Empire Ranch Foundation
Heritage Discovery Trail

The Heritage Discovery Trail is a half-mile interpreted walk at the north end of Empire Ranch Headquarters area along the main water source for headquarters – the Empire Gulch, a tributary of the Cienega Creek. The trailhead is marked by a gate adjacent to the public restrooms.

The majestic cottonwood trees were first planted by Empire Ranch cowboy, Tomás López, around 1880. The dead/damaged trees you see did not recover from the 2017 Sawmill fire which burned a total of 12,000 acres of LCNCA land. Try to spot some of the nesting birdhouses in the trees.

Interpretive signs along the trail describe the history of the Hired Man’s House and the New Ranch House. Note the thick, tall, densely clumped stands of Sacaton grass near the trail. The small amphitheater bench seating provides a place to rest or seating for educational presentations.

Access to the Empire Gulch can be found at several points along the trail. The Empire Gulch creekbed supports a great diversity of plants and wildlife. The trees are home to many birds and any above ground water is swarming with insects which provides food for the birds, fish, and frog.

Watch for falling branches on windy days and rattlesnakes on warm days. The Empire Gulch will experience flash flooding during the rainstorms.