Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a relatively new addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System. While Rocky Flats has been around for a very long time, it only opened to the public in 2018. However, the Refuge did open to a fair amount of controversy. The controversy has to do with whether the site, which used to manufacture nuclear weapons, was sufficiently remediated. Here are two articles explaining the situation and I encourage you to do your own research if the idea of hiking here freaks you out. I make no claims about the safety of hiking at Rocky Flats.
If you do decide to explore this trail system, then try the Walnut Creek and Lindsay Ranch Loops. Combining these two loops makes a nice 6 mile hike. The terrain is mostly flat and easy to follow so the six miles goes by quickly. For the entirety of the hike, you get nice views of the Eastern Plains and the foothills around boulder. The views of Eldorado Canyon, South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, and Green Mountain are superb. You also get pretty close to the National Renewable Energy Lab’s (NREL) experimental wind farm which is kind of cool to see even if it does obscure the view a bit.
The hike starts out from the main parking area and soon arrives at a trail junction. Go whichever way you choose and finish the loop on your way back. The northernmost trail segment has the better views. At the conclusion of this trail loop, continue straight heading west towards the foothills. Before long you’ll arrive at the rim of a shallow canyon and see the remains of Lindsay Ranch at the canyon floor.
At the turnoff for the Lindsay Ranch Trail head down into the canyon to explore the remains of the ranch including some historic buildings and a nice pond. Head back up out of the canyon to continue the loop. After a few more minutes of hiking the trail goes back down into the canyon and up again before rejoining the main trail. At this point, you can continue exploring or head back the way you came to complete the two loops and return to the trailhead.
I highly recommend hiking this trail in the winter as the constant exposure would make it a hot one in the summertime. That being said, this trail can get windy so winter hiking will typically include some postholing across short snow drifts. Overall the Refuge makes for a pleasant hike with nice views of the foothills…just don’t dig around in the dirt or drink the water...
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Walnut Creek & Lindsay Ranch Loops
Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
Date Hiked: December 1, 2019
Distance: 6.2 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Elevation Min.Max: 5,825 to 6,125 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 54' 40" N; 105º 11' 01" W
Managing Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service