Devil’s Backbone Extended Loop | Larimer County Open Space
Loveland, CO | 01/26/20| 7.37 miles | 786′ gain
I decided that it’d be a good idea to do two longer hikes two days in a row. (Spoiler alert: this hurt my feet.) But beautiful weather in January isn’t always easy to come by, and I really wanted to make the most of it.
I’ve been to Devil’s Backbone Open Space countless times, but I always ended up doing the same.old.trail. It’s a nice trail, don’t get me wrong, but new stuff is always more fun! Well I finally looked closer at the map and saw a number of other trails that I could check out. Woohoo!
I started by heading south from the parking lot (instead of north like everyone else) and followed the Morrison Slide Trail. Devil’s Backbone is insanely busy at all times but there was NO ONE on this trail. It’s not very well marked, so I don’t think many people know about it. But now YOU do, and you can easily take this short interpretive trail to learn all about the area’s geology. Super educational and super fun!
Back at the parking lot, I headed down the horse trail (hikers allowed too!) and saw…wait, what is THAT!?
This is the foundation of an old plaster mill. In the late 1800s, Alfred Wild discovered gypsum on his property and subsequently built this mill to convert the gypsum to plaster. The mill was built in 1887 and used through 1965.
I never would have thought to take the horse trail over to the main trail instead of the standard hiker/biker trail, but it’s seriously worth the detour. There were a few people walking along this stretch, but still considerably less than the main area of the park. After visiting the mill ruins, I had a short peaceful walk along the dry streambed before connecting with the busy main trail.
Now that I’d successful completed all of the short & easy trails near the parking lot, I wanted to head out on the distant trail system. The Devil’s Backbone trails connect to multiple other open spaces. This trail system continues for miles and miles! Obviously I can’t walk THAT far, but I can do a portion! I headed along the lower section of the Wild Loop, which brought me to the hills in the above picture.
This section had amazing views of the backbone that I’d never seen before since I’d never come this far. And the views of the backbone changed even more as I climbed up into the hills, now on the Hunter Trail.
After the Hunter Trail, we completed the Laughing Horse Loop and turned around. I’d intended on adding a 1.4 mile section of the Blue Sky Trail on top of this, but my feet were already hurting and I was more than 3 miles away from the car. I will have to come back another time to do the Blue Sky Trail!
The Hunter & Laughing Horse Trails were definitely not as scenic or interesting as the lower trails by the backbone, but I did enjoy the rockiness of the trails and the occasional “slickrock” sections.
Heading back down, I stopped to get some more pictures of the backbone. And believe me, I took even more than what I’ve shared here! I really love rock formations.