As a park ranger with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, I have a lot of unique opportunities to explore our wonderful county properties. While I spend a good deal of time patrolling on foot and bike, my favorite patrol mode is on horseback. I have been lucky enough to be part of the mounted patrol group for about five years and have been riding in Colorado for over 25 years. I thought I would share a few of my favorite places to ride in Boulder County, as well as a few tips for having an enjoyable day in the park.
Rabbit Mountain, Lyons
The multi-use trails at Rabbit Mountain are rocky, so be sure your horse’s feet are in good condition. The Eagle Wind Trail has wonderful views of Longs Peak and much of the St. Vrain Valley. All of the trails allow dogs and bikes, so be sure your horse is accustomed to sharing the trail. Rabbit Mountain can get very hot during summer months; mornings and fall days are a great time to explore this property.
Coalton Trail, Superior
If you are looking for a longer ride, the Dirty Bismarck loop starting at the Coalton Trailhead is a great option. This 12-mile, multi-use trail runs through both the City of Boulder and Boulder County Open Space properties, providing amazing views of the Flatirons and the Indian Peaks. Much of the loop trail runs through grassland, and you have a good view of other trail users approaching. It is a very popular trail for runners and cyclists. There is little shade or water along this trail, so be sure your horse is in good condition for a longer ride and avoid the hottest parts of the day.
Hall Ranch, Lyons
This open space is known as a mountain bike destination, but it is also a fantastic place to ride horses. The Nighthawk Trail is a pedestrian-and-equestrian-only trail that connects to the multi-use Nelson Loop. The scenery and views at Hall Ranch make it a great place to ride. The climate at Hall Ranch makes it possible to ride there 12 months out of the year, just be sure to check for closures due to muddy conditions on the department’s website before you go. Dogs are not allowed at Hall Ranch.
Caribou Ranch, Nederland
OK, I may be partial to this property because I am the resident ranger, but it is truly a great place to ride! Caribou Ranch is best ridden from July 1 until the snow starts to fly up high. Wildflowers and green meadows make the property shine in the summer and the changing aspen leaves are a must see in the fall. Horse trailer parking is at Mud Lake Open Space, and you can enjoy winding through Mud Lake’s multi-use trails before heading up the connector trail to Caribou Ranch. Dogs and bikes are not allowed at Caribou Ranch, making it a very peaceful place to ride. (Note: As you plan your ride, keep in mind that Caribou Ranch is closed annually from April 1 through June 30 to protect spring migratory birds and elk calving and rearing.)
Tips For a Safe, Fun Trail Ride
- Always carry a cell phone and let someone know where you are going.
- Be sure your horse is comfortable being away from home.
- Ride with a buddy or group until you and your horse feel comfortable riding alone.
- Communicate with other trail users.
- Travel at a safe speed for the trail and conditions.
- Practice loading and unloading your horse from the trailer before heading out to the trail.
- Check your tack for wear and tear before each ride.
- Wear a riding helmet. You will never see a ranger without one!
If you have any issues on the trail, please contact a ranger through the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number 303-441-4444.