Hikers and bikers and horses, oh my! Hall Ranch, with its 13 miles of multi-use trails, is a standout among Boulder County’s 63,562 acres of open space. Encompassing some of the area’s most unique and diverse terrain, it’s well worth the 30-minute drive from Boulder. In exchange for leaving the bubble, you’ll be rewarded with stunning mountain views, fascinating sandstone formations, and remnants of Colorado ranching days gone by. Hall Ranch has something for everyone and it’s time to go get yours. Read on for your guide to this incredible Boulder County property.
Hall Ranch was originally home to the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian tribes. In the 19th and 20th centuries, several Anglo families homesteaded here. The Nelson House, part of a former homestead, still stands along the Nelson Loop Trail. Hallyn and June Hall finally purchased the land in the 1940’s and opened a ranch here. They owned and operated Hall Ranch until the early 90’s when Boulder County acquired it.
Hat Rock and Indian Lookout Mountain are featured prominently from Hall Ranch’s Bitterbrush Trail. The Fountain, Lyons, and Ingleside sandstone formations are visible throughout this ridge. The salmon-colored Lyons Formation, over a billion years old, is the same rock used in many of the buildings at CU Boulder.
Please check Boulder County Parks & Open Space for trail conditions before heading out. Dogs are not permitted at Hall Ranch.
The Bitterbrush – Nighthawk Loop is an ideal way to explore Hall Ranch. At approximately 9 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain, this loop should be considered moderate to strenuous. Bikes are permitted on the first half of this hike, so be mindful of their presence. Horses are permitted on all Hall Ranch trails (though not recommended on Bitterbrush). Remember the rules of multi-use trails: Hikers yield to horses and bikers yield to all.
This hike begins at the main Hall Ranch Trailhead just one mile past Lyons on CO-7. The trailhead has ample parking plus restrooms and picnic tables.
From the trailhead, begin on Bitterbrush Trail. Bitterbrush offers fantastic views of the neighboring foothills and ridges as it winds up through the meadow. Prairie grasses and mullein line the trail as you gradually climb. Ponderosa pines dot the landscape but much of the trail is open and exposed. In 3.7 miles, you’ll reach the junction with the Nelson Loop.
Take the left spur of the Nelson Loop. As you hike, note the Nelson House on the right and large log stacks from the county’s forest-thinning efforts. After about one mile on the Nelson Loop, continue on to Nighthawk Trail.
Turn left onto the 4.7-mile Nighthawk Trail and enjoy the views as you descend the winding path. This is a long but immensely enjoyable trail. Wildlife is frequently spotted here. Keep your eyes open for everything from toads to turkeys to bears. There is a short but noticeable ascent near the end of the trail, at a time when you’re likely feeling done. Dig deep and continue on. Soon you’ll be back at the Hall Ranch Trailhead.
Consult the Hall Ranch map and you can easily add Button Rock Trail or Antelope Trail to this hike.
Happy trails, Boulderites!