Hiking the Lichen Loop at Heil Valley Ranch
Heil Valley Ranch has become a favorite destination of mine this year. Not only is it one of the only mountainous areas that we could visit during the pandemic lockdown, but it also has several options for easy, short trails. I used to skip these shorter trails, but now that I’m pregnant, I depend on them. The shorter trails at Heil Valley Ranch are pleasant and less busy than the trails in Boulder.
The Lichen Loop is a 1.4-mile loop trail with a reasonable amount of elevation gain. It starts from Heil Valley Ranch’s main parking lot. Currently, due to the pandemic, it has one-way tracking around the loop. I am grateful for this feature, as it reduces the number of people you have to pass and makes for a more relaxing hike. Another relaxing feature about this trail is that it is strictly for hikers.
The Lichen Loop starts out from the main trailhead of Heil Valley Ranch. You cross a wooden bridge to start walking on the trail. The first 0.2 miles allows for foot traffic in both directions, but is relatively wide.
Along the Trail
At mile 0.2 you reach a junction. The loop trail currently only goes in a counter-clockwise direction, so you have to turn right at the junction.
The trail then goes uphill for a little while…
…before reaching an open meadow.
After the meadow, there is another little uphill. From here, you start to see more of the valley through the trees.
What the uphill part of the trail looks like –
After the uphill, you come out into a second meadow. This meadow has some nice panoramic views of the valley. There is also a bench where you can sit down and enjoy the view.
The end of the meadow marks the half-way point on the trail, as well as where the trail starts going downhill. After, you walk through lovely ponderosa pine forest.
Near the end of the loop portion of the hike you come out into the same meadow where the trail first diverged.
To the left is a short trail that leads up to an old kiln. Here, like several other points along the trail, there is an informative plaque that adds to the interest of the trail.
Recommended as an Easy Hike
The Lichen Loop at Heil Valley Ranch is an easy and pleasant 1.4-mile loop that passes through a couple meadows and ponderosa pine forest. It is also family-friendly, hikers-only, and features interesting plaques describing nature and history on the trail.
I’m a bit bummed that I only discovered this trail after becoming pregnant. It’s worth the visit for anyone at any time.