Map of the Trail to Lulu City
From the ample parking lot on the west wide of the highway, the path (officially the La Poudre Pass Trail
) heads due north parallel to the Colorado River but generally staying 100 feet or so from it. Some parts of the river flow down a shallow canyon; most cross level ground surrounded by meadows and patches of trees. The majority of the trail is through moist, shady woodland, emerging into the open in just a few places. There are several stream crossings and occasional short, steep sections, but for nearly three miles the path is generally fairly flat, the surroundings densely forested and the trek somewhat monotonous. Gaps in the trees offer glimpses of the steep slopes of Shipler Mountain
to the east and of more distant hills on the far side of the valley to the west.
The trail forks shortly before Lulu City; one branch stays a little way up the hillside and the other descends to an open area close to the river, site of the old town. A wooden NPS sign announces 'Lulu City, 1879-1884, population 200', while the foundations of a few wooden buildings can be seen by wandering off the trail a way. The meadow stretches to the river, which at this point is narrow and stony. At the height of its success, Lulu City had a hotel, post office, courthouse and four timber mills, but the ore extracted here was of low quality so the town did not last very long.
Little Yellowstone and the Colorado River
Most people turn back at the Lulu City townsite but both paths continue northwards, intersecting twice. At the second junction, the main trail turns west and follows the Lulu Creek
tributary up the valley side towards Skeleton Gulch and Thunder Pass, while the other branch (the Little Yellowstone Trail) stays north, crosses the creek on a footbridge and climbs the steepening slopes on the west side of the Colorado River, now a fast-flowing, boulder- and log-filled mountain stream. This path winds around several lesser tributaries and has good, if fleeting views downstream towards Kawuneeche Valley, though otherwise the route is still through the forest - a mixture of pine and aspen. One part of the river canyon has particularly sheer, colorful, jagged and unvegetated rocks, named Little Yellowstone
on account of the resemblance to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
in Wyoming. The final stretch of the trail is out of sight of the river, passing more trees and some marshy meadowland, before ending at an intersection with the forest track, running alongside Grand Ditch. La Poudre Pass and the source of the Colorado River at the (usually dry) La Poudre Pass Lake
are then a level 1.3 mile walk further north. Despite the relatively long distance to Lulu City, the first part of the trail is popular, and recommended by the NPS for families, even though there isn't much to see en route. The second part up Little Yellowstone Canyon to the forest track is steeper, rougher but also more scenic.