Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
564.00 ft (171.91 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
6.40 mi (10.30 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Devil's Backbone Open Space connects 12 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails north to Horsetooth Resevior (Fort Collins). It is a great area to explore as far or as near as you want. The space is named after a prominent geological spine of rock that protrudes from the landscape north from the trailhead. The area is known for its wildflowers, golden eagles, and the Keyhole, which is a natural arch that you can stand under and get a view of the nearby Rocky Mountain front, featuring Long's Peak.

From the trailhead, hike north for a little less than a mile along the western side of the Wild Loop. Along the way, you will pass a few viewpoints including one with benches for a rest. Right around the 1-mile mark, you will arrive at the Keyhole. After taking in the views, continue north until the Wild Loop intersects with the Hunter Loop. Continuing on the Wild Loop will bring you south and back to the trailhead in another mile for a quick 2-mile hike with some nice views.

For a longer loop, continue north on the Hunter Loop Trail for another 0.7 mile to the next intersection and the start of the actual Hunter Loop. It is in this section that you will begin the bulk of the climbing for this route, gaining about 300 feet of elevation. This takes place over a small switchback section as you meander up and along a drainage. At the intersection, you can choose to go left or right on the Hunter Loop, both directions eventually bringing you to a saddle north and behind the loop itself. Going left descends below a saddle followed by a short climb of the saddle itself over 0.3 mile. A right on the Hunter Loop continues to ascend and eventually levels and descends slightly to the saddle over 0.4 mile.

At the saddle, continue north onto the Laughing Horse Loop Trail. In another 0.3 mile, you will hit another intersection indicating the beginning of the Laughing Horse Loop itself. Going left will continue your ascent while going right will begin a steep technical descent. Going right includes a sign indicating that it is a black diamond mountain bike trail. Regardless of which direction you choose, the loop itself is about a mile around. The trail left takes you up a ridge between two highpoints offering unobstructed views to the north and west. The trail right drops you down to the side, offering fewer views but more interesting trail to navigate. Both trails are made up of slick rock and talus, so mind your footing!

Once you have completed the loop, you will follow the Laughing Horse Loop Trail back to Hunter Loop, back to Wild Loop, and end at the trailhead for a 6.4-mile roundtrip hike, assuming you completed all the loops! For more information, refer to the Larimer County website.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Winter

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Short loop with longer options. Wildlife. Pet friendly (on leash). Mountain bike trails.

Cons

Busy. Rattlesnakes. Cacti.

Trailhead Elevation

5,090.00 ft (1,551.43 m)

Highest point

5,224.00 ft (1,592.28 m)

Net Elevation Gain

564.00 ft (171.91 m)

Features

Wildlife
Family friendly
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.