Saturday, June 23, 2012

Devil's Backbone

Distance: 4 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,100 ft - 5,450 ft
Elevation Gain: 350 ft
Dogs:  On leash only
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Date Hiked: 20 April, 2012

Gazing down at the Devil's Backbone hogback formation from across the valley.
Devil's Backbone is a unique open space near the town of Loveland Colorado.  The backbone is a really a hogback in geological parlance, which just means a sharply tilted chunk of rock protruding out of the surrounding landscape.  Colorado is awash in hogbacks and the Devil's backbone is a particularly attractive one.  

The trailhead has bathrooms, signage and a large parking lot.  
The first part of the trail is wide and welcoming.  You won't get lost in this park. 
Deposited during the time of T-Rex, the rock that is now vertical was actually the shore of an inland sea that covered a portion of what is now the Great Plains of the U.S. The wonders of geology have taken the flat layers and tilted them upwards so that they rise over 200 feet above the surrounding meadows.

First view of the formation.  Surely a giant mythological creature is going to rear out of the ground at any second. 
A zoom shot of the formation
There are many ways to enjoy the Devil's Backbone Open Space.  The Wild Loop (2.6 miles total) is a short hike that will take you close to the formations on one side and further out into the open meadow on the other.  We chose to continue past the end of this loop and across the valley.  From there, the trail heads up to the top of an escarpment where it weaves northward seemingly forever until it meets the Rim Rock Open Space.  That distance is really only suitable for mountain bikers.  Hikers will end up returning much earlier.  There are two loops in the mid-section of the open space, the Hunter Loop and the Laughing Horse Loop.  The area is not well marked and we actually thought we had made it to the Laughing Horse section because there was at least one unmarked loop as you head up the escarpment.

Looking out into the meadow from the Wild Loop Trail.  Just out of frame to the right  is a long series  of very expensive homes. 
There is a short spur trail off the upper Wild Loop that takes you to a view point looking west.  This spot is on a small rise between the formations. 
When you reach the junction of the Hunter Loop, the section heading straight travels along the hill side with views of the Mc-Mansions that have been built in the area.  Having walked a short distance in that direction we decided to turn around and take the section heading further up the escarpment.

Sand or Star Lillies (Leucocrinum montamum)  have been common this year. They grow in sandy soil  and Sagebrush communities.
Trail sign showing our location at the end of the Wild Loop.  You can see the open space continues on for quite a distance. 
Once we gained the top of the escarpment, we could see that the trail just continued on through the Sagebrush.  The route was rocky and numerous mountain bikers passed us.  We walked a little further and then decided to turn around.  Since it was already late afternoon this was a good choice.  It was a long drive back down to the Denver Metro Area.

Leaving the Wild Loop and heading across the valley to the escarpment in the distance
A steeper, rockier trail segment
My hiking companion told me that the trails were very different since the last time she had been there.  The route keeps you away from the rock formations with the exception of one spur to a hole in the rock.  This spur was closed when we were there to protect nesting raptors, so don't expect to channel a Cretaceous dinosaur by hugging the rocks themselves.  You can look, but you can't touch!

A view of the formation from across the valley
The straight part of the Hunter Loop heads towards these houses.  We chose to turn around and head up the hill to the top of the escarpment, which is dramatically visible in the distance.  
The trip across the valley was a way to add mileage to this short excursion and did provide some nice views of the surrounding area as well as the backbone itself.  There is no shade in this area, so go in the spring or fall when temperatures are reasonable.

Our turn around point.  The trail continues on forever....
If you like hogbacks, check out the Hogback Trail just north of Boulder and Matthew Winters Park near Golden.


Sharon said...

Hi Sylvia, Just found your blog from Linda's Lens and can't wait to read more. I live in east Tennessee at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, so my hiking is done primarily there. We spend five weeks in Colorado last summer and fell in love. I will so enjoy reading your posts of the hikes you do there and dream of the day we return!!

Sharon said...

Oh and I meant to say that my heart and prayers are with those of you in Colorado. Many of the fires have affected areas in which we hiked last summer and it's breaking my heart so see the pictures, but this is your HOME!! Please know that those of us in other parts of the country care deeply about this situation!