Lulu City Site

Round Trip Distance: 7.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 8942 - 9474 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Colorado River
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic mountain trail, elk, Colorado River Headwaters

The Lulu City Site is located within the western side of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Lulu City was a mining camp along the Colorado River that had a short boom from 1879 to 1884 with a population of 200 people. All that is left of the site now are a few logs from one of the buildings. Everything else has been reclaimed and probably looks more like it did when the first white person arrived. The Shipler mine and cabin site are both passed along the trail to and from Lulu City.

The hike begins at the Colorado River trailhead and follows the Colorado River trail into the basin. There are several other hikes that also begin at this trailhead that are much longer and probably should be reserved for a backpacking trip.

The trail gains about 120 feet of elevation within the first quarter mile before leveling off again. The hiking brochure for the Kawuneeche Valley shows this hike as having an elevation gain of 350 feet. Our own GPS records show the total elevation gain at over 700 feet. Part of that is due to 2 spots where over 100 feet of elevation is lost and has to be regained.

There seems to be an abundance of elk in the area. The big bull elk at the top of this post was seen near the road just before the trailhead. This cow was on the ridge above the trail at the top of the first little hill after leaving the trailhead.

After getting over the first hill the trail becomes much easier with only a slight change in elevation over the next several miles.

A flock of Blue Grouse were grubbing for seeds and raspberries within a few feet of the trail. These birds usually remain perfectly still until you get too close and then fly away with a lot of chatter. The camera was within 2 feet of this bird as it continued to feed.

Here is a short video clip of the same bird.

The trail passes below the Shipler mine on a talus slope and then through their cabin site a little further up the trail.

Just past the cabin there is a small sign that says 'Privy'. Sure enough a short distance through the trees reveals a working commode on a concrete slab with a screen made of pine bark slabs. You have to really appreciate the practicality and the designers imagination with this one.

At about the 3 mile point of the hike the trail turns sharply to the right and begins a steady climb that lasts about a half mile. Between this point and the turnoff to Lulu City the trail gains another 170 feet of elevation.

After taking the left fork that leads down to Lulu City the trail drops a little over 100 feet in elevation. Another option would be to take the right fork to Little Yellowstone and loop around to approach Lulu City from the other direction for a total hiking distance of over 13 miles.

If it wasn't for the sign at the Lulu City site you might not be sure you had arrived other than if you are carrying an GPS it probably shows the correct distance. There isn't much to see at the site but by continuing down to the Colorado River you will be treated with some great scenery. Just imagine though that at one time there was a hotel, 40 cabins, a justice of the peace and several sawmills here with stagecoach service from Fort Collins 3 times a week. The town was named after the daughter of Benjamin F. Burnett who was one of the prospectors that came for the silver strike. The silver turned out to be low grade and wasn't worth the cost it took to transport it.

This cow elk with a radio collar was standing right smack dab in the middle of the trail on the return trip. The first thing to take notice of when this close to a cow is whether she has a calf nearby. If she pulls her ears back or looks threatening in any way then even though you don't see the calf there is probably one close by. This cow appeared to be dry and hardly paid us any heed at all. An elk or moose can stomp you to death in just seconds.

This calf elk was on the ridge just above the trailhead. The trail was very busy in this area and not a single person noticed the calf or its mother.

The hike to Lulu City has a lot to recommend except maybe the actual town site. Perhaps someday they can put a kiosk at the site with some old pictures and interesting bits of information. The country is beautiful, the trail is very peaceful to hike and there does seem to be an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers of course. Nevertheless, Lulu City is a true American ghost town that has come and gone like many others. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.