“A history lesson and mountain biking: your two favorite things! Well at least one of them is
— Jared Crockett
is a neat place to go and discover how people used to live in the Rocky Mountains. There are several old cabins and other buildings with informational plaques at each, describing who lived there, what they did, and what happened to them.
This ride takes you past a few (but not all) of these. Most of the route is on old doubletrack wagon roads, but with a few short sections of singletrack included. Its beautiful scenery, interesting history, all from the saddle of your awesome mountain bike. Whats not to like?!
Need to Know
Access to Homestead Meadows
can be achieved from Hermit Park (from the north), Pierson Park (from the west) or Lion Gulch Trailhead (from the east). At the time of this writing, Lion Gulch Trailhead is closed due to the flooding of September 2013. Access to Hermit Park requires a Larimer County day-use pass. This can be purchased on site for $6, or you can also purchase the annual pass for $75. These passes provide access to all Larimer County parks and open spaces (including great riding at Horsetooth Mountain Park and Blue Sky
Beginning at the large trailhead in Hermit Park, the first section of the ride is a gravel road that provides access to a couple of Hermit Park cabins which are available to rent. At the end of the gravel road the singletrack begins. It leads you into the woods and up the side of a hill. After winding your way through the woods a bit, the trail terminates by dropping sharply down to Road 120
. This descent to Road 120
is highly technical and will probably be very challenging for most.
Follow Road 120
uphill for a gut-busting climb into Homestead Meadows
. This stretch doesnt present any technical challenges, but it is a long and steep climb with no breaks until you get to the top. Youll know youre at the top when you pass through a forest service gate. Once youve arrived in Homestead Meadows
, its fast and easy pedaling for the most part.
Soon youll come to a junction with Road 120
. Stay on Road 120
to the left as it generally runs through the center of all the historic homesteads of the area. Following the road in the downhill direction it can be pretty fun to just open it up and get your speed up. If you do that, just be mindful of how old this road is. It is very uneven with some deep ruts in some places that could sneak up on you.
Eventually, you'll get to a major trail intersection. On your left, youll see a trail marker sticking up in the middle of the trail that reads Lions Paw Trail 949-1. Turn left and follow this down the hill. This short connector is fraught with technical challenges and steepness. In other words, the segment makes for a pretty fun ride down. At the bottom of that is another major trail intersection. Point your bike north to take the Lion Gulch Spur
This trail runs past a couple of the old homesteads towards the middle and southern ends of the trail. The southern end runs through a large meadow complete with tall grasses and the trail is deeply rutted in spots. Exit from the meadow section is provided by a series of wood steps. Riding up them can be challenging so go for it! Pass another homestead and the trail winds past it off to the right. Here there are some rocky challenges where it looks like the trail has been washed out a bit, so finding your way through this can be interesting and fun.
Hook back up with Road 120
and take it for a short section uphill. Before long you come to a sign pointing left for the Meadow Loop Trail
1006. That singletrack continues straight (where Road 120
veers right). Follow the singletrack as it descends a rocky hill into a small meadow. Once down off the hill into the small meadow, the trail turns bumpy and depending on the time of year can be a bit hard to follow as it could get lost in the tall grass. After the meadow, the trail goes back into the woods and back up another hill. Coming back down that hill on the north end of the trail is fun! This will spit you out onto 120A
to the right, and follow it past the Brown Homestead until you intersect with Road 120
again. Take Road 120
to the left and you are now headed back to where you started. Retrace your steps (enjoy the amazing downhill on Road 120
) and get back to your car.
History & Background
Taken from the informational plaque near the Lion Gulch and Lions Paw intersection: The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged western expansion by opening America's land to agricultural settlement. To qualify, a person had to be a US citizen (or express the intent to become one), older than 21 (or head of a household) and possess less than 160 acres of their own land.
To acquire the property title one had to build a house within 5 years, occupy the land for at least 6 months of the year, make income related to the property and cultivate a portion of the land. After 6 months one could buy the land for $1.25 an acre, or $15 outright after 5 years. Homesteaders could acquire up to 320 acres of land under the Act, a program that ended in 1976.
, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, contains the remains of over a dozen cabins from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.