Coyote Ridge Natural Area offers a glimpse of what early pioneers experienced traveling west across the vastness of the American tall grass prairie. They were shocked at how quickly the scenery changed from flat, open space in every direction to vertical mountain peaks stretching up to 14,000 feet in elevation.
The transition these early travelers felt as they approached the eastern slope of the Rockies is still there for you to experience at Coyote Ridge Natural Area near Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado. The transition zone between plains and mountains is a narrow one at the foot of the Front Range, but is sometimes called a montane shrubland.
This zone is characterized by grass, shrubs and small trees, a common sight along the rim of the Rockies all the way into Canada. Coyote Ridge Natural Area preserves this unique transition zone in an 839-acre parcel of public land. Note that Coyote Ridge is the only Foothills Natural Area that does not allow dogs.
Through eight separate transactions starting in 1994, Coyote Ridge Natural Area of Fort Collins grew into its current expanse of protected foothills grassland. It opened in 2000 for public use of its facilities and natural surface trails.
In 2001, Thomas and Alice Nix sold their dairy farmland plus buildings to the city of Fort Collins. Nix Farm, now part of Coyote Ridge Natural Area, provides a home for educational activities and the City of Fort Collins Department of Natural Areas offices.
Coyote Ridge is currently the southernmost member of the Foothills Natural Areas, west of Fort Collins. Like Coyote Ridge, the Reservoir Ridge, Pineridge and Maxwell natural areas also offer soft prairie trails with occasional short climbs.
Though mainly covered in a mix of native grasses, Coyote Ridge has small areas of hidden ravines, rocky ridges and areas of wet meadow. Plant species at Coyote Ridge include yucca, smooth horsetail and Rocky Mountain juniper. Prairie dogs are in abundance in this natural area, coexisting with many mule deer, songbirds and other wildlife.
Hiking/Biking – 2.3 miles of trails with an elevation gain of 600 feet provide an attractive challenge for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Dogs are not allowed in the natural area.
Coyote Ridge Trail – Coyote Ridge Trail provides a scenic view for all skill levels of hikers and mountain bikers. This 4-mile main trail links recreationists to Devil’s Backbone Open Space, 6-mile Rim Rock Trail and 18-mile Blue Sky Trail.
Hidden Clues Trail – Branching from the main trail to its cabin headquarters, Hidden Clues Trail is an easy, optional quarter mile loop. This fun trail for all ages offers an interactive experience and is wheelchair accessible. Visitors with limited mobility can arrange for city transportation to and from Hidden Clues Trail by contacting the City of Fort Collins Natural Area Program.
The Hidden Clues Trail, an interpretive loop is located about a mile into the area, with the main trail continuing into the Rimrock Open Space. It provides visitors with the chance to see mule deer, the namesake coyote and occasionally mountain lions, black bears, and rattlesnakes. Songbirds, lizards, fox and deer mice dot the surrounding terrain dominated by rabbit brush, sumac, and mountain mahogany.
A trip to the summit of the trail provides tremendous views of the mountains to the west.
Horseback Riding – Park your horse trailers in the designated lots and enjoy some relaxing horseback riding along the Coyote Ridge Trail year-round.
Education – Full moon walks, Campfires at the Cabin and Campfires at Nix Farm are popular educational activities offered at Coyote Ridge Natural Area. Most educational programs run between June and October each year.
To reach the park from High 287, turn west at Trilby Corner in downtown Fort Collins and take West Trilby Road until it intersects with Taft Hill Road. Turn left and head south about three-quarters of a mile and the Coyote Ridge Natural Area will be on your right, to the west.
The parking area is located one mile south of the Larimer County Landfill. Take Taft Hill Road (County Road 19) to the west end, south of Harmony Road by approximately three miles. Be prepared for a full parking lot at this popular site.
Address: Spring Mesa Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80526