Sleepy Lion Trail - Button Rock Dam Loop, Button Rock Preserve Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Sleepy Lion Trail - Button Rock Dam Loop - 4.7 miles

Button Rock Preserve Trailhead

Looking across Ralph Price Reservoir from the Sleepy Lion Trail

Looking across Ralph Price Reservoir from the Sleepy Lion Trail

Round-Trip Length: 4.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 6,020' - 6,625' (6,625' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +605' net elevation gain (+672' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Sleepy Lion Trail - Button Rock Dam Loop - 4.7 Miles Round-Trip

July 2015 UPDATE

Button Rock Preserve and Ralph Price Reservoir are now open to public access.


The Button Rock Dam and Sleepy Lion trails form a 4.7 mile route through the Button Rock Preserve, a public sanctuary established to protect the natural watershed feeding Ralph Price Reservoir, the primary water source of Longmont, CO.

The lollipop loop, 3 miles of which run along graded service roads that parallel North St. Vrain Creek, is ideal for trail running, winter activities, families, and anglers.

The trail begins on a smooth service road, rising nominally along North St. Vrain Creek while skirting Longmont Reservoir, which at first glance appears little more than a wide, slow moving section of the creek. The grade increases to the Sleepy Lion Trail junction (.75 miles : 6,135').

The Sleepy Lion Trail turns south and rises sharply, weaving quickly through fir, ponderosa, cacti patches, and rocky outcrops. Views north of Button Rock Mt (8,417') are quite good as you climb.

The trail exits the forest and levels into a large, rolling meadow (1.25 miles : 6,385'). This brief but attractive segment is a good place to find wildlife.

Seasonal and occasionally seen are bighorn sheep that were re-introduced in the 1980s. Naturalists are studying this population's migration patterns, believed to use these lands as wintering and lambing grounds.

The trail climbs steeply out of the meadow through a nondescript forest to the Button Rock Trail junction (1.75 miles : 6,625'). A little maneuvering yields terrific views across Ralph Price Reservoir and distant summits of Mt Meeker (13,911') and Longs Peak (14,259'). Those seeking a longer hike may consider adding the 4-mile roundtrip Button Rock Trail, highly recommended for its spacious meadows and solitude.

The Sleepy Lion Trail continues unevenly for a short spell before bending north and dropping down to the Ralph Price Reservoir Dam base and service road (2.7 miles : 6,253').

Bear right on the service road, which crosses the dam outlet and realigns with North St Vrain Creek for an easy 2 mile return to the parking lot. You may divert up a short, steep spur just past the service road split to the top of the the dam wall (above the outlet, up and to the left). Here you'll have views across the reservoir and a look at the complexities of dam construction.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 13.707 W105 20.582 — Button Rock Preserve Trailhead
  • N40 13.368 W105 21.099 — Sleepy Lion Trail junction - bear left
  • N40 13.197 W105 21.253 — Level off through meadow
  • N40 13.006 W105 21.499 — Sleepy Lion Trail - Button Rock Trail junction
  • N40 12.947 W105 21.915 — Trail merges with service road at dam (bear right)
  • N40 13.200 W105 21.673 — Ralph Price Reservoir access trail junction
  • N40 13.707 W105 20.582 — Button Rock Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The Sleepy Lion Trail draws its name from a ranger who once observed a mountain lion sleeping on a rock along the trail.

  • The Button Rock Preserve and Ralph Price Reservoir are known for their diverse avian populations, which include Golden Eagle, Pigmy Owl, Osprey, Bald Eagle and Herons.

  • The Ralph Price Reservoir is named for a Longmont City Mayor who served in the late 1960s.

  • The Ralph Price Reservoir is a regularly patrolled area. Dog leash and control laws are strictly enforced. There is NO mountain biking or camping permitted in the Preserve.

Fishing Information

A special permit is required to fish at Ralph Price Reservoir

In addition to a standard Colorado fishing license, a special fishing permit is required. This can be obtained only from the City of Longmont City Clerk's office. Permits go on sale the 1st week in April; only 600 annual permits are issued each year, and once they are sold out, no more will be available until the following April.

Available on May 18th, 100 Day-use Fishing Permits are also available and must be purchased in advance and have a date filled out in advance. The day use permits are $10.00 each.

In general, Annual fishing permits are $30.00 for non-residents, and $20.00 for City of Longmont residents. For more permit information, contact the City Clerk (303.651.8649)

The permit allows you to fish from the shoreline with artificial flies and lures from May through October. The city of Longmont stocks the reservoir with brown and rainbow trout, along with splake, a lake trout hybrid.

Directions to Trailhead

The Button Rock Preserve Loop begins at the end of County Road 80 just northwest of Lyons, Colorado. From Lyons, take US 36 west 4 miles to County Road 80. Turn Left on County Road 80 for 2.8 miles to the dead end at the Button Rock Preserve parking lot. The trail begins just beyond the security gate on the service road.

Contact Information

Longmont Water Utilities

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"The road to the dam has been completely restored so Sleepy Lion is open, in great shape, and easily accessible. We enjoyed the wildflowers in the meadow. The reservoir is quite full so the discharge into the creek was impressive!"
Elaine  -  Fort Collins  -  Date Posted: July 14, 2015
"Went here and closed. Wasn't posted when it would re-open, but I'm thinking it has to do with the flooding last year."
KaraK  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: May 27, 2014
"I am visiting here from Mesquite, TX and my sister, from Longmont, and I hiked the Sleep Lion Trail today. We started at the main gate and looped around to end there also. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike and the views. They were awe inspiring and so magnificent. It was challenging but well worth the effort. Would love to do it again at some point."
Joyce Newsome  -  Loveland, CO  -  Date Posted: September 1, 2012


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