Saturday, May 5, 2012

Devil's Backbone and Coyote Ridge in Larimer County, Colorado

I just returned from a vacation in Colorado with my grandchildren. We hiked the Devil's Backbone and Coyote Ridge in Loveland and searched for robins in the park, which was easy to do since all of the robins in the country seem to be flocking to Colorado right now!

My grandchildren hiking with me at Coyote Ridge.

Devil's Backbone is about two miles west of town. It is part of Larimer County's Open Space project and available for family hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders--you can even bring your dogs! There are bridges, picnic tables, rest areas, and displays to explain the geological details of the area. There are many trails and a few are more than appropriate for little children. My two oldest grandchildren are six and four and we easily made it to the top. Much of the hike is flat trail, but the views are awesome! There is also a mated pair of red tailed hawks that returns every year and since this is nesting time, they put on quite a show for hikers while we were there.

It is also butterfly and bug time. Of course, everyone knows it's best not to hike with scented hair products, soaps, or perfumes on your body, but the bugs really aren't that bad. We had fun watching an army of red ants working on their home--a few feet downhill. Didn't want to get too close! We also made friends with dozens of butterflies that seemed to follow us along the trail.

The Devil's Backbone refers to a series of rock formations along the mountain top that really do resemble a backbone. The focal point is supposedly the rock formation the features the "keyhole," which you can see to the right, but honestly, I think they're all beautiful.

Devil's Backbone. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

To find Devil's Backbone, travel two miles west of the intersection of Wilson and Eisenhower in Loveland. You can see the Devil's Backbone from many areas in town and it's so popular that there is a sign instructing residents how to find other open space areas if the parking lot is full--if the lot is full, the area is full to capacity. However, we have visited dozens of times in all seasons, all times of day, and although it is always busy, it is never full to capacity.

The children were not quite ready to call it quits, so we moved on to Coyote Ridge, another one of their favorite hiking spots. Coyote Ridge is a natural area available for public use in Larimer County and a bit more rustic. It is next to Taft Hill and popular with bicyclists. It is filled with wildlife and great for hiking and biking.

Prairie Dog at Coyote Ridge. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

We've never made it into the hills. We walk the flat trail to the prairie dog village and listen to the prairie dogs chatter. Scientists now know prairie dogs have a unique language. They even have different sounds used to warn that a man is coming and that a man is coming with a gun! (I will explain this in another post as prairie dogs are one of my favorite rodents.)

Once, as we stood listening, a cottontail rabbit suddenly darted from beside my granddaughter's foot. Rabbits will do this at times. They hold so still you think they are rocks until they finally dart away.

Cutest bunny ever! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Coyote Ridge has so much wildlife that it is particularly important not to bring food of any kind as they can smell the food! In addition to the butterflies, dragonflies, rabbits and prairie dogs that we enjoy, there are also red foxes, deer, elk, hawks, owls, eagles, bears, and of course, coyotes, which we are well-familiar with now! There are maps available at the entrance along with informational pamphlets describing the various inhabitants of the area and how to avoid dangerous encounters.

I highly recommend both of these recreational areas. Remember to take plenty of water--we took a full bottle for each of us and an extra. We also had hiking sticks for each of us. I then instructed the children to stay beside me at all times, never run ahead or around a turn where they cannot see me. Even though there are no slow times at these areas, it is best to be safe!