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Hiking

Plenty of urban, rural trails

Janet Thayer
For the Vacation Guide

   One of the best ways to take in the Northern Colorado outdoors is by hitting the many trails the area has to offer.

   From urban trails that wind around parks and lakes to regional rural trails that provide a glimpse of undeveloped areas, Larimer and Boulder counties provide a variety of paths.

   Once complete, the city of Loveland's trail system will be about 21 miles long. Though it is about halfway done, it is still a popular place for trail enthusiasts.

   The western end of the 10-mile path runs just west of Wilson Avenue near the Big Thompson River and winds its way along portions of the river and the Greeley-Loveland canal.

   On the east side, it continues north along the western shore of Boyd Lake, ending near 57th Street.

   The trail is open to bicyclists, runners, in-line skaters, people who use wheelchairs and those who like to take a slower pace. Horses and motorized vehicles are prohibited.

   In Longmont, the St. Vrain Greenway offers joggers, bicyclists, in-line skaters and walkers a chance to recreate. There are several trailheads, including Main Street, South Pratt Parkway, Golden Ponds Park, Boulder County Fairgrounds Pond and Boston Avenue. The trail borders the St. Vrain River and includes views of wetlands and wildlife habitats.

   For a different kind of hike, visitors can skip paved trails and move on to the Devil's Backbone Nature Trail, west of Loveland.

   Long considered a regional landmark, the Devil's Backbone is a sandstone rock formation that provides habitat for a variety of plants, birds and mammals. The trail runs east of the formation. Climbing is not allowed on the rocks. Interpretative signs along the trail provide information about the history of the area and tidbits about the land.

   To get to the trail parking lot, take U.S. 34 west through Loveland, turn right on Wild Lane and follow the road to the nature trail parking lot.

   The Devil's Backbone Nature Trail is part of a plan by Larimer County to create a north-south foothills trail system from the backbone to the south end of Horsetooth Reservoir, west of Fort Collins.

   Another county trail lies in Horsetooth Mountain Park, a 2,500-acre park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, about 12 miles northwest of Loveland. The elevations range from 5,430 feet at the reservoir to 7,255 feet at the peak of Horsetooth Rock.

   The park offers more than 27 miles of trail for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

   Just north of Horsetooth Mountain Park is Lory State Park and its 30 miles of trails. The park's trails vary depending on hikers' energy levels. Some can be done at a leisurely pace, while others offer more challenge.

   A Colorado State Parks pass is needed to enter the park.

   Other trail opportunities include:

    The Shoreline Trail at Carter Lake in Larimer County. The 3-mile trail lies alongside the west shore of the lake. Also at the lake is the 1-mile Fawn Hollow Trail. A Larimer County permit is required at Carter Lake. To get to Carter Lake, take U.S. 34 west through Loveland and turn south at Larimer County Road 29. Turn west at County Road 18E and south to County Road 31.

    Bald Mountain in Boulder County. The Pines to Peak Loop natural trail is 1 mile and takes hikers to the top of Bald Mountain where they can see far-reaching views of the plains to the east and the stunning scenery of the Continental Divide to the west. From Boulder, drive west to Sunshine Canyon Drive (County Road 52). The park is about 5 miles up the canyon.

     Flagstaff Mountain Trailheads in Boulder County. Several trailheads exist along scenic Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder County. According to Boulder Mountain Parks, the Boy Scout, Ute-Range View, Chapman-Tenderfoot loops are short and easy to moderate hikes. On the Boy Scout and Ute-Range View loops, there are scenic views of the Indian Peaks. The Chapman-Tenderfoot Loop is a good trail for wildflower viewing, including wallflower, larkspur and penstemon.

    The Green Mountain Trail, via the Ranger Trail is a 3-mile round-trip trek that is considered moderate.

   To get to the Flagstaff Mountain trails, in Boulder, take Baseline west to Flagstaff Mountain Road. Follow Flagstaff Mountain Road to trailheads.