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

Historic remains of Homestead Meadows

Historic remains of Homestead Meadows

Round-Trip Length: 6.1 miles (additional distance required to reach all 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)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows - 6.1 Miles Round-Trip

The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged western expansion by opening America's land to agricultural settlement. To qualify, a person had to be a US citizen (or express the intent to become one), older than 21 (or head of a household) and possess less than 160 acres of their own land.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

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. It's easy to see why this area attracted homesteaders, with miles of rolling meadows well-suited for ranching, hunting and building.

Visitors will enjoy a moderate hike on the Lion Gulch Trail to an up-close 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 in a busy forest. Pinyon, lodgepole and ponderosa give way to aspen, fir and spruce on the rapid climb.

Grades moderate beside a small creek (1.9 miles : 8,137') as the forest opens on level double track (2.5 miles : 8,345') 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.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 18.904 W105 24.327 — 0.0 miles : 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

Worth Noting

  • 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.

Contact Information

Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Ave. Bldg. E Fort Collins, CO 80526
Monday - Friday 8:00 am -5:00 pm
970.295.6796 TDD

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Area now open, has rest facility. Reworked trail has some significant verticals with quite a bit of loose rock. Per GPS Garmin model Colorado, distance to fist cabin is 3.7 miles. Parts of trail are very narrow and rocky, some steep, other sections soft, nearly flat and sandy. Numerous outstanding examples of the flood damage along the trail indicating the power of water with rocks and trees scattered, washed out, piled into dams. Parts of the trail had to be re-routed by the USFS staff due to washout, there are a couple of steep drops off the trail, be vigilant when traversing these narrowed sections. Parking lot not full, met numerous folks on the trail, some who have hiked this prior. Of the hikers who made the meadow, most indicated the trail is longer than stated. A very high number of hikers were not prepared for the rocky trail, wearing only sneakers or similar footwear. A high percentage of hikers ended up turning around. Was good to be up that high, even though the sun was filtered by the haze, on the way down came back into the heavier smoke along the front range ( high pressure system carrying smoke from Or and Mt fires across the front range and eastern plains). Suggest re-evaluation of the trail from moderate to moderate plus, with mention of " difficult" in some areas. Suggest verification of the trail length and clarification as several hikers and would be hikers thought the trail was only 2.5 miles to the first cabin. There is now one additional bridge not mentioned in the above GPS coordinates section. There are also several stream crossings which may be underwater if there has been recent rain, or snow melt. "
Paul  -   -  Date Posted: September 5, 2017
"I called Canyon Lakes Ranger District today and was told that this trail should be open within the next week!!"
JSojo  -  Longmont, Co  -  Date Posted: July 7, 2017
"Since I don't have a FB account, posting here - spoke with the Canyon Lakes Ranger District and was told this trail is scheduled to reopen on June 1, 2017, assuming all goes well. It will definitely be open this summer! It was one of the first group hikes I did when I moved here, and I led a (long) hike all the way through to Pierson Park a few years later, so I am glad to see it will be ready to enjoy again soon."
Alex C  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: May 12, 2017
"Lions Gulch to Pearson Park and Homestead is closed until further notice due to flood damage. "
Eric  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: June 20, 2016
lisa Polo  -  CO  -  Date Posted: September 1, 2014
"Great trail, my dog and I really enjoyed all the pretty flowers. We also wondered what it was like way back in the 1800's? "
Endo  -   -  Date Posted: July 12, 2013
"Beautiful, an abundance of wildflowers, wonderful smells of pine, rose and fresh air. Very quiet and plenty of homesteads to see. Definitely will be back to see the homesteads further out. Took 2.5 hours roundtrip but I turned around at the Griffith homestead. Definitely worth doing, peaceful along the creek."
Angelique Velasco  -  Longmont  -  Date Posted: June 23, 2013
"We hiked this trail while the snow and ice were still melting off. The scenery of the valley and the stream were gorgeous. Some of the stream crossings were under water or washed out but it was a great hike. We will definitely return this summer!"
jwbradley77  -  evans, colorado  -  Date Posted: May 6, 2013


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