Coyote Ridge Natural Area is managed by the City of Fort Collins and is located 15 minutes northwest of Loveland, Colorado and 15 minutes southwest of Fort Collins on Taft Hill Road/Wilson Avenue. Primary activities are hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, nordic walking, and trail running. Dogs are not allowed in the natural area. Parking is free with restrooms located one mile inside the park. There is supposed to be a water fountain at the cabin near the restrooms but I did not see it. Cell phone service was intermittent while in the park.
The Coyote Ridge trail is located in the montane shrublands, defined as an ecotone or transition zone between grasslands and montane forests. The first mile of trail is flat and wide, and, thus, is suitable for nordic walking and wheel chairs. Total elevation gain for the 2.0 mile hike is ~600 feet. This trail only provides shade at dawn and dusk.
Dogs are prohibited to protect wildlife such as mule deer, coyotes, and badgers. The following picture looks north along a section of trail that looks like it used to be an old road.
Plants and shrubs that can be seen include great plains yucca, rubber rabbitbrush, true mountain mahogany, and western poison ivy. The subsequent pictures show the trail as it leads up to the restroom and cabin.
To the north of the restroom and cabin is a 0.25 mile interpretive loop that is an interactive learning experience for hikers of all ages (including wheel chair access). In particular, kids can learn about plants and wildlife that live on the prairie while at the same time see prairie dogs and desert cottontail rabbits running around nearby. Interpretive stations showcase information, pictures, and hands on exhibits for lizards, insects, birds, rabbits, and prairie dogs. The following picture of the interpretive loop was taken from higher up on the main trail.
The second half of the trail is an aggressive 400 feet elevation climb over less than a mile. For hikers, the ascent is moderately difficult and not overpowering. However, for mountain bikers and trail runners, the ascent is demanding and comprised of both smooth and rugged terrain.
Most of it is wide but some stretches are single track. It is rocky in some areas but is not particularly technical since it is comprised of three long straightaways.
Hikers reaching the top of the ridge are rewarded with impressive views to the south and west. Mountain bikers and trail runners can connect to even more trails that include 1.8 miles in Rimrock Open Space, which connects to 5.5 miles of Blue Sky trails. It should be noted that the Blue Sky trail can be accessed with much less difficulty from the Soderberg trailhead in Horsetooth Mountain Park.
The following video was taken at the end the Coyote Ridge trail. Filming started facing northeast and completed pointing northwest.
As can be seen in the following picture, there is a clear line of sight so the descent is fast and fun for mountain bikers.
In sum, the first mile of the trail is an exemplary place for families to enjoy an interpretive experience that establishes a connection with plants and wildlife. In addition, the first mile is appropriate for nordic walking. The second mile provides a challenging climb for mountain biking and trail running enthusiasts seeking access to scenic Rimrock Open Space and Blue Sky trails. Read Colorado mountain bike trails for a list of areas to explore along the northern Front Range.