Why we love it: Peaceful meadows, expansive views and abundant wildlife–with a taste of red rock country thrown in.

When to go: Any time of year—this gentle loop is great for snowshoeing, as well as hiking.

The 4-mile Valley Loop Trail explores the northeastern corner of the City of Fort Collins’ 2,600-acre Bobcat Ridge Natural Area. This property has just one trailhead, which provides access to a number of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails ranging in length from 3.5 to 11 miles round-trip.

After following the short spur from the parking lot, the Valley Loop Trail turns north, crossing a series of grassy meadows and a tiny stream below a perimeter of prominent sandstone cliffs. After 0.8 miles, the path reaches a junction with the Power Line Trail. Be sure to continue north here for an additional 0.2 miles to see the property’s quaint historic cabin, which is nestled beneath a backdrop of pink rocks that look like they belong in Moab. An old (non-working) hand pump and rusty farming gear scattered around the historic grounds give the place a ghostly appeal.

From the cabin, continue west for 0.75 miles to the intersection with the D.R., and shortly thereafter, the Power Line trails. As you bend south along the loop, the trail climbs slightly to traverse ponderosa-studded hillslopes that offer great views of the lower meadows and surrounding foothills.

This property is a crucial link in a network of public lands that stretch from the plains all the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, providing a large protected area for the namesake bobcats, as well as mountain lions and black bears, to roam. Along this stretch of the Valley Loop Trail, you’ll see a prominent white box, one of eight motion/heat-activated wildlife cameras used to monitor wildlife in this natural area. You can view the photographs online.

Bobcat Ridge is also home to coyotes, rattlesnakes, butterflies, and many birds, including hummingbirds, the yellow warbler, and the lazuli bunting, so keep an eye on the sky as you continue to the junction with the Ginny Trail, then loop east to return to the parking lot.

Getting there: From Denver head north on I-25 to Exit 257, the junction with US 34 (near Loveland). Head west on US 34, past the intersection with US 287, for 10.8 miles, then turn right (north) onto CR 27 (Masonville Road). Follow this 4.5 miles, then turn left (west) onto CR 32C, which turns into a good dirt road just before the trailhead parking lot.

Logistics: Bobcat Ridge is open daily from dawn to dusk. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails. Not all trails are open to cyclists and/or equestrians; visit the website for more details.

(Check out more hikes we like)

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.