Coulson Gulch Trail

MODERATE 55 reviews
#23 of 114 trails in

Coulson Gulch Trail is a 5.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Lyons, Colorado that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until September. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

5.3 miles
948 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly





horseback riding

nature trips

trail running





wild flowers


washed out

Great day hike near Boulder/Longmont/Lyons. Light usage, could be a bit confusing to arrive at trail head. See Getting There. The trail head is on the left-hand side of the parking area. There are MANY trail options here, so take care of which trails you take to ensure you end up where you mean to! This map will take you on just the out/back Coulson Gulch trail. Mostly downhill on the way out, so keep in mind the way back is where the "intermediate" comes into play. Approximately 1.8 miles into the trail lies an old abandoned cabin, nice place to stop for a snack/water/shade break.

3 minutes ago

Be prepared for butt punishment on the way back up. WOW.

Okay, let's start from the beginning. As it says, it can be confusing, and I really thank Allison Meyers for her description of where to go. As you go on the dirt road, it will eventually come to a fork and you want to go UP the hill off to the left to get to the lot. Now my friend and I ended up parking below the lot, as we weren't so sure our car would like the slightly rocky and lumpy terrain. I saw a minivan get high centered right in front of my car! It is absolutely doable, but there are some spots that suck.

THE HIKE: Beautiful! Going down, you get shade and forest and meadows... it is single file hiking through forest or meadow, but it is so pretty. The homestead was great to see...there is an old stove or something and for some reason, a box spring mattress bottom. So confused how it got there!! But a good relic of the past. The rest of the way was pleasant and we almost stopped, however I recalled seeing that there was a river or water feature up ahead, so we soldiered on. The path has washed away and there are a few tricky areas. I had to slide on my butt on the way back... so steep!
The water area was gorgeous and as others have said, I heard the 2013 flood washed away the rest of the area. :( But the water was great to sit and take a breather.

STARTING BACK- we felt it was confusing to figure out how to get back to the path... thankfully, there was a wonderful woman who had put up blue flags (she told us it was her!) to let others know where to get back onto the main path was. If she wasn't there, we would've panicked just a bit. Thank you! Hopefully her tie bags stay was helpful to know where to go to get back. You get disoriented with that many rocks and don't recall where you came from! Take note of where you came from!

THE HIKE BACK... this is the firepower. It is hard, IMO. Some sections are OK and others are butt burning up the hill, "I want to live here so I don't move again" type hills. Our dogs were getting tired. It really kicks it back up a notch from the homestead area back up towards the car. I felt so rewarded going back to the car, like we really worked hard! We had tired dogs and some had to get carried. LOL
This was tough to get back up the hills, especially in warm weather.

I'm toast. But that was a great hike for a late Sept day. There were enough people to feel comfortable that you weren't going to die in the woods alone, lol..but there were maybe 6 or 7 groups isn't a Boulder Chatauqua type busy hike! I would do this again now that I know what we are getting into. :)

5 days ago

we went on a Monday and arrived around 11 am, only saw two other people and some campers that we're across from the trailhead but definitely not high traffic. i agree it was a little confusing to arrive to but the directions helped, stay left at the fork and keep going uphill. also like other people said, it is really downhill the way out, so the way back be prepared it's a long way up! great trail, looking forward to doing it again !

29 days ago

We arrived on Saturday at 8am and left around 1045. We only saw 3 people who were just starting as we were leaving. The river at the end was worth the whole trip. Our pup loved playing in the water, and we got in up to our knees. There’s a lot of tall grass, so tall socks or pants might be good.

1 month ago

Really enjoyed this trail. Arrived at 4pm on a Sunday. Only saw three other people. So quiet and tons of wildflowers. Didn’t see any wildlife besides birds, but the river at the end was so lovely to cool off in and relax. Also loved the cabin. Would definitely do this hike again.

1 month ago

Great hike, a few steeper spots but generally easy. We saw almost no people on the trail which is increasingly difficult in the front range.

1 month ago

Beautiful day
Beautiful hike

2 months ago

Went backpacking with my 14 year old son. Camped down by the creek, had a great time. not too hard. We actually took a detour and hiked down to R.P. reservoir. very nice extra hike, but too bad we could not camp there. disappointed that there was a fire ban. we were also able to shoot our 22 before and after our hike at the open range at the trailhead.

2 months ago

A very enjoyable hike for a Sunday afternoon. As you'll see in the trail profile, it's mostly downhill on the way out, making the return more difficult. Starts out in the shade, then goes to a couple of open meadows (bring sunscreen!). I'd suggest continuing on a bit further than the map on AllTrails displays so that you come to the river - great place to hang out for a while. Some of the trail is eroded from use/flood damage, but there's usually an "up-and-over" alternative if you look for it. The directions for "Getting There" on AllTrails are helpful. I had no trouble driving there in my 2WD lower-clearance car.

scenic driving
2 months ago

Great hike, little traffic, decent shade. Did it with a 5 month old and would do it again!

3 months ago

Really stunning views. I went around 6-9pm on weekday. I was literally the only person on the trail. But campers were around. The road leading up is half dirt and sketchy in places for low cars. My prius was fine tho. Drive slow. The creek is pretty dry until half way in. When you get to the huge open field, keep going, until you see the trail split at the end, and go left into the next meadow. You will have to cross a broken path over the water, so you will know. Just more stunning views in the 2nd meadow too. Absolutely lovely.

3 months ago

Great trail for intermediate backpackers and hikers.

