Sunday, November 23, 2008

Button Rock Preserve/Sleepy Lion Trail

Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,960 – 6,420 ft
Elevation Gain: 460 ft

Ralph Pierce Reservoir viewed from the Sleepy Lion Trail. You can see Mt. Meeker in the distance.

Button Rock is a delightful and lesser-known open space just west of Lyons. It is dog friendly, contains views of distant Twin Sisters, and skirts a narrow reservoir bordered by pine trees. It is another of my favorite shoulder season hikes.

Creek along the initial part of the trail to the dam

The trail starts off in a large dirt parking area surrounded by high cliffs. On the west side of a wide gate, a broad flat road heads east towards the Ralph Price Reservoir. The road transects the canyon with several interesting water features along the way. If you continue heading west, you will end up at the base of the dam, but for a more interesting route, take the Sleep Lion Trail around a half-mile up the road. A large sign marks the trail.

These man-made falls are about half-way to the Sleepy Lion turn off.

Rocks along the Sleepy Lion Trail

The Sleepy Lion Trail winds through Ponderosa and Douglas fir. There are occasional open meadows and isolated red boulder formations. At the high point you can see the tip of Mt. Meeker and the double hump of Twin Sisters. There are also views of the reservoir itself.

Twin Sisters in the distance

From the highest vantage, the trail descends down an old rail bed to the base of the dam. Here a dramatic jet of water shoots out of the reservoir’s water control feature. It is difficult to pull oneself away from the chaotic and powerful display of man’s attempt to control nature.

The Ralph Pierce Reservoir seen from the Sleepy Lion Trail

On the far right-hand side of the dam is a short but steep trail up to the reservoir itself. This ascends several hundred feet through several highly eroded areas. Anyone used to Colorado’s steep ascents will find this short jaunt to be trivial. For those who wish an outing that is easier on the knees, skip the trail and head back down the broad road to the trailhead.

The old rail bed portion of the Sleepy Lion Trail

The Ralph Price Reservoir is an interesting and rarely visited place. There is no official trail that circumnavigates it, but you can walk along the right shoreline for a mile or so. In low years, there are boulders to nestle in and in high years, the deep blue waters of the reservoir lap the shoreline almost to the level of the trail. If the wind is not blowing too much, this is a pleasant place for a picnic.

Water jet

Base of the Button Rock Dam

To return to the trailhead, the hiker has two options, he can return down to the base of the dam via the steep trail or wander up and around to one of the dirt roads that skirt the area.

The deep blue of the Ralph Pierce Reservoir

On a sunny fall day, Button Rock can be a pleasant Front Range excursion. While known to the locals, it is rarely visited by those outside of Lyons. This does not mean that it will be uncrowded, however, but I have found that most visitors stay on the main road and do not take the more scenic but more strenuous Sleep Lion Trail.


VICI Investments said...

Great blog!!! Have you ever thought of adding a search box to your blog so people can search for a topic?? My wife and I have lived here for 8 years, and we have done many hikes, but always enjoy finding new ones...

sylvia murphy said...


Right now blogspot does not have a search gadget that you can add. If you know of one let me know.

To get around that, I have tried to make an index of all the hikes on the right side of the blog.



VICI Investments said...
It is a local (Boulder) company that not only allows people to search your blog, but any other online content you have... For instance, if I searched Estes Park it would return all blog entires but also any photos you have on flickr that are tagged with "estes Park", etc... It is supposedly a 1 click install...

VICI Investments said...

here is an email to their support team if you need help

(full disclosure - I know most of the team over there so I am biased... but that is not why I asked, my wife and I were heading to Telluride and I thought it would be awesome to search your blog for any references to a particular destination!!)

sylvia murphy said...


I'll have to check back and see it their widgit will mess with my template.

As for Telluride, I took my parents on a week long trip to ouray a couple of years ago. I have yet to blog those trails. I have been hiking and taking photographs long before I have been blogging, so I have a lot of catch up to do.

The one trail that comes to mind is Blue Lake near Mt. Sneffles. There are some other spectacular one up by Silverton.


Jeffrey Hare said...

Thanks for sharing. I just went a few weeks ago with two of my kids and wanted to invite a few more to come along next time. It is nice to have a trail description and pictures to send.

BTW - for the less advanced hikers or hikers with smaller kids, you can do this on the gravel road to/from the dam in about 4.5 miles. With only a 600 foot elevation gain, a doable hike for most people.