Caribou Ranch Open Space is one of the best family hikes in the Boulder area. Just a step into the mountains from Boulder, Colorado, where you’ll find a small mountain town bustling with activity. From skiing and shopping to festivals and hiking, the town of Nederland is worth adding to your Boulder itinerary.
The most popular hiking trails like the Fourth of July and Hessie Trails often have packed trailheads, making Caribou Ranch Open Space trail the perfect alternative.
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Make sure to save time to explore a piece of history nestled in the mountains while you’re there.
Caribou Ranch Quick Facts:
Hiking Caribou Ranch will bring you on multiple hiking trails: the DeLonde Trail and the Bluebird Loop. There is also a 0.1 mile (each way) spur to the Bluebird Mine Complex.
- Distance: 4.5 miles (incl. spur)
- Difficulty: easy to moderate
- Elevation change: 240 ft (73 m)
- Trail type: balloon
- Estimated time: 2-3 hrs
- Nearest city: Nederland, CO
- Parking: at the trailhead
- Dogs allowed: no
Caribou Ranch Open Space is closed in the springtime, from April 1 – June 30, to protect migrating birds and elk rearing their young.
Caribou Ranch Open Space is just a few miles from the heart of Nederland. Once you turn right off Hwy 72 (Peak to Peak Hwy), you’ll find Mud Lake to the left. Continue along CR 126 until you see signs for Caribou Ranch.
If the parking lot is full, parking is allowed on the side of the road.
With so much history packed into the trails at Caribou Ranch, there is a lot to see and do. Plan for a little extra time for exploring the area near where some of the greatest musicians in history have spent time recording music in the solitude of the mountains. The Beach Boys, Elton John, Rod Stewart, and other music greats have recorded in a nearby studio in the 1970s.
Bluebird Mine Complex
An original mining site still stands today. Explore the bunkhouse, the mine shaft, and the remains of a pool that was used as a holding tank for trout.
In the early 1900s, a train ran through the property, which provided a way for people to escape to the mountains from nearby Boulder.
See where some scenes from the 1966 remake of Stagecoach were filmed.
The beautiful red barn serves as an artist-in-residence facility for photographers, illustrators, and, of course, musicians.
Other Outdoor Activities
Caribou Ranch Open Space is active in the winter months with snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
There is also a designated fishing area along the trail, so consider bringing your fishing gear. The area is found between the DeLonde Homestead and the Bluebird Mine Complex. Prepare for about a 2-mile hike to the fishing spot on the North Boulder Creek.
Mountain biking is not allowed at Caribou Ranch, but horseback riding is allowed (so make sure you watch your step along the trail!).
Distance and Difficulty of Caribou Ranch trails
The low elevation change makes hiking the Caribou Ranch trail a bit easier. The distance does add some difficulty though.
Once completing the 1.2-mile DeLonde Trail, we took the Bluebird Loop clockwise. The trail was wide and flat most of the way to the spur that reaches the Bluebird Mine Complex.
There is a mix of shade and open sunny spots along the trail, so sunscreen and layers are always a good idea.
The Best Spots For A Picnic
The wide, flat trails at Caribou Ranch Open Space make it ideal for a leisurely hike with the family, so we suggest adding a picnic to your plans for the day. Pack up your favorite hiking snacks and find one of the great spots to hang out for lunch.
North Boulder Creek
Take the Blue Bird Loop clockwise, then you’ll reach an entry point to the North Boulder Creek shortly after visiting the Bluebird Mine Complex.
The stairs make it easy to reach the creek, and there are plenty of large rocks that make the perfect creekside picnic.
A lone picnic table sits under the tree by the red barn, providing an excellent shady spot for lunch. If the picnic table is taken, then the porch on the DeLonde Homestead is a good alternative.
At the Mine Complex
There is a picnic table at the back of the Bluebird Mine Complex. Perhaps it was unwarranted, but I was hesitant to picnic there after reading the signs posted with warnings about heavy metal contamination.
What The Kids Think About Hiking Caribou Ranch Open Space
“It was surrounded by trees and a lot of Aspens. Aspens are really pretty in the fall.”
“It wasn’t too hard because it was mostly flat. There is a cool mine you can go to and a chicken coop you can see.”
“It was a little long, but I liked the middle. The mine and the pool were really cool.”
Spend the afternoon hiking Caribou Ranch, then head into Nederland for pizza (and a beer for Mom and Dad) at Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse. Find it right downtown, on 1st St.
Or (if they’re not too worn out) let the kids play, explore, and ride the carousel at the Carousel of Happiness (located at 20 Lakeview Dr. in Nederland).
Have you hiked at Caribou Ranch Open Space in Nederland? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!
Click below to save the hike through history at Caribou Ranch on Pinterest!