Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows, Lion Gulch Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows - 6.1 miles
Lion Gulch Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.1 miles (additional distance required to reach the various homesteads)|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,370' - 8,447' (8,455' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,077' net elevation gain (+1,387' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
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 Gulch Trail and Homestead Meadows span the lower and upper-montane ecosystems, a rich overlay of arable land, abundant natural resources and perennial water. It's easy to see why this area attracted homesteaders, with miles of sprawling meadows uniquely suitable for ranching, hunting and building. Visitors will enjoy a moderate trek through diverse forests, rolling hills and an intimate look at these well-preserved historic sites.
The trail drops from the parking lot into a gulch, over a creek and rises steadily up the far side. It crosses back over (.35 miles) and merges with the equestrian trail (.45 miles : 7,435'), gradually bending northwest (.6 miles) along the upper-gulch. The trail crosses a third bridge (1.0 miles : 7,538') and intensifies on a twisting, undulating course through a busy forest. Pinyon, lodgepole and ponderosa give way to aspen, fir and spruce on the rapid elevation gain. Views are quite limited, but small clearings and looming outcrops offer a measure of topographic perspective.
The pace quickens, grade moderates and trail straightens beside a small creek signaling the initial approach to Homestead Meadows (1.9 miles : 8,137'). The forest opens considerably as the trail levels on double track (2.5 miles : 8,345') and glides leisurely to the Lion's Paw Trail - Pierson Park split (2.95 miles : 8,424'). Continue straight to the welcome sign for Homestead Meadows (3.05 miles : 8,447') and access to the Walker, Griffith, Irvin and Brown homestead sites (an additional .25, .5, 1.5 and 2.0 miles, respectively).
The main trail continues through an aspen-ringed meadow and skirts the Walker Homestead, with various social trails leading to its scattered remains. It re-enters a sparse forest and rises modestly to the next three sites. Be mindful of private property boundaries and stay on designated trails as you move deeper into the historic district. Those not pressing on may consider minimizing their profile around the meadows' edge and looking for wildlife such as deer, elk, turkey and fox.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N40 18.904 W105 24.327 — Lion Gulch Trailhead
- N40 18.921 W105 24.483 — .45 miles : Horse trail merges with main trail
- N40 18.730 W105 24.764 — 1.0 miles : Cross bridge
- N40 18.570 W105 25.252 — 1.5 miles : Trail steepens in dense 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's Paw Trail junction
- N40 18.481 W105 26.741 — 3.05 miles : Homestead Meadows
- 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.
- The Lion Paw Trail gives access to the Engert, Laycook, Boren and Hill homesteads (1, 1, 2 and 2 miles from the Lion's Paw Trail split, respectively). Pierson Park is located 4 miles up the Lion Paw Trail.
- Deer, elk, turkey, beaver, coyote, fox, bear and mountain lion inhabit this area. The Lion Gulch area was named for its healthy mountain lion population.
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.
Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Ave. Bldg. E Fort Collins, CO 80526
Monday - Friday 8:00 am -5:00 pm