Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caribou Ranch

Distance: 4.85 miles round trip (both trails with detours)
Elevation at the start: 8,580 ft
Elevation Gain: 756 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Prohibited
Bikes: Prohibited
Critters: Snipe Flies (yikes!)
Seasonal Closure: 1 April to 30 June for Elk calving

DeLonde Homestead in the distance at Caribou Ranch

Caribou Ranch Open Space is located just north of Nederland on the Peak to Peak highway. Its two trails can be combined into a lovely stroll through Ponderosa Forest and open meadows. In summer the meadows are filled with wildflowers and tall green grasses.

Early trail segment

View to the west before heading down to the meadow

The ranch contains many attractions including the bright red barn of the DeLonde Homestead, the buildings and ruins of the Bluebird Mine, an excursion along Boulder Creek, and a short, nostalgic sojourn along the road bed of the Switzerland Trail, former route of the Denver, Boulder & Western Railroad.

A segment in Aspens

The parking is ample at the trailhead, which is short distance off of highway 72. A large brown sign points the way. Bathroom facilities are also present.

The wildflowers in this small meadow caught the eye

The route begins on the DeLonde Trail (1.2 miles one way) in a Ponderosa forest that angles gently upwards. Occasional rock piles and views of the western hills dominate the early portion of the route. A little further on the route transitions into small meadows surrounded by young Aspens before intersecting at 0.84 miles with the Switzerland Trail (as in train) roadbed. A small interpretive sign provides information about this historical landmark. The route follows the road bed until it intersects with the Bluebird Loop (1.8 miles around).

Another small meadow

At this point, you can take the loop in either direction. Since the red barn of the DeLonde Homestead was in view across an expansive green meadow, it was difficult not to head directly to it and take the loop in a counter-clockwise manner.

Intersecting the Switzerland Trail

The homestead (1.5 miles) consists of the attractive barn, a large house, a picnic table and a small lake that is blocked by a fence. This was a pleasant place indeed to lounge and listen to the birds in the trees.

The red barn up close

The DeLonde Homestead residence

Beyond the homestead on the northern portion of the loop is Boulder Creek at 2.26 miles. There is a short set of stone steps one can descend to reach the water. It is really unfortunate that dogs are not allowed in the open space because it has everything a dog could want.

Looking towards the small pond. The picnic table is just to the right

Trees and rocks near the homestead

On the western extent of the loop is a small sign pointing to the ruins of the Bluebird Mine. The name actually comes from Blue Azurite, which is often found in silver ore. The mine was active in the 1870s. You can wander around the buildings and look across a fence into the mine shaft itself.

Boulder Creek, still flowing in early August

There are several paths leading away from the mine site and it was little confusing finding the trail again. If route finding is not for you, just back track up the spur trail that led to the mine and you'll be fine.

Coming up on the Bluebird Mine complex

Looking into the mine shaft

The last part of the loop is along the edge of the expansive meadow. The DeLonde Homestead is visible in the distance. A bench is strategically placed along the side, ideal for another summer-time contemplative moment.

Part of the meadow

Looking across the meadow to the homestead beyond

Caribou Ranch is an idyllic spot. Lovers, families, or walkers seeking both solitude and pleasing views will find it most appealing. A word of caution, however.... Snipe Flies prowl this bucolic paradise. Two bites on my hand and it swelled up like a balloon. If you have similar sensitivities, spray on the Deet, or visit in a less petulant time of year.

The final stretch of the loop before it retains the Switzerland Trail


Ryan said...

Just went hunting a couple miles north of here, just over the boundary to Roosevelt NF. The rut is in full swing right now and the amount of crazy elk out there is amazing! Caribou ranch indeed. I bet this meadow would be a great place to do some elk watching..

Linda said...

I had to look up Snipe Flies. We don't seem to have them here - yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad they don't allow dogs there. Nothing ruins your Open Space hike like stepping in...