Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
210.00 ft (64.01 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
3.20 mi (5.15 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.

For those who venture behind the first layer of foothills to the Rocky Mountains known as the Hogsback, a dramatic and breathing sequence of trails awaits. One of the more popular trail networks is located in South Valley Park and accessed by the North Trailhead. 

There are two clusters of trail networks in South Valley Park. The cluster on the lower portion is home to large red rock formations that stand sentry to a landscape that is both beautiful and stark, at first glance that is. Enter the trails and you'll find the sweet scent of Rocky Mountain juniper and valuable pockets of shade from scrubby oaks (Gambel oaks). The rock formations are compressed sandstone known as Fountain and Lyon's formations. There are spires, small cliffs and even an arch. 

Wildlife sightings are all but guaranteed. Mule deer frequent the meadows as do elk. They have grown accustomed to people most likely due to the protected habitat. All trails in this network are roped off giving wildlife large swaths of prime meadow to graze and sleep in peace. Stellar's jay, chickadees, cliff swallows and even the occasional mountain bluebird fill the air. Underfoot there are chipmunks, mice, rabbits and squirrels. These latter denizens bring snakes, including prairie rattlesnakes, a type of pit viper.

Not only is venturing off the main path forbidden for the sake of protecting habitat, but doing so is dangerous. Rattlesnakes enjoy the warmth and sun themselves on the rocks and paths. Their expert camouflage abilities off path are uncanny. Pay attention to the trail and if you see one give it wide berth. Don't ever try and coax it off the path. Keep your dogs on a short leash and pay heed to where they are sniffing. Most snake bites to dogs occur on the snout. That said, rattlers are rather visible on the trail. In this environment, the moderately high traffic foot traffic also work in everyone's favor. 

For a pleasant three-mile hike start at the main parking lot and follow Coyote Song Trail. After about a half mile turn left and head up Lyon's Back Trail. This short, uphill climb will give you panoramic views of South Valley Park and all its formations (it also puts you close to the power line easement, just so you know). Lyon's Back continues over the ridge and drops hikers off into another network outside of South Valley Park. To stay in South Valley, retrace your steps back to Coyote Song after you've reached the summit. Continue along Coyote Song and make a sharp right to Prairie Falcon. Prairie Falcon is another spur that connects hikers to Grazing Elk, the network located on the upper mesa. As a there-and-back, Prairie Falcon provides a change of pace as it cuts through a wetland filled with cattails, large trees and slightly cooler temperatures. Retrace your steps until you reach Swallow Tail on your left. Mountain bikes are not allowed on this portion. Swallow Tail takes you close to inspiring and fun rock formations. Keep your imagination open and see if you can find the rock that looks like a lizard sunning itself! The trail skirts the base of some cliffs. Look up to see a large colony of cliff swallows and their mud nests. 

The trail concludes back at the parking lot. There are vault toilets and drinking fountains for both humans and dogs. If you use this trail during the COVID-19 pandemic pack your own water because the people portion of the water fountain is turned off. There are also shade structures with picnic tables near the parking lot and a wastebin with free dog poop bags.

Note: these trails can get brutally hot in mid-summer. Bring ample water for you and your dog. Consider booties if your dog has sensitive feet to heat. 

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Dynamic views. Nice trails. Wildlife.

Cons

Rattlesnakes. Little shade. Can be busy.

Trailhead Elevation

5,972.00 ft (1,820.27 m)

Highest point

6,110.00 ft (1,862.33 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Bird watching
Wildflowers
Geologically significant
Shelters
Potable water

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback
Biking

Permit required

No

Location

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