Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Lollipop Loop, Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Lollipop Loop - 13.8 Miles
Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch
|Round-Trip Length:||13.8 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||6,075' - 6,075' (7,355' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,280' net elevation gain (+3,760' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
The Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Lollipop Loop connects the Eldorado Canyon Trail and Walker Ranch Loop to form a challenging 13.8 mile route through archetypal Colorado Front Range terrain. Serene pine forests, deep canyons, colorful cliffs, rich wildlife and frequent elevation changes distinguish these demanding trail segments. While many hikers and runners will explore portions of this route in a day, few attempt the entire course.
4 main trailheads access this trail system:
1) Eldorado Canyon Trailhead and Visitor Center Parking Lot in Eldorado Canyon State Park
2) Crescent Meadows Trailhead
3) South Boulder Creek Trailhead
4) Ethel Harrold Picnic Area
The following description begins in Eldorado Canyon State Park on the Eldorado Canyon Trail, and joins the Walker Ranch Loop in 3.15 miles. The 7.55 mile Walker Ranch Loop is comprised of 4 different trails:
1) Crescent Meadows Trail: (2.4 miles)
2) S. Boulder Creek Trail: (2.6 miles)
3) Columbine Gulch Trail: (1.62 miles)
4) Eldorado Canyon Trail: (0.93 miles - back to beginning of the Loop)
The Eldorado Canyon Trail is located at the west end of the Eldorado Canyon State Park Visitor Center parking lot. The trail begins from the north side of the lot, methodically climbing .9 miles up a series of challenging switchbacks. Commanding views of the South Boulder Creek drainage and Eldorado Canyon area emerge as you rise along the canyon's north wall. Rock formations above are renowned climbing areas that attract some of the country's most accomplished athletes. These canyon walls are also home to several nesting raptor species.
In 1 mile the trail eases over a series of rocky undulations, alternating quickly through dense forest and open grassy hillsides. After gaining 990' in net elevation, the trail crests on a narrow ridge with terrific views across Walker Ranch to the Continental Divide (2.45 miles : 7,065'). From here it drops 570' in just .7 miles along tightly wound switchbacks to the Walker Ranch Loop connection (3.15 miles : 6,495'). Note this downhill segment may not be readily visible from the crest; look immediately to the west and downhill to find the trail (GPS point below).
The following description travels clockwise on the Walker Ranch Loop:
Heading southwest, the Crescent Meadows Trail crosses over South Boulder Creek (6,465'- the Loop's lowest point) and follows a very steep, rocky footpath and series of newly built steps to a narrow ridge top (bikers will need to dismount). Smooth trail conditions and pleasant scenery mark the next 2.2 mile, 700' net climb to the Crescent Meadows Parking Lot and South Boulder Creek Trail connection (5.55 miles : 7,345').
The South Boulder Creek Trail drops sharply on winding switchbacks through mixed pine for 1.25 miles to South Boulder Creek (6,740'). It crosses the creek on a wide bridge to its north bank and flattens considerably for several hundred yards. This enjoyable section offers easy access to many good fishing and viewing areas along the creek.
Just past Walker Ranch Loop's Mile Marker 1 (7.1 miles : 6,740') the trail turns sharply left and begins a strenuous, winding climb back to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead and Columbine Gulch Trail connection (8.15 miles : 7,287'). This barren and exposed area was stricken by fire in 2000. Informational signs describe the event and explain its ecosystem before and after the fire. Despite extensive damage, grasses and wildflowers have reclaimed these hillsides and recovery is well under way.
Veering east, the rugged Columbine Gulch Trail climbs .85 miles to an exposed 7,300' ridge with commanding views, then drops rapidly along a series of shaded switchbacks to its connection with the Eldorado Canyon Trail (9.75 miles : 6,795'). Turn right to continue the loop on what is now a wide fire road. It runs up, then down for .9 miles to complete the Walker Ranch Loop (10.65 miles : 6,945'). Bear left to remain on the Eldorado Canyon Trail and retrace your steps back to the trailhead in Eldorado Canyon State Park (13.8 miles).
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N39 55.845 W105 17.654 — Eldorado Canyon Trailhead
- N39 56.028 W105 17.570 — Rincon Wall - Climbing Access Trail
- N39 56.603 W105 18.516 — Begin steep descent to Walker Ranch Loop (2.45 miles)
- N39 56.532 W105 18.913 — Walker Ranch Loop Junction - Turn Left
- N39 56.404 W105 18.941 — Reach top of stairs - Turn Right
- N39 56.086 W105 19.403 — Walker Ranch Loop Mile Marker 4
- N39 55.687 W105 19.889 — Walker Ranch Loop Mile Marker 3
- N39 55.849 W105 20.361 — Crescent Meadows Trailhead - S. Boulder Creek Trail junc
- N39 56.141 W105 20.443 — Walker Ranch Mile Marker 2
- N39 56.301 W105 20.492 — Reach South Boulder Creek
- N39 56.579 W105 20.226 — Walker Ranch Loop Mile Marker 1 (bear left just past)
- N39 57.069 W105 20.262 — South Boulder Creek Trailhead (8.15 miles)
- N39 56.948 W105 19.619 — Columbine Trail crests and begins steep descent
- N39 57.196 W105 19.219 — Eldorado Canyon Trail junction (9.75 miles - turn right)
- N39 56.532 W105 18.913 — Bear left on Eldorado Canyon Trail back to trailhead
- N39 55.845 W105 17.654 — Eldorado Canyon Trailhead
- Did you know that Ponderosa Pine Trees have fire-resistant bark? Though trees may appear irretrievably damaged, they're actually alive and can recover from most major fires in about 3-5 years.
- The Walker Ranch Loop is favored by local trail runners and mountain bikers; be prepared to share the trail.
- Black Bear and Mountain Lion inhabit this area. Be responsible with trash, pets and children.
- Distance discrepancies between map sources and trail signs may be attributed to the trail system's passage through state, county and city properties, and varying degrees of coordinated land management.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- This is a day use area only. Camping is not permitted.
- Both bait and fly fishing are permitted along South Boulder Creek. The stream is periodically stocked with rainbow trout. Anglers can access the creek from the South Boulder Creek Trail (beginning at either the Crescent Meadows or South Boulder Creek Trailheads), or from the Eldorado Canyon Trail (beginning at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead off Bison Road). All Colorado state fishing regulations apply.
- Ice fishing is not permitted on any Boulder County Open Space property.
Rules and Regulations
- There's an $8 entrance fee to Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Directions from Boulder- Take Colorado 93 south from Boulder, turn right on Colorado 170 and continue to the park entrance west of Eldorado Springs, about eight miles southwest of Boulder.
Directions from Denver - Take I-25 North to State Highway 36, West towards Boulder. Exit at "Louisville-Superior" and turn South (left) at the light. Take the first right (West) onto State Highway 170 fro 7.4 miles to Eldorado Canyon. Continue one mile through the canyon to the visitors center.
Eldorado Canyon State Park