It’s less than 10 miles from downtown Boulder, but somehow Walker Ranch feels much farther away in both space and time. The 7.8-mile loop that winds through the property is a great challenge for hikers and bikers alike, but it’s the history and exceptional beauty that will keep you coming back. It’s no wonder that Walker Ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a cultural landscape. Time spent at Walker Ranch connects us to our pioneering past, to the natural world, and to ourselves.
James Walker moved to Colorado from Missouri in 1869. He’d been battling illness and his physician recommended the high altitude and dry climate. The Colorado air agreed with him and his health improved greatly.
In 1882, he and his wife Phoebe filed a homestead claim to 160 acres just west of Boulder. The large meadow and year-round creek made it an ideal spot for ranching. For nearly a century, three generations of Walkers would live and work here. The ranch grew to 6,000 acres and became one of the largest in the region.
The Walker family sold the ranch in 1959. The land changed hands over the next several years and was ultimately purchased by Boulder County in 1976. Several original structures remain and group tours of the homestead may be arranged by calling 303-776-8848. Walker Ranch Heritage Days are another great way to experience the history of the land and its people.
This is a multi-use trail shared by hikers, runners, bikers, and equestrians. Dogs are permitted but must remain on-leash. Be sure to check for trail conditions and temporary closures before setting out.
The Walker Ranch Loop begins at the main Walker Ranch Trailhead. Take Baseline Road west and then bear right as it turns into Flagstaff Road and heads up the mountain. Continue on Flagstaff Road for 7 miles and then turn left for the Walker Ranch Trailhead. The trailhead has ample parking, picnic tables, and restrooms. Summer weekends are a very busy time at Walker Ranch. Arrive early or plan a weekday visit to avoid the crowds.
This moderate to strenuous hike rolls along for nearly 8 miles through wide-open meadow, dense forest, and riparian zones. Counter-clockwise is a gentler approach while clockwise is more strenuous. The diversity of terrain is both a rarity and a delight. South Boulder Creek flows through the property and lends itself to dipping in tired toes or picnicking along its banks. Breathtaking geological formations and an array of plant and animal life are icing on the cake.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow. The highlight of the loop is the section known as “the falls.” This series of small waterfalls punctuated by large boulders and framed by rocky cliffs is a sight (and sound) to behold. It’s an ideal place to take a rest or eat lunch. The South Boulder Creek Picnic Area (about a mile from the trailhead if hiking counter-clockwise) is another great spot for a break.
If 7.8 miles aren’t quite enough for you, try tacking on these nearby trails:
Meyers Homestead Trail: From the trailhead, head northwest on the Walker Ranch Link for ¾ of a mile to connect to the Meyers Homestead Trail. This moderate 2.6 mile out-and-back offers more of the pristine landscape and cultural history you enjoyed on the Walker Ranch Loop. Several historic barns can be viewed from the trail. This option adds 6.5 miles to your hike.
Eldorado Canyon Trail: Just past the “falls” section (if hiking counter-clockwise) is a junction connecting the Walker Ranch Loop with Eldorado Canyon Trail. Turn right to access this OSMP-maintained trail that winds through Eldorado Canyon State Park. The moderate 3.5-mile out-and-back trail boasts incredible views and creates a lollipop-shaped hike when connected with Walker Ranch Loop. This option adds 7 miles to your hike.
Happy trails, Boulderites!