South Boulder Creek Trail, Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
South Boulder Creek Trail - 5.0 miles
Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch
|Round-Trip Length:||5.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,345' - 7,287' (7,345' max elevation : 6,740' lowest elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-58' net elevation loss (+1,152' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
South Boulder Creek Trail - 5.0 Miles Round-Trip
The South Boulder Creek Trail connects the Crescent Meadows Trail and Columbine Gulch Trail to form the western portion of Eldorado Canyon State Park's Walker Ranch Loop.
This popular 2.6 mile segment accesses South Boulder Creek, prized by fly fishers, runners, equestrians and picnickers seeking an animated backdrop to leisurely strolls along its accommodating banks.
The South Boulder Creek Trail is accessible from the South Boulder Creek and Crescent Meadows Trailheads; from each it drops precipitously to the creek, which bisects its midpoint.
Visitors not completing the entire Walker Ranch Loop will find little reason to hike the segment in full, but those who do will experience two markedly different environments.
The southern, north-facing portion passes through dense lodgepole and fir, its opaquely shaded slopes seeing cooler temperatures and lingering snow well into spring. The northern, south-facing section was taken by fire in 2000, leaving a charred, barren landscape in its wake.
Despite compromised aesthetics, fire is crucial to the natural lifecycle and healthy maintenance of a pine forest ecosystem. Periodic fire thins under-stories and deadfall, preventing the long term buildup of fuel that can lead to more permanently devastating events. It also replenishes soil and clears space for the reclamation of diverse native plant species on which local wildlife depend. Ponderosa Pine, protected by a resinous fire-resistant bark, need fire to pry open their cones to release seeds and initiate reproduction. In Walker Ranch, grasses and wildflowers have reemerged on these hillsides and recovery is well under way.
The following description begins at the Crescent Meadows Trailhead (southern terminus):
The South Boulder Creek Trail drops steeply on winding switchbacks through dense pine forest to South Boulder Creek (1.3 miles : 6,740'). It crosses over on a wide bridge to its north bank and flattens considerably for several hundred yards. This enjoyable section offers easy access to many good fishing locations, viewing and picnic areas along the creek. Informal routes lead upstream from the bridge crossing to more subdued and productive fishing waters.
Along the creek, just beyond Walker Ranch Loop's Mile Marker 1, the trail turns sharply left (1.55 miles : 6,740') and begins a strenuous, winding climb through the burn area to its northern terminus at the South Boulder Creek Trailhead (2.6 miles : 7,287'). Anticipate this turn, as its not very well marked. New interpretive signs en route discuss the fire, recovery status and local forest ecology in great detail.
- The Walker Ranch Loop is favored by local trail runners and mountain bikers; be prepared to share the trail.
- Black Bear and Mountain Lion inhabit this area. Be responsible with trash, pets and children.
- The complete Walker Ranch Loop is comprised of 4 distinct trails totaling 7.55 miles:
- Columbine Gulch: (1.62 miles)
- Eldorado Canyon: (0.93 miles)
- Crescent Meadows: (2.4 miles)
- S. Boulder Creek: (2.6 miles)
- 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.
Directions to Trailhead
The South Boulder Creek Trailhead is located 7.9 miles west of Chatauqua Park on Flagstaff Road. After passing Chatauqua Park via Baseline Road in Boulder, continue straight onto Flagstaff Road for 7.9 miles to the trailhead on your left. The parking lot is .1 miles from the road.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
9 Kneale Road (P.O. Box B)
Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
Park Hours: sunrise to sunset, everyday