Hall Ranch is one of my favorite open spaces in Boulder County. I generally do a 9.4 mile loop (starting in the upper lot) consisting of the Bitterbrush trail, the southern portion of the Nelson Loop, and the Nighthawk trail. For me this is a nice run for getting a little bit more time on my feet (and a lot more vertical) than my average daily run, but without tiring me out or leaving me flat for the next day’s run. It’s also perfectly pleasant to double up and run a second loop in reverse for a longer outing.
There aren’t really any steep sections (apart from a couple of the rock steps between miles 1 and 2 on the Bitterbrush), so the trail is entirely runnable. When running a single loop, I prefer to go counter-clockwise, so that I don’t have to go downhill through the rock garden, and so that I can get the bike traffic out of the way on the first half of the loop.
Here’s a shot not too far out of the parking lot:
Here’s a little further up:
At roughly 3/4 mile, just before the dirt access road crossing. The beginning of the rock garden is in the distance:
After the rock garden. The trail in the distance (contouring up and left across the hillside) is the beginning of the next climb. There was a recent reroute of Bitterbrush at around 2 miles, and the trail now contours through perhaps a half dozen switchbacks. I think the new section trail would be more fun than the old section if you’re riding , but it feels a little weird while running.
There might not be a spectacular diversity of wildlife in Hall Ranch, but you’re sure to see lots of these:
For much of the spring and summer 2012 season, I think the prairie dogs were trying to figure out how to co-exist with all the rabbits – there were lots of rabbits!
Further up you’re sure to see plenty of these…
and perhaps even one of these!!!!!!
I had a stretch this year where I saw (and almost stepped on) snakes on three consecutive runs. Ugh.
Here’s the view, looking back somewhere just before mile 4:
A view of Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak and Mt. Lady Washington near the NW end of the Nighthawk Trail:
Once you hit this trail marker it’s just one little uphill, then mostly downhill back to the parking lot:
Remnants of an old stone fence on the way down Nighthawk:
Wide open vistas connect a few short stretches in the trees on the way down:
Coming down, with more of Bitterbrush in the distance:
A nice view of the slightly rocky switchbacks down:
Then it’s mostly nice and smooth back to the parking lot:
[All of these pictures were taken on a wonderful morning in April 2012.]