Walker Ranch Loop | Walker Ranch Open Space
Boulder, CO | 04/28/19 | 8.24 miles | 1,584′ gain
Kyle and I were planning on going snowshoeing this weekend but I was out with a migraine all day Saturday and then Kyle woke up with a migraine Sunday morning. (What is going on!?) So I picked a different hike that Kyle didn’t care to do, and set off with Otis.
Walker Ranch Open Space was originally homesteaded by the Walker family in the 1880s. (The homestead is visible from the road, though it’s not open to the public.) What started as a small 160 acre homestead became a 6,000 acre cattle operation by 1959. Now Boulder County manages the land and protects it’s cultural and natural resources.
There are a number of trailheads along the Walker Ranch Loop but we started at the main Walker Ranch Trailhead. I decided to do the loop counter-clockwise, though there were people going in both directions.
The trail starts by descending through a burn area into a canyon. The Walker Ranch/Eldorado Fire occurred in 2000 and burned over 1,000 acres.
After about a mile, we reached the bottom of the canyon and found South Boulder Creek. Otis and I stopped at a picnic area and he waded in the water for a few minutes. We watched a few guys flyfish for trout.
The trail meandered alongside the creek for a little while, crossed on a nice bridge, and then began to climb up to Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Once you reach the high point in Eldorado Canyon State Park, the trail flattens out as you cross a gorgeous meadow.
After about a half mile, the trail started to descend again and eventually crossed South Boulder Creek once more. This section of the trail was mostly forested with the occasional view into Eldorado Canyon.
As you approach South Boulder Creek, there is a long set of stairs that marks the final descent to the water. The stairs are made of both wood and rock, and vary from normal steps to ladder-like.
When we reached the creek, we took another quick break by the water. It was getting extremely hot and Otis was happy to wade for a few minutes.
There are more stairs after the first creek access point but the crossing comes quickly, as does the final ascent back to the Walker Ranch Trailhead. I’m not used to gaining elevation at the end of a hike, and I was really feeling it. The heat was also doing a number on us – we’re not used to hiking when it’s hot!
Thankfully the last mile was mostly flat and/or downhill. Our feet were dragging by the time we reached the car.
The car’s thermometer read only 71* but the sun beating down made it feel way hotter than that. Otis and I were ready for the A/C!