Hall Ranch: Antelope to Button Rock | Hall Ranch Open Space
Lyons, CO | 05/28/20 | 11.56 miles | 1,536′ gain
Hall Ranch Open Space is one of the many fabulous parks managed by Boulder County. I’d visited a handful of times, but always did the exact same loop. In my quest for a big-mile hike, I wondered if I could link up all the trails within Hall Ranch that I hadn’t yet hiked. It turns out I could!
I started at the Antelope Drive Trailhead and followed the Antelope Trail as it ascends for a mile before connecting with the Bitterbrush Trail (part of the main loop). The Antelope Trail was absolutely covered with wildflowers, and although it wasn’t as scenic as other areas of the park, it was a worthwhile starting point just for the flowers alone!
I turned right (north) on the Bitterbrush Trail and followed it as it wound its way around Antelope Park. In this case, “park” refers to a large open area somewhat like a valley. Today, Antelope Park houses a large prairie dog colony and absolutely no antelope.
The Bitterbrush Trail ends at the Nelson Loop. All users were required to go clockwise so I turned left and hiked around the southern half of the loop. Access to the Nelson Homestead is along this section. There is an interpretive sign telling about the ranch’s history.
I turned off the Nelson Loop to follow the Nighthawk Trail for a short while before I found the Button Rock Trail. This is the trail I knew the least about and based on the number of people I saw on it (zero) and the overgrowth (a lot) it’s pretty obvious that hardly anyone comes this way. Much of the Button Rock Trail is on an old road, but occasional signs mark a single track that can be followed instead.
I found this first section of the Button Rock Trail to be the most scenic part of the entire hike. A field of lush grass and wild iris backed by the snowy peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park is a well deserved sight after over four miles of hiking!
The meadow soon gave way to forest as the Button Rock Trail descended further. As I connected with and followed the access road once more, I hiked up and down as the road undulated towards an overlook of Ralph Price Reservoir and the Button Rock Dam.
At the overlook, the trail intersected the popular Sleepy Lion Trail and that is where I saw the first people I’d seen in over an hour (and a lot of them)! One could continue on the Sleepy Lion Trail for an even longer journey, but I chose to trace my steps back up the quiet Button Rock Trail. An 11 mile hike was plenty for me!
The return trip was uneventful. I once again didn’t see a single person on the Button Rock Trail. I found that some signage was missing for one of the single track turn offs, so I accidentally followed the road longer on the way back. (You can see this towards the left side of my map.) This wasn’t a big deal at all, and actually probably ended up being slightly shorter. Once I reached the Nighthawk Trail, I headed back towards the Nelson Loop. Since I was required to go clockwise, I had to turn left and hike the north side of the loop. But that’s okay! Because once I finished that up, I had officially hiked every trail at Hall Ranch!
I expected the north side of the Nelson Loop to be totally forested and I was surprised to see the backside of the Nelson Homestead. The map makes it look like the homestead would be far away, but in reality it’s pretty close. There is no access to the homestead from the north, however.
After finishing up the Nelson Loop, I happily hiked back along the Bitterbrush and Antelope Trails. A good day on some new trails!