Coyote Ridge Natural Area & Rimrock Open Space | Fort Collins Natural Areas & Larimer County Open Space
Fort Collins, CO | 12/29/19 | 7.91 miles | 1,219′ gain | Class 1
After getting some bad news at the vet a few days before, I needed to get outside and clear my head. Kyle went ice fishing with his brother and I went for a solo hike. I didn’t feel like bringing the dogs as I wanted to truly be alone, so I picked one of the few local open spaces that doesn’t allow dogs.
After an unexpected flat tire, I finally found myself at the trailhead at 1:30pm. Would I even have enough daylight to finish the hike? Obviously I could turn around at any point, but I really wanted to complete the Coyote Ridge & Rimrock Trails so I could check them off my list. I decided to just go as far as I could and focus on moving quickly.
The first section of trail is a flat access road. There was enough dry trail that I didn’t have to worry much about slipping, so I made really good time even though I kept stopping to take pictures. It was really cold but unbelievably beautiful. The road soon crests a small ridge and then drops back down to a valley.
Just before the trail turns to head up Coyote Ridge, there is a cabin with wrap around porches. The cabin wasn’t open, but the porches led to the short Hidden Clues Trail. Mainly designed for kids, this loop has numerous interpretive signs talking about the sights and sounds of wildlife, and encouraging you to look and listen. After reviewing the sign on animal tracks, I spent the remainder of the hike trying to find the five tracks from the sign (deer, mouse, coyote, raccoon, and mountain lion). I was able to find all but raccoon!
I headed back to the main trail and continued along as the trail slowly worked its way up Coyote Ridge. The grade was always moderate and I actually felt like I was able to move quickly uphill.
A few more interpretive signs were located at an overlook, and I stopped to admire the 3-dimensional signage. Most of the signs had some sort of 3-D metal component; an antler, animal tracks in mud, a lizard, etc.
Just like on my last hike at North Table Mountain, I read a sign about mule deer and then promptly looked up and saw a herd of them right in front of me…
Kyle and I had actually hiked at Coyote Ridge on our very first date, but I was surprised at how little I remembered. Regardless, I was excited to continue on and go farther than we’d gone that day. (Almost 6 years ago!)
The trail switchbacks to the top of Coyote Ridge, and a rocky overlook marks a good stopping point to admire the views to the west. Most people stop here, but I continued along the Rimrock Trail into Rimrock Open Space.
The Rimrock Trail descends the west side of Coyote Ridge and crosses the valley in the above pictures. I found some interesting sights on my descent.
Once I crossed the valley, the trail climbed a bit more through rocky bluffs. A herd of bucks were 30 feet from the trail, and watched me with barely any concern as I passed.
I love hikes where the terrain changes noticeably along the way. I now found myself in a red rock wonderland.
The far west side of the Rimrock Trail is a small loop that ends along a cliff. If you didn’t read my last post, you may not know how much I like cliffs.
You might be surprised to find out that these pictures aren’t edited at all. The setting sun lit up the red color of the rock, causing it to be very vibrant.
I continued on the short spur trail to get a better view of the cliffs from below, and then followed my tracks back to the car.
I was racing the sun now, and I knew sunset was only an hour and a half away. Can I go nearly 4 miles in that short of time?
The climb back up Coyote Ridge was way easier than I’d expected. I couldn’t believe that I was actually making good time!
Once I descended Coyote Ridge, the sun was setting and I had just 1.5 miles to go to get back to the car. Normally that wouldn’t take too long, but I could. not. stop. taking. pictures!
I was thankful to have made it back to the car before dark, and to experience such a beautiful hike solo was truly what I needed.