Hall Ranch is an open space located in the foothills of Boulder County, just outside of Lyons, CO. Managed as part of the Boulder County Park and Open Space system, Hall Ranch is a favorite among local hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Less than one hour away from Denver, and even closer to Boulder, this area sees considerable use. Weekends during the spring and summer are often very crowded. But, with five trails ranging from one to approximately five miles, visitors have ample space to share across 3,899 acres. For another great Boulder County Open Space park, check out our destination guide on Walker Ranch!
Destination Guide Series: Hall Ranch
Where is Hall Ranch?
Hall Ranch is located in Boulder County, just west of downtown Lyons, CO. From downtown Lyons, turn on to 5th Ave., which turns into South St. Vrain Dr. The Hall Ranch parking area is a short drive down South St. Vrain Dr. The turnoff into the parking lot can easily be missed if not paying close attention.
Why Should You Visit Hall Ranch?
Hall Ranch seems to have it all: meadows, canyons, forests, and amazing mountain vistas. With an array of outdoor activity options, Hall Ranch is a wonderful foothills destination that is a quick drive from the Denver/Boulder metropolitan area.
When the trails aren’t too crowded, visitors may encounter a number of animals. In particular, it is common to spot black-tailed prairie dogs, mountain cottontail rabbits, and mule deer. Also, depending upon the time of year, you may see a spectacular array of wildflowers, such as harebell, goldenrod, sunflowers, and more. Hall Ranch encompasses an incredible ecosystem and is a truly stunning place that should be on everyone’s “must-visit” list.
Things to Do
Hiking and Trail Running
Hall Ranch’s trail system has five trails spanning nearly 4,000 acres, which range between one to approximately five miles in length. In addition, hikers and trail runners can easily combine sections of these trails into longer loop hikes that cover much of the open space property. Note that three of the five trails (Antelope, Bitterbrush, and Nelson Loop) are multi-use; thus, hikers/trail runners will share the trails with mountain bikers and equestrians. Mountain biking is very popular at Hall Ranch, so if you wish to avoid bike traffic, consider using the Nighthawk Trail or Button Rock Trail, which prohibit mountain bikes.
The Bitterbrush Trail begins at the Hall Ranch parking area. At 3.7 miles in length (one-way), the Bitterbrush Trail is the second longest trail in Hall Ranch, though it’s the most difficult. The trail’s numerous intersections with other trails, including the Nighthawk Trail, Nelson Loop, and the Antelope Trail, makes for an excellent loop hike. You can hike the Bitterbrush Trail as an out-and-back hike (7.4 miles), but going up the Bitterbrush Trail entails encountering numerous downhill mountain bikers. If you prefer to avoid this, consider starting the Hall Ranch Loop (9.8 miles) up the Nighthawk Trail, connecting with the Nelson Loop, and ending down the Bitterbrush Trail.
Length: 3.7 miles (one-way); 898 ft. elevation gain
Though the Nighthawk Trail is the longest trail in Hall Ranch, the elevation gain is fairly steady. This trail is near the parking area, but must be accessed by first hiking a short distance on the Bitterbrush Trail. For hikers and trail runners that want to avoid mountain bikes, this trail is ideal. At 4.7 miles one-way (9.4 out-and-back), we highly recommend the Hall Ranch Loop (9.8) hike instead, which showcases much more of Hall Ranch.
Length: 4.7 miles (one-way); 1,282 ft. elevation gain
The Antelope Trail is short, but in order to access the trail from the Hall Ranch parking area, visitors must first hike up a portion of the more difficult Bitterbrush Trail. Alternatively, the Antelope Trail trailhead is just off of Apple Valley Road on Antelope Drive. This trailhead has a few parking spots for those interested in beginning their outing here.
Length: 1.0 mile (one-way); 458 ft. elevation gain
Button Rock Trail
The Button Rock Trail is best accessed via the Bitterbrush Trail/Nighthawk Trail from the Hall Ranch parking area. The Button Rock Trail itself is only 2.0 miles (one-way), but since the Nighthawk Trail (4.7 miles one-way) must be hiked as well, this makes for an approximately 13.4 mile out-and-back hike.
Use: Hiking Only
Length: 2.0 miles (one-way); 220 ft. elevation gain
Although the Nelson Loop is only 2.2 miles, this is more of an add-on trail since it is accessed via the Bitterbrush Trail (3.7 miles) or the Nighthawk Trail (4.7 miles). Thus, a portion of the Nelson Loop is usually used as a connector for the longer Hall Ranch Loop. The Nelson family home (former owners of the ranch) is located within this loop, if you’re interested in a bit of the property’s history.
Length: 2.2 miles (loop); 290 ft. elevation gain
Hall Ranch Loop
The Hall Ranch Loop is the premier hike of Hall Ranch. In order to see most of the open space, experience the diverse eco-system, and not have to double-back, this loop hike is ideal. Beginning at the Hall Ranch parking area, start on the Bitterbrush Trail and quickly connect with the Nighthawk Trail to begin the loop in a clockwise direction. Continue up the Nighthawk Trail’s gradual incline to eventually reach a stunning vista of Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and other Front Range mountains. After enjoying the view, connect with the Nelson Loop and back to the Bitterbrush Trail, ending on a downward slope back to the parking area.
Length: 9.8 miles (loop); 1,446 ft. elevation gain
Mountain biking is an extremely popular activity within Hall Ranch’s trail system. All of the trails that permit mountain biking (Antelope, Bitterbrush, and Nelson Loop) are also open to hikers and equestrians, so plan to share the heavily-trafficked trails during busy times. Note that the Nighthawk Trail and Button Rock Trail do not permit mountain bikes. In addition, all of the Hall Ranch open space prohibits the use of E-Bikes.
The trails are mostly considered “intermediate,” with the exception of the lower section of the Bitterbrush Trail, which becomes fairly technical and is considered “difficult.” Check out MTB Project for more details on Hall Ranch’s mountain bike trail system.
Horseback riding is permitted on multi-use trails throughout Hall Ranch’s trail network, which includes Antelope, Bitterbrush, Nelson Loop, and Nighthawk Trails. Riders will share multi-use trails with mountain bikers and hikers; though the Nighthawk Trail is only open to hikers and horseback riders. Horseback riding is prohibited on the Button Rock Trail.
Hall Ranch presents a great opportunity to see a diversity of wildlife, including an array of birds. Visitors will likely see common Colorado birds such as the Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker. In addition, visitors may catch a glimpse of a few raptors, including the Red-tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon, and American Kestrel.
For a well-rounded and more interpretive Colorado Open Space experience, we recommend picking up a few naturalist guides. An easy to use field guide for plants and birds will help identify species and further add to the enjoyment of your time outdoors. In addition, there are a few Boulder-specific guides that offer more details on hiking and mountain biking trails.
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