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Devil’s Backbone/Coyote Ridge

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My first two hikes in the foothills of Fort Collins were in the Devil’s Backbone  and Coyote Ridge Natural Areas.  These two trails are connected and both trailheads reside in Loveland, CO.  The Coyote Ridge Trailhead is about 3 miles from my doorstep.  After only being in the area for a week, I was fortunate enough to find a ‘hiking buddy’ (Steve) in Fort Collins that has taken me on and is showing the many trails in Foothills area.  Our first hike together was Devil’s Backbone.

Devil's Backbone Trailhead

Devil’s Backbone Trailhead

Pictured here is Steve and I at the trailhead.  In the background you can see the rock ridge that gives this trail it’s name.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and as usual I was over-dressed for it.  I’m a wimp when it comes to being cold.  The temperature was in the low to mid 30s and I figured with any wind it might end up being a ‘blustery’ hike (as Winnie the Pooh may say).  But the wind held off and the jacket was soon open.  The trails in this area are shared trails.  Sometimes they allow hikers, bikers and horses.  Sometimes just hikers and bikers.  At times this trial would separate and horses were allowed on one and hikers another.  Steve and I hiked about 3.5 miles deep on this trial (seven miles round trip).  But, the trail connects with others and one could hike 20+ miles without doubling back.

Keyhole in Devil's Backbone

Keyhole in Devil’s Backbone

About a mile and half into the hike one can see a ‘Keyhole’ in the rock ridge of the Devil’s Backbone.  I was amazed to find that I could see Long’s Peak about 35-40 miles in the distance.  Here I am pretending to point at the Keyhole near the summit of Long’s Peak which I’ve had the fortune to peer and travel through up close a number of times.

Just before Christmas, Steve left me and went for a vacation with his wife (I can’t believe he left me for her!) to warmer climes for several weeks.  I should have been so smart.  Getting restless, I decided to checkout the first trailhead north of Devil’s Backbone, Coyote Ridge Natural Area.

Coyote Ridge Trail Head

Coyote Ridge Trail Head

Now, if you’re adventurous you can hike this about 6 miles in and end up where Steve and I left off on the first hike.  Since I would have to hike up the foothills (seen above in the distance) in the snow, I decided to just go to the top of hill and see what I could see on this day.  About a half mile into the trip I ran into a bunch of fur-balls running around just off to the sides of the trials.  Prairie Dogs!  Not having a telephoto lens along with me, I decided that I would have to come the next day (dragging my wife along with me) and get some shots.

Prairie Dog keeping a watchful eye on me

Prairie Dog keeping a watchful eye on me

The furry fat butterball above I shot with my Nikon D4, Nikkor 300 f2.8 lens and a Nikon 2x (600 mm total).  They were wary of us to say the least.  As you can see below it wasn’t long before he (or she?) was at his hole gleefully signaling to the rest of the community as to my presence.

This Dog was signaling my presence

This Dog was signaling my presence

After that, there were no more pictures to be had.  But, I had decided that I would have to venture back early one morning with my Nikkor 200-400 mm f/4 lens and a monopod (giving me 800 mm), and sit a while.  I would like to see if they would acclimate to my presence.  Hikers on this trail pass right through their community, so I’m hoping they are somewhat familiar with humans.

View back toward the trailhead from the top.

View back toward the trailhead from the top.

Back to the hike now.  I made it to the top.  The picture above is the view looking back toward the trail head.  If you look closely, the trailhead is on the south side of the nearest road crossing the image horizontally.  Below are two more images from the top, looking the other direction.  I hope to revisit this trail soon and complete the section that goes from the top to where Steve and I turned around on the Devil’s backbone hike.  Please feel free to leave comments and questions below!

Looking south from the top back towards Devil's Backbone

Looking south from the top back towards Devil’s Backbone

The view directly west from the top

The view directly west from the top

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