The Lion Gulch Trail offers a wild hike through varied landscapes to old homesteading sites and a dispersed ghost town. The first two homesteads rest just 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Seeing all of them requires you to nearly double the distance, turning this into a twelve-mile round-trip hike. If you're looking for a full-day hike, seeing all of the ruins is a great option.
There's a little here for everyone. History buffs will be fascinated by the remains of log homes and ranches people started to build as early as 1889. Most residents had left by the time of the Great Depression, with the last departing by 1952. Now, the land has returned to nature and is home to migrating elk and other wildlife including wild turkeys and foxes, making this a fun hike for people and pups who enjoy non-human company.
At the Lion Gulch Trailhead, there's a nice parking area with an information kiosk and bathrooms. These amenities reflect recent updates to the trail. While it's been updated, the trail still follows the original route that the homesteaders took to resupply in Lyons or Estes Park. Tote water along with you to share for the journey, and have clean up bags on hand.
You'll start your hike by crossing the North Fork of the Little Thompson River and will continue over several additional creek crossings. The trail gets steeper and ascends up a couple of challenging rocky sections with scattered talus and scree. The trail then evens out again, rewarding you for meeting the challenge with a more steady path forward as you and your pup pant and catch your breath.
All along the way, the air is scented with pine. Ponderosa, pinyon, and lodgepole pine transition to fir and spruce as you climb. Aspens add color and continue to grow all the way up to the alpine meadow where the homesteaders found their haven. Colorful brush surrounds the peaceful expanse of grass, where you and your dog can enjoy a nice rest and maybe even a picnic. The old fence stands make you feel like someone could come riding their horse back over the distant hills at any time.
Bring your dog to the Lion Gulch Trail if you're looking for a beautiful day in nature, a good challenge, and a trip back in time.