Did you know there is a valley, a mere 30 minute drive from our house, that is carved from sandstone so red it looks painted? Where the trail winds through dry sandy washes, past antelope and rattlesnakes, and over hillsides for miles upon miles of quiet landscape? Where you walk over stripes of stone so red and so white that it is like hiking over candy canes?
No? Neither did I, and I’ve been living here for (almost) eight years!
On our first weekend of camping for this season, we decided to have a fun trip… without leaving home. We camped at a KOA on the north side of town (with the best play ground we’ve ever seen), and hiked at a local, free, preserved open space – Red Mountain.
This area was opened to recreation (hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking) in 2009, and I vaguely remember hearing about it. It is not a long drive, but getting to the trailhead isn’t entirely easy. Check out the directions and map at larimer.org. And for the nerds, I’m pretty sure the trailhead is at 40.9572830,-105.1619110.
Red Mountain Open Space does not allow dogs on the trails, unfortunately. I think Liv would have enjoyed this hike, right up until she got bitten by a rattlesnake. It turns out, there is a rattlesnake hibernaculum in the area, and we saw a big, fat, happy snake right on the trail. So, wear heavy boots, take a walking stick, and leave the doggies at home for this one.
Also, when hiking in the spring and fall, it might be best to keep kids walking behind an adult. Just in case.
We hiked about 4.5 miles over relatively flat, and very nice trails that day. We ran into Mrs Snake along the Sinking Sun trail, walked along a neat dry wash between huge cairns on the Big Hole Wash trail, and crossed over a lovely Sand Creek before meeting up with the Bent Rock trail. We stopped for a snack and a break at just past the turn off for the Bent Rock loop, and G had a great time running up and down the sandy trail.
We decided to add on the two extra miles of the Bent Rock loop, and I’m so glad we did. These two miles of hiking were so spectacularly beautiful, they’d be worth the trip alone.
This part of the trail climbs up the side of one of the deep red mountains, and offers amazing views of the red rock landscape. This is where the trail goes from Moab to the Moon and back in the space of less than a mile. It is a really cool hike.
G fell asleep just after our snack, so Mark and I hiked the last two miles of our trip quietly, in total awe of the landscape as it unfolded around us. Every now and then we would turn a corner, and Mark would stop, look at me, and whisper “WOW”.
So, if you haven’t gathered it yet, I highly recommend checking this area out if you are in Northern Colorado. Especially if you live in Larimer County, as your sales taxes are supporting the preservation of this beautiful valley. The trails are very mellow, and generally kid-friendly. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and make sure everybody stays hydrated and sun shaded!
Oh, and did I mention, in the 3 hours we hiked, we only saw one other person?
Red Mountain Open Space is a great local spot for a taste of desert adventure, high plains solitude, and amazing red rock scenery. Go check it out!