The front range began to change dramatically in the 1980’s experiencing some of the fastest growth in the entire nation. Farms, hillsides, and valleys witnessed housing developments sprout up like mushrooms after a summer rain.
The people of Larimer County took note in a 1995 referendum and set aside nearly 2,200 acres of unique rock formations known as the Devil’s Backbone near Loveland as the county’s first open space. It wasn’t an easy process, taking nearly 10 years to complete as the public land in the original referendum was augmented with additional purchased private property. The Devil’s Backbone was the impetus for an additional 44,000 acres of public space in Larimer County.
As the name implies, the highlight of the nearly 3.5 square mile public space is a geologic formation that resembles the backbone of some lumbering, rocky beast. The uplift and surrounding terrain is a common feature of rock formations in Colorado and nearby Wyoming, but its proximity to Loveland make it a haven for hikers, nature lovers and families on weekend outings.
Elk, deer, coyotes, fox, jackrabbits, prairie dogs and myriad birds are often spotted by people hiking the miles of trails in the open space and occasionally black bear and mountain lions appear briefly. Close observers have spotted fossils along the cliffs and hillsides and the tusks of a mammoth were once excavated by paleontologists and sent east to an Illinois museum.
Hiking – The Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail is 4.3 miles long and rated as an easy excursion with few technical challenges, a perfect venue for the weekend hiker. It’s also pet friendly, but dogs must be kept on a lease while hiking the trail.
Hiking is the most popular activity at Devil’s Backbone with mountain biking gaining a big following as well. You can even ride horseback and enjoy the vistas, wildlife, and raptors such as red-tailed and rough-legged hawks and eagles as they soar on the currents above the space from the vantage of your saddle.
A 12-mile long trail connects Devil’s Backbone to a couple of other popular public spaces in Rimrock and Horsetooth Mountain.
To reach Devil’s Backbone from Interstate 25 take the Highway 34 exit west into Loveland,
Highway 34 is also known as Eisenhower Blvd in Loveland. Stay on Highway 34 as you loop around Lake Loveland then take a right on Hidden Valley Drive. Watch for the signs and you’ll find the exit to Devi’s Backbone on the left after about a half-mile.
Address: 1725 Hidden Valley Dr, Loveland, CO 80538
Season: Year round