Hogback Ridge Trail has been a favorite of North Boulder residents for years. And it’s about to become a favorite of yours, regardless of where you live. Though often overlooked due to its location at the edge of the city’s trail system, this unassuming loop is the perfect hike when you need a little time to yourself and a little room to breathe.
When the trails at Mount Sanitas and Wonderland Lake are bursting at the seams, head just a little farther north to where Hogback Ridge quietly awaits. Although it lacks big mountain views, Hogback will reward you with lots of big wide-open space and panoramas of the city, the plains, and the Boulder range. The sundrenched slopes make it ideal for winter. Snow melts faster here than almost anywhere else in town, and the mud dries out more quickly, too. Finally, it clocks in at a manageable 3 miles round trip and approximately 900 feet of elevation gain, thus providing a solid workout without taking up your entire day. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need: just a little huffing and puffing, just a bit of fresh air, and just a moment or two away from civilization.
Hogback Ridge is not too long, and not too short. It’s not too steep, and not too flat. It’s appropriate for nearly every fitness level and hikers of all ages. Read on for everything you need to know about this “just right” North Boulder gem.
There are two trailheads from which you can access Hogback Ridge. One is the Foothills Trailhead on US 36, and the other is Fourmile Creek Trailhead on Lee Hill Road. The hiking distance is similar from either trailhead, but the latter is closer to town, so this guide will take you from there. There are also two access points within the Dakota Ridge neighborhood. Consult the OSMP map for additional information, and check for temporary closures before heading out. Please note that dogs are not permitted on Hogback Ridge.
The Hogback Ridge Loop itself is 1.8 miles. When the connecting trail is added to this, the total round trip for the hike is 3 miles. This is a moderate hike that can be made more or less challenging depending on which direction you choose to take the loop. Heading north on Hogback is a longer, gentler route to the top, whereas heading south makes for a shorter but steeper climb.
From the Fourmile Creek Trailhead, cross Lee Hill Road to head north on the multi-use Foothills Trail. Follow the trail for 0.6 miles as it skirts alongside the picturesque Dakota Ridge neighborhood. As it veers away from the neighborhood, it begins a gentle climb and then meets with the junction for Hogback Ridge. When the trail forks, head north for the more moderate route.
The trail begins a steady rise as you move across a prairie slope dotted with boulders and the occasional solitary pine tree. At 1.3 miles in, the trail turns to the southwest. At 1.6 miles total, after a steepening ascent, you will have reached the top of the ridge. The city and the plains spread out before you to the east; the Boulder peaks are off in the distance to the south.
At this point, the trail briefly crosses over to the west side of the ridge, with views of Olde Stage Road (and remnants of the Olde Stage Road Fire). The trail then crosses back to the east side and begins to descend quickly via log steps. At the bottom of the slope, you’ll connect back to the start of the loop. Head south on the Foothills Trail to return to the Fourmile Creek Trailhead.
If you’re looking for more trail time, consider adding Old Kiln or even Wonderland Lake to your Hogback itinerary. All three areas are connected by the Foothills Trail.
Happy trails, Boulderites!