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 - 14.0 miles
Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch
|Round-Trip Length:||14.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||6,075' - 7,355' (max elevation on route)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,280' net elevation gain (+3,740' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Lollipop Loop - 14.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Lollipop Loop connects the Eldorado Canyon Trail and Walker Ranch Loop to form a challenging 14 mile route through diverse forests, deep canyons and open meadows. 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 trailheads access this trail system:
- Eldorado Canyon State Park
- Crescent Meadows Trailhead
- South Boulder Creek Trailhead
- Ethel Harrold Picnic Area
The following description begins in Eldorado Canyon on the Eldorado Canyon Trail, and joins the Walker Ranch Loop in 3.15 miles. The 7.7 mile Walker Ranch Loop is comprised of 4 trails:
- Crescent Meadows Trail: (2.45 miles)
- S. Boulder Creek Trail: (2.65 miles)
- Columbine Gulch Trail: (1.65 miles)
- Eldorado Canyon Trail: (0.95 miles - back to beginning of the Loop)
The Eldorado Canyon Trail is located at the west end of Eldorado Canyon at the Visitor Center. It begins on steep, methodical switchbacks that gradually moderate through 1.0 mile along the north wall (6,870'). Views across Eldorado Canyon expand on this rapid climb.
Rock formations above are renowned climbing destinations that attract some of the country's most accomplished athletes. They also provide critical nesting habitat for falcons and eagles.
The trail continues through intervals of thick timber and open slopes with short, steep undulations. It gains 990' in net elevation to a crest in the upper canyon with terrific views back down canyon, and 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').
The following description travels clockwise on the Walker Ranch Loop:
The Crescent Meadows Trail curls SW and crosses South Boulder Creek (6,465'- the Loop's lowest point) to a set of steep, newly built stairs that level on a narrow ridge above the creek (bikers will need to dismount for this climb).
Smooth 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 (5.6 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 over on a wide bridge to the north bank and levels beside it for several hundred yards. This enjoyable section offers easy access for anglers.
Just past Walker Ranch Loop's Mile Marker 1 (7.2 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 (8.25 miles : 7,240').
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 (9.9 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 (10.85 miles : 6,945'). Bear left to remain on the Eldorado Canyon Trail and retrace your steps back to the trailhead in Eldorado Canyon (14.0 miles).
- N39 55.845 W105 17.654 — 0.0 miles : Eldorado Canyon Trailhead
- N39 56.028 W105 17.570 — .64 miles : Rincon Wall - climbing access trail
- N39 56.602 W105 17.966 — 1.5 miles : Intervals of rugged undulations and level slope
- N39 56.506 W105 18.198 — 2.0 miles : Moderate across high, open slopes on north wall
- N39 56.602 W105 18.515 — 2.45 miles : Crest on high ridge, begin steep descent
- N39 56.533 W105 18.916 — 3.15 miles : Walker Ranch Loop junction
- N39 56.411 W105 18.942 — 3.4 miles : Steep climb above creek levels on ridge
- N39 56.084 W105 19.408 — 4.05 miles : WRL 4 mile sign
- N39 55.729 W105 19.818 — 4.95 miles : Rolling travel with net gain
- N39 55.850 W105 20.356 — 5.6 miles : Crescent Meadows Trail junction
- N39 56.040 W105 20.313 — 5.95 miles : Fast descent down north slope to creek
- N39 56.318 W105 20.480 — 6.85 miles : Cross creek on wide bridge
- N39 56.582 W105 20.202 — 7.25 miles : Turn off level stretch by creek and begin steep climb
- N39 57.068 W105 20.259 — 8.25 miles : South Boulder Creek Trailhead (7,240')
- N39 56.829 W105 20.007 — 8.65 miles : Short, steep climb eases on high slopes and ridge
- N39 56.953 W105 19.622 — 9.1 miles : Begin steep descent off high open ridge
- N39 57.200 W105 19.216 — 9.9 miles : Ethel Harrold - Eldorado Canyon Trail junction
- N39 56.533 W105 18.916 — 3.15 | 10.85 miles : Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch Loop junction
- The Walker Ranch Loop sees heavy traffic, especially on weekends. Be prepared to share the trail.
- 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. Use the self-service pay station if no attendant is on duty.
Directions to Trailhead
Eldorado Canyon State Park is located 3.1 miles west of Highway 119 on Eldorado Springs Road. The Eldorado Canyon Trailhead is located west of the entrance station at the Park road terminus by the Visitor Center and Picnic Area. Additional parking is available in designated areas along the main access road.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
9 Kneale Road (P.O. Box B)
Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
Park Hours: sunrise to sunset, everyday