Take in amazing sunset views and enjoy solitude in the Roosevelt National Forest. There is an optional 9 mile roundtrip trail.

Coulson Gulch is a lightly used area of the Roosevelt National Forest which makes it perfect for a weekend getaway without the crowds. This is a great place to camp out under the stars!

To get to Coulson Gulch From Lyons, head west on U.S. Highway 36 for about 9 miles. Turn southwest onto Larimer County Road 47 and drive for three miles until you veer left onto National Forest System Road 118. This turnoff comes as the paved road curves right to enter Big Elk Meadows area. Coulson Gulch Trailhead is to the left immediately after NFSR 118 crosses the cattle guard. Use the Satellite image on Google Maps and you'll be able to see the service roads not shown on "map" version.

Campfires area permitted except when seasonal restrictions are in effect. There are many nice campsites dispersed along the trail and some found on the south side of the creek. Shooting is allowed except within 150 yards of a campsite, occupant trails or roads. The trail gets very little use, which makes for a quiet, secluded experience. The trail is 9 miles out and back which gives you the option to take it all the way to the end or stop at the first sight of a decent campsite (there are some within a mile of the trailhead). The trail is mostly flat and easy as it winds through forests, narrow valleys, and across creek beds. Keep an eye out for swimming holes to cool off after a hike - there are plenty!

Pack List

  • The ten essentials
  • Camping essentials
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Hiking boots
  • Firearms and targets
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RT Distance 9 Miles
Activities Hunting, Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

September camping at Coulson Gulch

We wanted to stay close to Denver and low in elevation, which led us to Coulson Gulch. Just before the TH there are 1-2 spots on the left which two low clearance vehicles were camped at (40.2510830, -105.4100357). I was able to make it to 40.249953, -105.409316 with 8 inches of ground clearance. The road from the TH to the site was the steepest/roughest road I've driven in my crossover, so I walked it first to plan my path. The camp site was perched up on lookout with a big fire pit in the middle. It was the perfect spot for our group. That exact site could fit up to 4 multi-person tents easily. Being right off the road, ATVs, dirt bikes, and high clearance vehicles were constantly driving up the hill toward 40.2492871, -105.4056403. The lowest clearance vehicle we watched make it up there all weekend was an Outback. There were way more pros than cons, but some of the cons: 1. Some people brought guns and were firing them off very close to the TH parking area 2. We had a bowhunter walk by our site and two bowhunters drive by on an ATV. We chatted with them and let them know we had a dog. They were cool, but it's still not ideal to have them possibly hunting around you. 3. All of the stream water was dried up on the Coulson Gulch trail until we made it to the destination (North Saint Vrain Creek).

Coulson Gulch Trail closed at Higgins Park

It took a bit of exploring to actually find the trailhead. Really easy to find dispersed camping in this area though! Very secluded, however a lot of mountain bikers venturing on the trails. There are a ton of unmarked trails near NF road 118, so it was fun to explore the area and discover spectacular views of Longs Peak. The Coulson Gulch trail is closed at Higgins Park so you can currently only hike ~2miles of it due to flood damage. It was a beautiful hike into the gulch with a lot of stream crossings (unfortunately did not find any swim holes). Sure hope the trail is repaired soon because I'd love to go back and hike the full 9 miles!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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