Follow the Colorado River along a gently-climbing trail until you reach Lulu City, the site of an abandoned village that was used as a base for gold mining in the late 1800s. Though there is little sign of the village today, the meadow setting with the river running through it is a great place for a picnic and watching wildlife.
- Distance RT: 7.1 miles
- Difficulty Rating: 132
- Hiking Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
- Time to Go: anytime but best in morning
- Season: June through October
- Primary Ecosystems: montane and subalpine
- Views: forest views with occasional views of the river and some open meadows
- Possible Wildlife: marmots, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, forest animals
- Trail Conditions: at the start wide and smooth but becomes rocky at times
- Reminder: To have the best chance of seeing wildlife, go early and walk quietly. Remember not to approach wildlife.
- Elevation Start: 9,010’
- Highest Point: 9,492’
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,230’
- Trailhead: This hike begins at the Colorado River Trailhead.
The hike departs on the north end of the parking lot on a wide and gentle trail that heads into the woods. In just a few hundred feet you’ll take a short but steep climb with one switchback and then the trail will gradually descend through deep woods. You’ll be able to hear the Colorado River off to your left. After you cross some small streams, you’ll enter a beautiful meadow and pass an intersection with a trail leading up to the Grand Ditch. While that trail may look gentle, just beyond eyesight it is anything but that. So continue straight through the meadow. As you reenter the trees you may notice some abandoned mines on your right. These are blocked off for safety and are a reminder of the failed mining in the area.
At about 0.9 miles the trail will meet the Colorado River and can get a bit muddy in the spring. The trail then undulates as it heads northward. You’ll notice that the forest is very lush and in some ways resembles the Pacific Northwest with the higher levels of moisture.
At about 1.7 miles the trail opens up somewhat. If you look to the right you may see marmots or bighorn sheep, while in the marshy meadows to your left you may find moose. Birds are abundant in this area as well. After reentering the woods you’ll cross Crater Creek coming down from Specimen Mountain and just after this you’ll enter another large meadow. At the far end of this meadow on the right side you’ll find the remains of Shipler Cabins built by Joe Shipler, who spent nearly thirty years mining for silver but never found riches.
The trail reenters the woods and is quite wide for a while, though a bit rough. It gives you a chance to imagine what the old wagon road leading up to Lulu City might have been like and how very remote this would have felt. This is a peaceful section of trail but you are unlikely to see much wildlife, as they tend to prefer the meadow areas. At 2.8 miles the trail turns to the right and begins to climb a bit more. You continue through dense forest, crossing numerous streams.
Eventually at 3.3 miles you’ll reach a junction. Turn left here and continue down the very steep trail toward Lulu City even if your end goal is La Poudre Pass. The view is much better this way and the distance is not much more than the other trail.
At 3.75 miles you’ll arrive at the place where two hundred people lived in the late 1800s as they searched in vain for gold. Today, you can explore the area and see the foundations and logs of a few of those early cabins, but there is very little else remaining. Enjoy a picnic in the meadow or follow the trail leading down to the river. This is a great place to spend an hour or two with a good book.