|Low valleys and high peaks in Colorado|
Excerpted from Canine Colorado by Cindy Hirschfeld
When your dog has had his fill of watching climbers attempt the numerous technical routes for which "Eldo" is renowned, he'll probably be interested in doing a bit of hiking. At 2.8 miles roundtrip, the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail begins off the one road through the park. It climbs gradually but steadily to a flat overlook, former site of the Crags Hotel, which burned in 1912. The only remains of this once luxurious retreat are a couple of fireplaces, sections of the foundation, and scattered pieces of charred dinnerwareas well as a spectacular view of the canyon and the plains beyond on one side and the rugged Indian Peaks on the other. Though the trail continues to an upper loop near the railroad tracks (you might spot an Amtrak train traveling high above during your hike), the overlook makes a good turnaround point. The Eldorado Canyon Trail takes off from the end of the park road, climbing, at times steeply, through ponderosa pine and intersecting after a couple of miles with the Walker Ranch Loop Trail, a popular mountain-biking area on Boulder County Open Space. Taking a left at the intersection puts you on the Crescent Meadows Trail, which leads to another parcel of state park land (known as Crescent Meadows). The trail eventually ends at the Gross Dam Rd.
Don't confuse this Boulder County Open Space area with the monolithic Rock Creek subdivision visible from Highway 36. In fact, with the wide openness of this area, you and your dog might think you're in Nebraska, except for the stunning view of Longs Peak to the west. This would be a great place for a sunset walk. The most scenic hiking section begins from the Dillon Rd. trallhead, where a wide, flat trail leads through fields, then goes almost all the way around Stearns Lake (keep an eye out for the wildlife area closure signs). From Stearns Lake, you can also continue hiking south from the dam; after going through a horse pasture, stay to the right, where a dirt service road will eventually bring you out on an unpaved section of 104th St. that's closed to traffic.
This area is extremely popular on weekends year-round; midweek would be the best time to explore it. The first part of this trail follows an old mining road up a gradual ascent. Midsummer, you'll be greeted by a colorful profusion of wildflowers on the slopes alongside the trail. After about a half-mile, cross a bridge over the South Fork of Boulder Creek and hike up parallel to it. A sign for Lost Lake soon indicates a turnoff to the left. From there, it's a short way to the lake itself, where your dog can frolic in the water while you pick out the mining ruins on the hillside across the lake.
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