Hiking the Button Rock Preserve Sleepy Lion Loop
Button Rock Preserve is owned and managed by the City of Longmont. It’s home to several hiking trails and borders Roosevelt National Forest. The two reservoirs within Button Rock Preserve – Longmont Reservoir and Ralph Price Reservoir – are managed by the City of Longmont and provide water to the city. Both reservoirs lie along the North Saint Vrain Creek.
Map of Button Rock Preserve for reference.
This 5.2-mile hike in Button Rock Preserve is only moderately strenuous. It follows alongside the North Saint Vrain Creek, passes two reservoirs and two dams, and meanders on a uphill loop that features great views of Ralph Price Reservoir and the surrounding mountainous area.
Although we did the loop counter-clockwise, we saw a lot of people coming uphill clockwise. We thought that perhaps clockwise would have been better, because it was slippery and uncomfortable going downhill in certain parts on the sandy Sleepy Lion Trail.
The hike starts out at a 60-car parking lot. For a local Colorado trail, that’s quite a lot of parking, the trailhead gets busy quick. There was plenty of space around 7 am when we arrived, but the parking lot was full at 10 am when we finished. There were even some cars lined up, waiting to park.
There is a restroom about 0.2 miles from the parking lot on Longmont Dam Road, but it is currently closed during the pandemic due to lack of resources to clean it several times a day for safety.
Starting Out – Longmont Dam Road
The hike starts out on Longmont Dam Road, on a slight incline next to North Saint Vrain Creek. The wide creek is refreshing to walk alongside.
Soon the road passes by Longmont Dam. Longmont Reservoir, which looks like an elongated deep pond, lies just beyond it.
Continuing along the road, there are more views of the surrounding mountains and forest –
At Mile 0.8 there is the chance to veer onto the Sleepy Lion Trail and do the hike clockwise. We continued on to do the route counter-clockwise, but as I mentioned before, we thought it might be preferable to do this hike clockwise.
Button Rock Dam
At about Mile 1.9 is the Button Rock Dam. You can definitely hear it before you see it. Water gushes out here with incredible power.
Just beyond the Button Rock Dam, to the right, is the Hummingbird Trail. This trail ends at the reservoir, so if you just want to head back after a quick view of the water, you can go up and down this trail, and then find the Sleepy Lion Trail a bit further beyond the Button Rock Dam to loop back, as depicted in the AllTrails map.
This trail is short, but steep. After climbing for a bit, there is a lovely view of the Button Rock Dam and surrounding mountains –
Ralph Price Reservoir
At the top of the Hummingbird Trail is Ralph Price Reservoir. This large and serene reservoir is refreshing to see in the summer months. It is also a popular fishing destination.
It’s a bit hard to see here, but when you’re at the reservoir, you can barely see the tops of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak beyond the mountains –
We followed this straight path to the forest beyond to connect with Professor’s Ranch Trail and looped back on the Sleepy Lion Trail –
Professor’s Ranch Trail
Professor’s Ranch Trail is more narrow and less maintained, but a pleasant path through the forest. There were wildflowers along this trail, as well as on the Sleepy Lion Trail. We followed this path for 0.6 miles.
Sleepy Lion Trail
The connection with Sleepy Lion Trail was a bit tricky, as in one direction there is a homestead road that is not part of the trail system. The important thing to remember is to turn left at the junction (if you’re doing the loop counter-clockwise).
We enjoyed the Sleepy Lion Trail the most of the trails visited on this hike. The elevation gain felt just right, and the views were amazing.
View looking down on Ralph Price Reservoir –
Sleepy Lion Trail also passes through a grassy meadow –
The Return Journey
On the way down Sleepy Lion Trail, around 9 am, we started to see several groups, and more often. The last 0.8 miles back on Longmont Dam Road was easy. The sun lit up the valley nicely.
Recommended as a Moderate Hike
This hike is easy enough for a casual outing with friends. It has a great variety of nature and views to enjoy along the way. It’s definitely a hike not to be missed if you live around Boulder or Longmont.