Little Lyons, nestled between Boulder and Estes Park on US36, is really good at a few things. Bluegrass festivals, creek tubing, and beer brewing are three of them; coincidentally, so is trail running, which should always precede the aforementioned. All of the trails at Hall Ranch offer great dirt for trail running, but for runners who want some extra solitude, the 4.7 mile Nighthawk Trail (no bikes allowed) is a real gem.
What Makes It Great
Due to the popularity of the neighboring Bitterbrush Trail, the Nighthawk Trail maintains a more primitive feel. When the views of the highway disappear (and they’re not your typical “highway” views anyway because you’re looking deep into the South St. Vrain River canyon), you’re surrounded by striated redrock and sagebrush. You will see deer on this trail, as well as rabbits and birds—maybe even a bear or bobcat if you’re lucky (or a rattler if you’re not). From the trailhead, the trail takes a gentle uphill grade until it intersects with the Nelson Loop, but it’s not so steep that you can’t set a brisk pace if you want. If you choose to come down the same way, you’ll fly back to the trailhead.
Who is Going to Love It
Trail runners who like options and have at least an hour to explore. The Nighthawk Trail is 4.7 miles long (one way) and great for an out-an-back, but options abound for making it longer or into a loop. Where Nighthawk ends, you can get even further off the beaten path by taking a left onto the 2 mile (one way) Button Rock Trail (pedestrian traffic only). If you like loops, take a right to hook up with the Nelson Loop (you’ll likely join mountain bikers here) and run counter or clockwise (you can’t go wrong) until you hook up with the Bitterbrush trail. This will take you back to the trailhead on Hwy 7/South St Vrain Road for an awesome 9.5 mile loop. You can also join the Antelope Trail, which opens up even more options.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The Nighthawk Trail @ Hall Ranch31635 CO-7, Lyons, CO 80540
This is a Boulder County Open Space and Mountain Parks trail and therefore open from dawn to dusk, year round. Check Boulder OSMP Twitter and Facebook feeds during rainy/muddy times to check trail conditions/closures.
Picnic shelter and restrooms at trailhead; no water available.
No dogs allowed.
The Nighthawk Trail is open to horses and pedestrians only; peds should always yield to horses.