Hiking at the Hall Ranch - North Foothills Open Space Near Lyons, Colorado
Hall Ranch, just west of Lyons, Colorado, has over 3,200 acres of protected land. The open space is nestled between the plains and Rocky Mountains. Twelve miles of trails run through varied terrain with views of sandstone buttes, woods, open fields, and mountains. Many different animals live in the Hall Ranch area including prairie dogs, big horn sheep, deer, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and over 100 species of birds.
Parking Areas and Trail Access
There are two parking areas for Hall Ranch. The main lot and access to the Bitterbrush Trail are located just off of South Saint Vrain Drive (Route 7) about a mile southwest of Lyons. A small parking area with about ten spots and the Antelope Trail can be found at the end of Antelope Drive (via Apple Valley Drive) off of Route 36 north west of town.
Trail Use and Dogs
Several connecting trails run through the area including the Bitterbrush Trail (3.7 miles), Antelope Trail (1 mile), Nelson Loop (2.2 miles), Nighthawk Trail (4.7 miles), and the Button Rock Trail (2 miles). Most of the trails are multi-use paths and are very popular with mountain bikers. When I hiked at Hall Ranch on a Saturday I saw very few people walking and the trails were filled with mountain bikes. On my most recent visit, on a Thursday afternoon, it was much less crowded. One path at Hall Ranch, the Nighthawk Trail, is for hikers only. Dogs are not allowed on any of the Hall Ranch area trails due to wildlife concerns. They may disturb deer or get into a scrap with a mountain lion. Mountain lions are rarely seen by people, but they are active in the area.
The Bitterbrush Trail starts at the main parking area. There are restrooms, a small pavilion, and trail maps at the lot. The first mile or so of the path is mostly flat and wide. Prickly pear cactus and some wildflowers can be seen along the trial. The red sandstone ridges of Indian Lookout Mountain and Hat Rock are imposing geological features visible to the north.
The second third of the trail becomes steeper and winds through very rocky terrain. The path goes through some pine trees and there are nice views of the mountains to the west. At the top of the hill there's a bench with a view of mountains, red rock cliffs, and a huge prairie dog town. The Bitterbrush Trail continues slightly downhill, around a few switchbacks, and past another bench where it intersects with the Antelope Trail.
The last part the Bitterbrush Trail flattens out and enters some sparse pine trees for approximately a mile before ending at the Nelson Loop Trail. Glimpses of Long's Peak and Mount Meeker can be seen from this section of trail.
The Antelope Trail starts at a small parking area at the end of Antelope Drive. The path is windy and rocky. It climbs about 500 feet along the one mile hike to the end of the path where it meets the Bitterbrush Trail.
The 2.2 mile Nelson Loop starts at the end of the Bitterbrush Trail, about 2.5 miles from the Antelope Drive parking area and 3.7 miles from the main parking area on Saint Vrain Drive. The path is mostly dirt and has a total elevation change of about 400 feet over the course of the hike. The trail gets its name from the Nelson Ranch Complex built in the area around 1918. The house, silo, and developed spring sit just off of the path.
More Info and Photos
Check out this Hall Ranch - North Hills Open Space page on the Boulder County website for trail maps and more area information.