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Top Hiking Trails In Northern Colorado

October 13, 2011 10:00 AM

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Paula Cramer of Littleton took this photo on a hiking trail in Steamboat Springs on Sept. 16, 2012.

Paula Cramer of Littleton took this photo on a hiking trail in Steamboat Springs on Sept. 16, 2012.

Best Hiking Trails

(credit: Ron Krutsch/www.co.larimer.co.us)

Winter, spring, summer, fall, you can always get out on the trails in Colorado, and Northern Colorado is no exception. The area is covered in trails, from easy afternoon hikes to strenuous all day outings. Here are just a few of the best.

Coyote Ridge Natural Area

Fort Collins
Fcgov.com/naturalareas

The parking area is located on the west side of Taft Hill Road about three miles south of Harmony Road. The trail is three miles roundtrip, gains 600 feet in elevation, and connects to Larimer County Rimrock Open Space and Blue Sky Trail. This trail winds through grasslands before starting to climb, ascending a small ridge it then descends into a valley filled by the sound of chirping prairie dogs. The trail leads through the valley and begins to climb. After more than two miles of climbing the reward is a panoramic view of the plains to the east and the Rockies to the west. The top of the ridge can be windy at any time of year so be sure to pack a light jacket. At the top you can continue on the four-mile Rimrock Trail or return to the trailhead. This is a moderately difficult trail and can be hot in the summer. This trail is one of the few Fort Collins’ natural areas where dogs are not allowed.

Larimer County

(credit: co.larimer.co.us/parks)

Devil’s Backbone Open Space

Loveland
co.larimer.co.us/parks

Located three miles west of Loveland on US 34, Devil’s Backbone Open Space is popular with mountain bikers, horse enthusiasts and day hikers. There are three trails to choose from: the three-mile Wild Loop, the five-mile Hunter Loop and the seven-mile Laughing Horse Loop. The Devil’s Backbone is the southern access point for a regional trail system that runs north approximately fifteen miles to Horsetooth Mountain Park in Fort Collins. The area is named for a high ridge of reddish rock that juts straight into the sky. During the spring the Devil’s Backbone is covered in an array of wildflowers. The first loop is relatively easy and crowded on the weekends. The two longer loops are less crowded and more strenuous. On the Wild Loop, the Keyhole, a large hole in the rock formation, provides views of the grand landscape of Larimer County. The detour to the Keyhole is closed every spring for a pair of nesting ravens. A lack of shade makes this a hot hike during mid-summer. Whatever the time of year, it’s a good idea to pack water for a hike at Devil’s Backbone.

Greyrock Mountain Trail

Roosevelt National Forest
www.fs.fed.us

Located about 30 minutes from Fort Collins in the Poudre River Canyon on CO-14, this is a hike many Northern Coloradoans recommend to new residents and visitors. This trail is open year-round and is rated moderate, with an elevation gain of 1,900 feet. There are two ways to make it to the summit, either via the 2.8-mile Greyrock Summit Trail or the 3.8-mile Greyrock Meadows Trail. The latter offers a longer, but slightly gentler climb. The top of Greyrock Mountain offers a 360-degree view of the Poudre River Canyon. Greyrock isn’t for beginners, and hikers should be prepared with water and snacks to get you up and down the trail.

Larimer County

(credit: co.larimer.co.us)

Shoshone Trail at Pinewood Reservoir

Ramsey-Shockey Open Space
co.larimer.co.us/naturalresources

Access this trail by crossing the dam at the Pinewood Reservoir parking lot. This relatively easy trail provides grand views of Ramsey-Shockey Open Space and beyond. You can pick up an interpretive brochure at the trailhead or download it from co.larimer.co.us/parks/ramsay.cfm. The brochure provides historical information about the area, as well as animals to watch for during your outing. This is a great family day hike that can be extended to include up to four miles of trail. It’s also a fun area to snowshoe during the winter, but be prepared to cut your own trail.

An annual park entrance permit or fee is required for the Ramsey-Shockey Open Space. Purchase your day pass at the entrance station located off of County Road 18E.

- Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the Mayor of HeidiTown.com and a freelance writer from Northern Colorado. Follow her on Twitter @HeidiTown.

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