Once you get passed the firing range and into the valley, it's a beautiful trail. Unfortunately most of the Creeks are dried up and you will not come across moving water until about a mile in.

I would do this trail again in a heartbeat.
PS- Getting out of the valley is what makes this an intermediate trail;)

6 months ago

At the start of trail it is a shooting range. Lots of gun fire and you don't know where they are shooting. If I know of all the gun fire would not of done this trail. It was a great hike slippery in spots and the old cabin was cool but too much gun fire at the start.

9 months ago

Beautiful hike, some washed away areas near end and the connector and bridge at 2.4 miles are gone...

9 months ago

Great hike, good work out and not a lot of traffic. Perfect for dogs!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Nice remote out-and-back trail. Beautiful and unique wildflowers. Waters and streams were absent on our hike at the end of July, except for a few stagnant pools of water. Fellow hikers returning back warned us of a large yellow-gray (non-rattling) snake on the trail about 1/2 mile in, but it was gone when we hiked. The hike commences with medium downhill terrain (so medium uphill returning) and continues with rolling hills until you reach the fork to continue about 1/2 mile to the end of the trail (right) or continue straight to Button Rock Reservoir (aka R.P. or Ralph Prince Reservior). We had a late start and light rain with more threatened by thunder and ominous clouds as we continued towards the reservior. We caught a coyote off guard about .7 miles from the split. It immediately ran to the top of the nearest hill and began BARKING at us. Not howling, but barking incessantly--as if I were wearing a postal or UPS uniform kind of bark. I shouted "you win" as we turned around and the coyote replied with incorrigible barking in response. Essentially, that coyote told us off for being on the trail. I suppose it could have been a momma protecting its young, but be aware of the barking, "ye shall not pass" coyote!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Getting in is easy getting out is all up hill. Seasonal stream runs through mid June making for a nice spot to cool the feet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Very pretty hike with lots of wildflowers. Challenging return trip with lots of climb.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Awesome wildflowers today! And only saw one group during the whole hike, amazing for Boulder county hiking.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

One of my favorite hikes in Lyons! The first section is pretty well shaded, however, once you get to the meadow you're pretty exposed. We were hoping to make the loop to button rock and then on to north sheep mountain, but unfortunately due to the flood, we were unable to pass the St. Vrain, as the bridge has been washed out. It was still incredible hiking to the river at peak run off season though! A four wheel vehicle is definitely required if you're planning on parking at the trailhead. Overall, really enjoyable. The hike in is mostly downhill, so don't forget you'll have to climb your way out!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Absolutely beautiful. Good workout but doesn't kill you, views are spectacular and it is amazing to hear nothing but nature around you. Not crowded at all. We will definitely be back soon, probably my favorite trail in Colorado so far.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Beautiful forest with a large Meadow. The trail follows a seasonal stream. I wasn't able to complete the loop around Sheep Mountain because the river was impassable. Beautiful though!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I loved this trail. Wife and I hiked it in the afternoon; mid-May. Several very small stream crossings, a large beautiful meadow. The majority of the hike follows a small stream. There are stretches where it feels as if the forest is collapsing on you. I think we only saw 6-8 people throughout the entire hike. Small climb at the end but nothing too taxing. I would definitely do this one again!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Great trail! Was the only one on the trail so almost was a little eerie feeling because definitely in bear / mountain lion keep your eyes open! But very well groomed and a nice peaceful stream that runs along side it. The last 0.5 mile of the road to get up to the trailhead requires either a high clearance or a 4WD car. I parked at the bottom of the turnoff which was fine.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Overall good hike. Trail is still closed, but the area is beautiful.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

If you have a vehicle with decent clearance then bypass the road hike. The trail itself is mainly loose gravel but pretty easy going. The trail is still closed about 2 miles from the trailhead.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Beautiful trail. The way in is mostly down hill so conserve energy for way back. Beautiful meadows and wild raspberries are everywhere. My fingers are red. Recommend this hike to all. Careful on downhills its dry dirt with some wash out. Can be a little dangerous for small kids without proper shoes. Pack in water you will need it for way back. Great hike. Absolutely beautiful vistas. Others have bypassed the closure two miles in. Not recommended to go off trail but with good gps and some knowledge of trail hiking the closure can be bypassed and you can go through to button rock.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Part of the trail is closed due to flood damage but there is still plenty of awesome trail to be covered! The trail is closed 2 miles after the ACTUAL trailhead (this closure is about 200 yards past the trail that breaks off to the east towards North St. Vrain Lake). Also, the trail as shown on the map is slightly inaccurate. "Johnny Park Road" is an unmaintained dirt road with significant washout. In bad weather without a great vehicle you will have to start where Johnny Park and County Road 47 meet. However, the ACTUAL trailhead is where this road meets Coulson Gulch Trail (at the circle shape trail). I was able to make it most of the way up in in dry weather in a 2 wheel drive Escape (and some fancy driving). Even if conditions prevent you from driving up, you could still park at the bottom and walk the half mile to the top as shown on the AllTrails map. Just know the road and trail are not currently clearly marked until you reach the top of the hill and the true trailhead. Enjoy!!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

This should read, "Big Elk Meadows." This is a beautiful hike. winding through wooded areas and runs along the St. Vrain Creek. I would rate this moderate because the elevation slopes upwards and downwards all throughout the hike. Take some time to take some pictures of North Sheep Mountain while you're on this trail. For more: (sorry All Trails, but you kind of failed here).

1 month ago

1 month ago

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