualify, a person had to be a United States citizen (or express the intent to become one), older than 21 years or head of a household and possess less than 160 acres of their own land.

To acquire the property title, one had to build a house within 5 years, occupy the land for at least 6 months of the year, make income related to the property and cultivate a portion of the land.

After 6 months one could buy the land for $1.25 an acre, or $15 outright after 5 years. Homesteaders could acquire up to 320 acres of land under the Act, a program that ended in 1976.

Homestead Meadows, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, contains the remains of over a dozen cabins from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Lion's Paw Trail leads through diverse montane forests and several large meadows to the Engert, Laycook, Boren and Hill homesteads. It continues deeper into the national forest to its terminus at Pierson Park, a large meadow complex ringed with campsites:

The Lion Gulch Trail drops from the parking lot into a gulch, over a creek and rises steadily up the far side. It crosses back and merges with the equestrian trail (.45 miles : 7,435'), bending northwest (.6 miles) along the creek into the upper-gulch.

The trail crosses a third bridge (1.0 miles : 7,538') and intensifies on a twisting, undulating course. Pinyon, lodgepole and ponderosa join aspen, fir and spruce as you climb.

The trail emerges from dense timber and eases up a slender glade to the Lion's Paw Trail - Pierson Park split (2.95 miles : 8,324').

Bear left on the Lion's Paw Trail across the meadow on what soon widens to an old wagon road leading to the first of four homesteads. The trail rounds a hill and emerges on the edge of a vast, fire-scarred and blown-down area at a spur for Engert Homestead (3.15 miles : 8,466').

Fire is natural and essential to this ecosystem, and aesthetics have been quickly restored by grasses, wildflowers and waves of young aspen.

The trail eases past the second Engert Homestead spur (3.6 miles : 8,590') and pitches down to the Laycook Homestead spur on the edge of a vast meadow. The Laycook Homestead is one of the newest and therefore most intact of all, with an adjacent meadow ideal for seeing wildlife.

The trail rolls to the Hill Homestead spur (4.2 miles : 8,327') and rises gently to the Boren Homestead, located just off-trail and easy to investigate (4.7 miles : 8,370').

Grades level past Boren, skirting the area's largest meadow where fire scars yield to healthy intervals of ponderosa parks, streams and young aspen - arguably the Lion Paw's most pleasant section (5.0 - 5.5 miles).

The path narrows on a strenuous climb to the trail's highest point (6.1 miles : 9,147'). Here it drops sharply through an unremarkable forest to its terminus at Pierson Park (7.1 miles : 9,085'). Note that Pierson Park is curiously unmarked, as is the forest service road on its far side.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 18.904 W105 24.327 — Lion Gulch Trailhead
  • N40 18.730 W105 24.764 — 1.0 miles : Cross creek on wide bridge
  • N40 18.570 W105 25.252 — 1.5 miles : Trail steepens in thick forest
  • N40 18.434 W105 26.273 — 2.3 miles : Grade moderates on approach to meadow
  • N40 18.439 W105 26.642 — 2.95 miles : Pierson Park - Lion Paw Trail junction
  • N40 18.270 W105 26.757 — Engert Homestead spur #1
  • N40 17.935 W105 26.919 — Engert Homestead spur #2
  • N40 17.713 W105 27.255 — Laycook Homestead spur
  • N40 17.694 W105 27.316 — Hill Homestead spur
  • N40 17.416 W105 27.552 — Boren Homestead
  • N40 17.501 W105 27.942 — 5.25 miles : Begin rising into thick, mixed forest
  • N40 17.810 W105 28.492 — 6.0 miles : Grade moderates near trail's highest point
  • N40 17.972 W105 28.904 — 6.5 miles : Trail widens and levels in dense forest
  • N40 18.020 W105 29.432 — 7.1 miles : Pierson Park

Worth Noting

  • Robert Boren received title to his land in 1906. He and his two children lived here year round, running cattle, cutting timber and selling potatoes to support the family. The Boren's frequently took in weary travelers, leading them to build a two story home - unheard of at the time - with 6 bedrooms upstairs. A fire destroyed the home in 1914, and today only the foundation remains.

  • Little is known about William Laycook, who established the first homestead here in 1889 but only stayed a few months. The resident most closely associated with this homestead is William House, grandson of local homesteader Charles Engert. House is credited with having the most impact on Homestead Meadows; he not only lived here year round from 1933 - 1952, but also bought 5 other homesteads in the area. His wife Lucille taught the only formal education offered in this valley at the time.

  • The Great Depression and challenging years that followed caused many homesteaders to sell their land. Cattle ranching and logging no longer provided sufficient income for homesteaders, and the land eventually became consolidated into one large ranch owned by the Holnholz family. In 1978, the US Forest Service purchased the land and made it available for public use.

  • About 15 miles of multi-use trail run through this area. Be mindful of others and honor established yield protocols, especially for equestrians. All historic sites and surroundings are protected under Federal Law.

  • Wildlife is particularly abundant on this trail. Large meadows are good places to find elk, moose and bear.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs, bikes and horses are permitted on the Lion Gulch Trail and Lion's Paw Trail.

  • Motorized vehicles of any kind are not permitted on the Lion Gulch Trail or Lion's Paw Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

The Lion Gulch Trailhead is located 12.7 miles north of Lyons, Colorado on Highway 36. The parking lot is located on the west side of Highway 36.

Contact Information

Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Ave. Bldg. E Fort Collins, CO 80526
Monday - Friday 8:00 am -5:00 pm
970.295.6796 TDD

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"I've driven by this trailhead several times in the past year and it has been closed. Please check with the local NFS office to check status"
mary  -  CO  -  Date Posted: July 11, 2017


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