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Easy day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park: Lulu City

Rocky Mountain columbine off the Lulu City hiking trail
Rocky Mountain columbine off the Lulu City hiking trail
photos by Mary Glass and Josh Bourassa

Lulu City had high hopes and harsh realities. Like many mining settlements from the 1800s the town grew early on with the hopes of gold and silver and then crashed when meager profits and brutal winters in the aptly name Never Summer Mountains ravished the town. At its largest Lulu City had a clothing store, a hotel, an assay office, a brothel and weekly stage coach service to Grand Lake and Fort Collins. But it sustained that size for only five years. Today all that remains of Lulu City are the decaying timbers from a few long abandoned cabins preserved in the western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. Lulu City may not have succeeded as a mining town, but it’s been a popular hiking destination since Rocky Mountain National Park was created in 1915

Heading north on the Lulu City hiking trail in the western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park.
photo courtesy of Mary Glass

Located near the western entrance to the park (the Grand Lake side), the turn off for the LuLu City trail head is on Trail Ridge Road (US Highway 34) right before the first switchback as the road begins to gain altitude at the northern end of the Kawuneeche Valley. The Lulu City trail is a 3.2 mile trail (7.4 round trip) that parallels the Colorado River. It’s moderately level for most of the journey, and wildflowers including columbines, chiming bells, scarlet paintbrushes and whipple penstemon grow along the trail.

The best preserved ruins on the hike are just south of the actual Lulu City site. The Shipler Mine was the last inhabited cabin in the area, and its owner Joe Shipler one of the last active miners. Remnants of his silver mines can still be seen along the path including mine tailings on the hillside to the east of the path and a rusty, old mining cart just west of the path.

The site of Lulu City itself is marked by a slightly eschewed pine sign which proclaims, “Lulu City Site; 1879-1884; Population 200” The few structures around the sign are rapidly returning to the forest. What once was the middle of a muddy street in down town Lulu City circa 1881 is now a peaceful meadow overgrown with dandelions and a popular destination for hikers and moose alike. The Lulu City hiking trail connects to several other hiking paths including Little Yellowstone LaPoudre Pass, and Red Mountain Trail.