Button Rock Dam/Sleepy Lion Trail

Distance5.73 mi
Elevation Gain925 feet
My Time2 hr 15 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownLyons
Nearby FoodOskar Blues

The trail to Button Rock Dam is very similar to the Waterton Canyon hike I did a few weeks ago with the exception that bikes aren’t allowed on this one. Like Waterton, this is a walk on a service road next to a river on the way to a dam and reservoir. Button Rock isn’t quite as long of a hike as Waterton is and it also has a trail that takes you above it all which is really nice.

Main (Easier) path

The main path to the dam is up a two lane dirt road that is well maintained with some sandy, soft dirt around the edges and a harder dirt with some small rocks in the middle. The hike is roughly 2 miles to the end and the incline isn’t bad at all. It is a nice walk and there were people pushing strollers and people of all ages on the path. The entire time you are walking next to this river which gives you the great sounds of rushing water.

There were several people fly fishing in the river as well. There is a smaller dam about halfway up the trail before you get to the end. Just under a mile up the road there is a small sign for the Sleepy Lion trail on the left side of the road. That is the path I took and it is more on the moderate side with some extra elevation gains. If you are new to hiking or hiking with small children you might want to stay on the main road.

Sleepy Lion Trail

The Sleepy Lion trail splits off and is a two mile trail that will take you up and around the area and deposit you back at the dam. You will no longer be walking next to the water and this will take you more into a forest hike. The terrain also gets more difficult at this point. The trail narrows to about 2 feet wide and has more rocks and roots in the ground.

About a mile into the trail you will be at the peak elevation. The trail gets very rocky at this point and pretty hard to follow. There are arrows attached to trees so that you can get your bearings and stay on the trail. At the top you do get a nice view of the lake below all the way out to what I believe is Twin Sisters Peaks.

View from above Ralph Price reservoir looking out towards Twin Sisters peak.

Once you reach the top you will continue along the trail back down towards the dam. The trail turns into a grooved fire road at this point and is easy to navigate. When you make it down to you will be on the back side of the dam and the beginning of the river you were walking next to. They were releasing water while I was there and it was pretty amazing how much water and the pressure that it was being released at.

At this point you can either head back to the parking lot or head up the Hummingbird Switchback trail that is located behind the control structure on the side of the dam. I will warn you that this trail, while short, is the steepest portion of the hike.

Hummingbird Switchback and Ralph Price Reservoir

The switchback trail starts on some built stairs and then transitions into a steep climb up the side of the dam. You will end up going up about 200 feet in a .3 miles. When you get to the top there is a really nice view of the reservoir. There is a path that looks like it followed around the water but it looked like rain was coming so I didn’t explore that. I did see some people fishing on the bank a little ways down the path and imagine that on a sunny day this would be stunning.

Ralph Price Reservoir

After that you can choose to go down back on the Sleepy Lion trail or back down the main path to the parking lot. I do think that the Sleepy Lion would be more difficult to do coming from this direction so I just took the main road back. It is still a really nice walk on the main road to get back so you can’t go wrong. Here are some stats from the hike today.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 5.73 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 925 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,635 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Effort

While the main road to get to the dam is easy without too much elevation the cut to the top of the dam and the Sleepy Lion trail each have some moments of strenuous elevation. Here is my overall step count from my Fitbit.

Stats from the hike today.  My fitbit registered 13, 240 steps.

Terrain

There are a couple of different terrains to deal with on this hike. If you decide to stay on the dirt road to the dam, it is a simple dirt road and you should be fine in regular shoes. If you take the Sleepy Lion trail or the switchback to the top of the Dam you will have to walk on a loose dirt path and have occasional rocks that you will need to walk over so hiking shoes would be recommended.

Access

The access to this park is off of US 36 just past downtown Lyons. You will need to turn onto Longmont Dam Road (County road 80). Longmont Dam is a 3 mile long dirt road. It is in pretty good shape and you won’t need a 4 wheel drive but use your best judgment with your car on a dirt road. There is a parking lot for about 20 cars. There are a couple of bathrooms on the path but they were closed. Bikes aren’t allowed on the path and they have a 1 dog per person rule and dogs must be leashed.

Wrap up

This is a really nice hike in that it can work for people of all skill levels. If you are a beginner you can take the main path up to the dam. If you are little more skilled you can take the Sleepy Lion trail and if you are feeling really good you can take the Switchback up to the reservoir. Overall I am going to rank it is moderate based on the path that I took today. I do wish the weather was a little better so I could have spent more time at the reservoir.

If you have any suggestions for future hikes, feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on the below social media channels. I have added this hike and all of the hikes I have taken on my interactive map that you can find here. Enjoy the gallery! After the hike I went to Oskar Blues back in Lyons

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