Hall Ranch

Consensus:    (details)
  4.3 from 110 votes
blueBlack  Intermediate/Difficult from 40 votes
Rank: #1 in the Heil Valley Ranch area
#19 in CO, #80 Overall
Views: 22,364. Last 30 days: 1,017
Condition Details | Update
Jul 8 Green - Dry
Featured Ride in the area near Lyons,
“A favorite for Boulder area riders - scenery, singletrack, technical sections... it's got it all!”
Michael Ahnemann on Nov 19, 2012
Getting There     GPX File     Print
11.819.0 milesKilometers 1,793’547 m Ascent 6,686’2,038 m High 6% Avg Grade (3°)
95% Singletrack -1,793’-547 m Descent 5,462’1,665 m Low 23% Max Grade (13°)
Dogs are prohibited on all Hall Ranch trails.
1:50 average time for 10.8 miles. Details

Hall Ranch has something for just about everyone. The most commonly ridden trail (Bitterbrush) has a challenging technical Rock Garden that only fit expert riders can clean bottom to top. The Nelson Loop up top has some beautiful views of the Arapahoe range and Longs Peak in addition to beautiful, flowy singletrack. And intermediate riders can find some suitable terrain by starting on the Antelope Trail, that also leads to the Nelson trail, but bypasses the technical rock garden on Bitterbrush.

This trail is one of the most popular trails within 40 minutes of Longmont/Boulder, which means it can get very crowded, especially on weekends. There can also be significant horseback traffic, so be prepared for frequent stops along the descent as you yield to uphill riders, horses, and hikers. It can be frustrating because the descents are so much fun - but be courteous... it's a challenging trail for horses, and they can be easily spooked.
Need To Know
Alternative ride options:

You can also ride a short section of road to link up with Picture Rock trail and Heil Ranch for a big day in the saddle.

Or you might choose to relax after your ride by hanging out in the park by the creek in Lyons and taking a dip to cool off, or by tossing back a pint or two at the popular Oskar Blues brewery in town.
The most common way to ride the trails at Hall is to start from the Bitterbrush trailhead, so that's how we've mapped it for this description. There are two parking lots at this trailhead, and toilets, so most people (including the horseback riders) start here. However, this is also the most difficult way to ride Hall. Intermediate and beginner riders might choose to start from the smaller trailhead to ride up the Antelope Trail.

Starting on Bitterbrush - Lower Section, the singletrack begins right at the end of the upper parking lot. There's a nice sign there to help you get your bearings. Climbing starts almost immediately, but the trail starts off mostly smooth. Before long, you'll start riding up and over some small rocks, and the trail will get rockier as you climb.

About 3/4 of a mile in, the well-known rock garden starts. From here, it's a steep climb with frequent big technical moves over rock formations. You won't need to be a trials rider to clean this section, but you'll need to be a skilled mountain biker with enough fitness to keep your heart from jumping out of your chest.

There's a bench at the top of this section with a nice view - a perfect spot for a quick snack if you need it. Otherwise, continue down a short descent and merge onto the singletrack (Bitterbrush - Upper Section) coming up from the Antelope Trail. Settle in for a mostly grandual and smooth climb for about a mile and a half up to the Nelson Loop.

The Nelson Loop can be ridden either direction, although clockwise seems to be the most common. You'll climb further to the highpoint at about 6700' where there's a hiker's only trail heading back down to the trailhead and another bench to rest on. Here you'll be rewarded with 360 degree views. Notably, you'll see Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. The rest of the loop from this point is a fantastic descent.

Now it's downhill almost the entire way back down to where you merged onto the Antelope Trail. You can either merge back onto Bitterbrush - Lower Section and re-trace your steps, or add a quick out and back by continuing on the Antelope Trail down to its start and riding back up to the Bitterbrush junction. Antelope is a mostly smooth, intermediate trail - it's a fun detour if you've got the energy.

Once you start heading back down Bitterbrush - Lower Section, you'll bounce your way back down through the Rock Garden, and it's almost all downhill from here back to your car.
History & Background
From multiple points along the Nelson Loop, you'll see small spur trails leading down to the what once was the historic Nelson Ranch. You can ride/walk right down to the remains of a home and a grain silo.

More than 20 different families lived and operated businesses in the area that we now call Hall Ranch. Some prospected, some farmed, and some quarried sandstone. In the mid-1940s, Hallyn and June Hall began ranching on what became known as the Hall Ranch. For more than 50 years, this property was a working foothills ranch. The Hall family expanded their land ownership and grazed livestock throughout the property. They also operated other businesses including logging and rock quarrying.
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PHOTOS of Hall Ranch
  4.5 from 4 votes
Hall Ranch at sunset... some of the best riding on the Front Range. (Lyons, CO)
  4.4 from 5 votes
Not much sunlight left on the Nelson Loop at Hall Ranch. (Lyons, CO)
  4.3 from 3 votes
Bitterbush is very exposed. Make sure to bring lots of water. (Lyons, CO)
  4.0 from 3 votes
Riding up a tight switchback on Antelope Trail. (Lyons, CO)
  4.0 from 2 votes
Smooth, masterfully-built trail. Lots of work went into this one! (Lyons, CO)
  4.0 from 2 votes
Railing corners on upper Bitterbrush at Hall Ranch. (Lyons, CO)
  3.8 from 4 votes
Clockwise is the way to go on the Nelson loop. Fast and flowy! (Lyons, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
One of the most technically challenging trails in Colorado, and loads of... (Lyons, CO)
  3.7 from 3 votes
Near the top of Hall Ranch on the Nelson Loop with great views of Longs ... (Lyons, CO)
  3.5 from 4 votes
Loving the view of Longs Peak (Lyons, CO)
  3.3 from 3 votes
A killer way to view the world. Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak presiding over... (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Don't let the bottom section fool you; Bitterbush gets real technical re... (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Descending Nelson Loop in the clockwise direction. Phone mounted to hand... (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
Great views of Twin Sisters and Longs Peak from the top of the Nelson Loop (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
Heading up the Antelope Trail (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
At the junction with Nelson Loop. Starting left (doing the loop clockwi... (Lyons, CO)
  3.0 from 1 vote
Twin Sisters Peak from the Nelson Loop (Lyons, CO)
  2.7 from 3 votes
Watch for rattlesnakes sunning themselves on trail. (Lyons, CO)
  2.0 from 1 vote
Nice views of the foothills (Lyons, CO)
  2.0 from 1 vote
The historic Nelson Ranch farm house. Walk (don't bike) on over and hav... (Lyons, CO)