Boulder, CO: Caribou Ranch Loop

Nestled between Nederland and the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, this 4.3-mile lollipop trail reveals mountain vistas en route to a 19th-century homestead.
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Nestled between Nederland and the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, this 4.3-mile lollipop trail reveals mountain vistas en route to a 19th-century homestead.

Take a walk through history on this 4.3-mile lasso loop that tours Caribou Ranch, home to the 19th-century Blue Bird Mine and the site of a '70s-era recording studio that brought Elton John to town. The well-marked, easy-going trail makes for scenic hiking year-round, and if you visit during the week, you may have the place to yourself.
From the large parking area, follow the DeLonde Trail through a forest of ponderosa pines and intermittent aspen groves. After half a mile, the trail opens up, offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains before merging onto old railroad grade. At mile 1.2, bear right at the trail fork for a tour of the renovated DeLonde Homestead. Once you've checked out the house, barn, and creek-side overlook, hop on the Blue Bird Loop, which travels north past a spur trail to the Blue Bird Mine. After 2.3 miles, the path merges back onto railroad grade and reconnects with the DeLonde Trail for the return trip to the trailhead.
Note: Caribou Ranch is closed April 1 through June 30 to protect migratory birds and elk calving and rearing.
-Mapped by Sarah Curry, Ben Fullerton, and Kim Phillips

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.9

Waypoints

CAR001

Location: 39.9820857, -105.5193686

From the trailhead head northwest on the DeLonde Trail (marked with blue blazes). Pass a handicap accessible picnic table on the right shortly after the trailhead.

CAR002

Location: 39.9835572, -105.5219007

Beyond the trees on the right, catch a glimpse of a nearby peak, then continue on the well-maintained trail.

CAR003

Location: 39.9826694, -105.5266535

Emerge from the woods into a small meadow (the first of several you'll encounter on the hike).

CAR004

Location: 39.9852096, -105.5294752

The trail merges onto the Switzerland railroad grade for a flat stretch of hiking.

CAR005

Location: 39.985557, -105.52972

Stop and read the interpretive sign for some background on the Switzerland Trail. In the early 1900's, the Denver, Boulder & Western Railroad used this route to service the Blue Bird Mine.

CAR006

Location: 39.9876737, -105.532895

The first view of Caribou Ranch can be seen through an opening on the right.

CAR007

Location: 39.9878524, -105.5344212

Bear right @ Y-junction toward the historic DeLonde Homestead, which includes a renovated red barn and brown house.

CAR008

Location: 39.9906103, -105.5329594

Turn right onto a side trail for up-close views of the homestead.

CAR009

Location: 39.9905075, -105.5326322

Delonde Homestead: Read the interpretive sign that sits in front of the house. Next continue southeast to a small overlook.

CAR010

Location: 39.9902507, -105.5320823

This overlook area features a picnic table and views of Delonde Creek. Next, return to Waypoint 8 and bear right @ 3-way junction onto the Blue Bird Loop.

CAR011

Location: 39.9906843, -105.5297434

Pass a sign by the trail that details the wildlife in the area: deer, elk, coyote, and mountain lions. Continue to follow the blue blazes through the forest.

CAR012

Location: 39.9949256, -105.5324149

At the fork, bear left to continue on the Blue Bird Loop. If you have time, bear right to visit the Blue Bird Mine, named for blue azurite (0.2 miles round-trip).

CAR013

Location: 39.994422, -105.533738

The path merges onto the Switzerland railroad grade. Follow the wide and gentle path to the southwest.

CAR014

Location: 39.990713, -105.538565

Take in one more beautiful view across the golden meadows and forests. Follow the path back to the DeLonde Trail at Waypoint 7, then retrace your route back to the trailhead.

Meadow

Location: 39.98757, -105.533982

The trail crosses an open field before the homestead.

Picnic Area

Location: 39.9824228, -105.5194116

DeLonde Trail

Location: 39.9833106, -105.5210209

Trail Views

Location: 39.9835572, -105.521729

A quick peek at the mountains on the DeLonde Trail.

Open Trail

Location: 39.9826858, -105.5261385

Gnarled Tree

Location: 39.9853822, -105.529604

DeLonde Trail

Location: 39.9865002, -105.5299795

The trail follows old railroad grade.

Views of the Red Barn

Location: 39.9876922, -105.532769

Aspen

Location: 39.9877661, -105.5343354

Scarred Aspen

Location: 39.987984, -105.5344319

DeLonde Homestead Sign

Location: 39.9881607, -105.5343622

DeLonde Homestead

Location: 39.9906267, -105.5331552

Interpretive Sign

Location: 39.9905034, -105.5326027

DeLonde Homestead

Location: 39.990487, -105.5325544

Red Barn

Location: 39.9908733, -105.5330372

View of the DeLonde Homestead

Location: 39.9906925, -105.5384231

Return Trip

Location: 39.9884813, -105.5382514

DeLonde Trail

Location: 39.9850123, -105.5291104

Return Trip on the DeLonde Trail

Location: 39.9831709, -105.5207098

Final Stretch

Location: 39.98299, -105.5201626