The Pawnee National Grassland is a large, semi-protected area of high prairie grassland in northern Colorado. It is a patchwork of federal land and private property, and you'll find signs of its ranching history as well as the current boom in oil and gas drilling and wind energy. There are not a lot of opportunities to get closer to the essence of this land than driving through on the tangled network of dirt roads. The Pawnee Buttes Trail is one well-known hike in the area, and another is the Trail of the Mourning Dove in the Crow Valley Recreation Area, which also contains the lovely Crow Valley Campground.
The trail begins just adjacent to the campground and next to the collection of farm implements on display. It follows the seasonal Crow Creek that runs through the campground (which in July of 2015 was uncharacteristically overflowing its banks) and travels through a mix of grassland, cottonwood trees, willows, and other riparian plants. The bird population is large and varied; over 300 species have been spotted in the Crow Valley area, and activity is especially high during the spring and fall migrations.