Lichen Loop Trail, Heil Valley Ranch, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Lichen Loop Trail - 1.25 miles

Heil Valley Ranch

Round-Trip Length: 1.25 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,945' - 5,945' (6,175' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +230' net elevation gain (+274' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Lichen Loop Trail - 1.25 Miles Round-Trip

Heil Valley Ranch runs north-south along the Boulder foothills where the Eastern Plains meet the Rocky Mountain upslope. Its 5020 acres support wildlife communities from each including deer, elk, turkey, coyote, fox, mountain lion and bear...

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

97 breeding bird species have been observed in Heil Ranch: mountain chickadees, chipping sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, towhees, red tail hawks, golden eagles, prairie falcons and Coopers hawks all nest in the Heil Valley area.

The Lichen Loop Trail circles the lower east side of upper Heil Valley, a sparsely treed slope ringed by dense pine forests above. Visitors will enjoy light crowds, mild grades and good wildlife viewing.

Follow signs from the parking area to the Lichen Loop (.1 mile : 5,990') and begin clockwise travel:

The trail heads north in a rolling meadow frequented by turkey and deer. The trail passes two spurs for the Wapiti Trail while trending up to the loop's turnaround point (.45 miles : 6,117').

A few short, steep switchbacks turn you back south and level out beside a long meadow (.65 miles : 6,175') with views down Heil Valley and across Boulder's Front Range. The trail glides easily back to the beginning of the loop (1.15 miles) and parking lot (1.25 miles).

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Worth Noting

  • Elk were extirpated from Boulder County in the early 1900s, but reintroduced at Heil Valley Ranch between 1913 and 1917. Today these protected lands remain one of the only places in Northern Colorado where elk can complete their natural migration from the Rocky Mountains to Eastern Plains without interruption.

  • Fires are crucial to maintaining the long term health of ponderosa pine ecosystems. Naturally occurring, low intensity fires clear space for mature trees, keep densities in check and rejuvenate soils. Fire suppression since the 1880s has created unsustainable forest densities that result in destructive, high intensity fires. Current management programs help restore natural conditions through selective thinning and prescribed burns. You'll see evidence of both as you pass through Heil Valley Ranch.

  • Near the loop's end you may notice an unusual structure on the hillside above. This beehive-like structure, constructed of Lyons Sandstone blocks, is a lime kiln. In the late 1800s lime was a common ingredient for mortar and cement, used as a soil enhancement and to wash buildings.

  • The Heil Valley area was first homesteaded in 1888. Boulder County Open Space purchased 4,923 acres from the Heil family in 1996, who today still operate ranch lands south of the trailhead.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs, Bikes, and Horses are not permitted on the Lichen Loop Trail.

  • Camping, hunting, fire arms, and motorized vehicles are not permitted within Heil Valley Ranch.

  • It is illegal to enter, move or remove historic remains found in Heil Valley Ranch.

Directions to Trailhead

From Broadway in Boulder, take US 36 North 4.7 miles to Left Hand Canyon Drive. Take a left onto Left Hand Canyon Drive for 0.7 miles to Geer Canyon Road. Look on the right for the Heil Valley Ranch sign and take a right onto Geer Canyon Road, a maintained dirt road and head North through private property 1.3 miles to the trailhead. Heil Ranch parking will be on the right side of the road. It is important to know that Geer Canyon Road is private and you cannot park your car along the side of the road. Be mindful of free range cattle crossing sections of Geer Canyon Road.

Contact Information

Boulder County Parks & Open Space
5201 St. Vrain Road
Longmont, Colorado 80503
Phone: 303.678.6200
Fax: 303.678.6180

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"I appreciate Shirin's comment. I was planning to go there tomorrow, but am now changing my plans and won't go here until I see a notice on this page that it is open. I am assuming it is closed due to flooding last fall? Or fire? Would like more info if anyone knows."
Tana  -  United States  -  Date Posted: June 3, 2014
"The trail is closed now. We stopped by yesterday and the sign said park closed. too bad they didn't announce it here so we wouldn't drive 30 miles to get there. I hope they attempt to repair the damages and reopen for the eager families with kids soon! Boulder is the reason we stay close to the mountains"
Shirin  -   -  Date Posted: April 13, 2014


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