Smooth singletrack, about half shade. Pine needles make a soft surface.
This lovely loop in the Heil Valley Ranch area may not be as well known as the nearby trails that are shared with bikers, but it should not be overlooked. Come here for some serene travel through a mini-valley created by parallel hogbacks followed by a traipse through shady ponderosa forest.
From the Heil parking area, look for the well-signed trails to the east that cross the creek on bridges. Either of the two entrances to the trail work, you'll just cut off a little bit more of the parking lot if you find the southern-most one. Pass by picnic tables along the burbling stream. Begin a gradual ascent of a open hillside to a 3-way junction. This is where the "head" of the lollipop loop starts and you can proceed in either direction. This description goes in the counterclockwise direction. So, taking a right at the fork, head east through a pretty meadow abuzz with bees pollinating copious wildflowers.
Soon, the trail turns north and skirts a long meadow dotted with lichen-covered boulders. Perhaps this is where the trail got it's name? You may be hard pressed not to siesta in this inviting field of flowers. Catch views of distant foothills to the south. After a broad switchback, the trail enters a denser forest of ponderosa pines. Along the way, inquisitive minds will appreciate the information panels that relate the history, plants and unique geology of this area. The trail begins a mellow descent and soon turns back to the south.
At a 3-way junction, you have the option to reach the Wapiti Trail
by taking the Lichen Connector
northwest or staying on the Lichen Loop. To complete the Lichen Loop, continue downhill to the south, using the left trail branch. Soon the forest thins and the route becomes more sunny and dry. Be sure top take the very short Lime Kiln Spur
to see a sandstone rock structure used to fire limestone into lime. Lime was used by homesteaders in this area for making mortar and for fertilizer. Just after visiting the kiln, the "head" of the lollipop is complete and you can return to the parking area by retracing your steps south along the "stick" of the lollipop.
Note: There are posted signs about mountain lion sightings in the Heil area. Heed the signs' advice on ways to behave if you encounter a lion (don't run, look big, back away, fight back if attacked).
Rabbits, elk, deer, fox, mountain lion.