Nighthawk Trail, Hall Ranch, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Nighthawk Trail - 9.4 miles

Hall Ranch

View of Mt Meeker and the Continental Divide from the Nighthawk Trail

View of Mt Meeker and the Continental Divide from the Nighthawk Trail

Round-Trip Length: 9.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,521' - 6,703' (6,769' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,182' net elevation gain (+1,490' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Nighthawk Trail - 9.4 Miles Round-Trip

Hall Ranch encompasses 3,205 acres of colorful mesas, rolling meadows, pinyon-juniper woodlands and active wildlife. Though only 5 designated trails pass through Hall Ranch, their length and diversity create numerous routing options and travel experiences.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Nighthawk Trail offers a bike-free route with connections to the Nelson Loop and Button Rock Trail. Runners may also prefer the Nighthawk's consistent terrain and steady pace:

The Nighthawk Trail rolls gently through open grassland for .85 miles, crests and drops into a shallow gully (1.1 miles : 5,555'). Here it begins a 3.6 mile, 1148' climb on winding, moderately steep (but well-kept) switchbacks.

The trail bends NW and rises quickly through open rolling hills and over deep canyons. Spring travelers will enjoy wavy green grasses, flowers and cacti blooms. Deer are very common along this stretch.

The trail occasionally abuts service roads, but these are not for public use and should not be taken. At 3.65 miles the trail does merge momentarily with a service road, but quickly departs (left) on a clearly marked path into a shallow gully that holds a water tank for horses.

The trail climbs above the tank and threads dense pine on the edge of a large, sloping meadow. It's briefly obscured once more on a hairpin turn around the remains of an old stone wall (4.1 miles : 6,702'), but easy to reclaim once around it.

The trail crests and moderates (4.4 miles) with excellent views of Mt Meeker, Longs Peak, and the Twin Sisters. A few steps off-trail leads to wider views of the Continental Divide, and down a wide valley ideal for seeing wildlife.

The final segment weaves through sparse forest and rocky outcrops into a vast, lofty meadow at the Button Rock Trail split (4.5 miles : 6,703'), and its terminus at the Nelson Loop Trail (4.7 miles : 6,703').

Those seeking a longer hike may add the 2.3 mile Nelson Loop. The Nelson Loop Trail circles Nelson Ranch, whose grain silo and aging homestead are the remains of a once thriving cattle operation. The trail gains only 360' on smooth, mild terrain with terrific views along the way.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 12.730 W105 17.365 — 0.0 miles : Trailhead at Hall Ranch
  • N40 12.375 W105 18.098 — 1.1 miles : Drop into gully, begin climb
  • N40 12.643 W105 18.623 — 2.0 miles : Steady climb through open space
  • N40 12.837 W105 18.956 — 3.0 miles : Grades moderate
  • N40 12.923 W105 19.563 — 3.65 miles : Veer left off fire road
  • N40 12.927 W105 19.837 — 4.1 miles : Wrap around stone wall
  • N40 13.147 W105 19.974 — 4.5 miles : Nighthawk - Button Rock Trail split
  • N40 13.271 W105 19.987 — 4.7 miles : Nighthawk Trail - Nelson Loop Trail junction

Worth Noting

  • This trail is not open to mountain bikes. Foot traffic and horses only.
  • Trails at Hall Ranch can be muddy, especially after heavy rains and during the spring thaw. Trail conditions are posted at the trailhead. BIkers are advised to stay off trails when muddy to expedite recovery and reduce rutting.
  • Do not enter or disturb historic remains.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Camping is not permitted at Hall Ranch.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted trails within Hall Ranch.
  • Bikes are permitted on the Bitterbrush Trail and Nelson Loop Trail. They're not permitted on the Nighthawk Trail or Button Rock Trail.
  • Camping, hunting, fire arms, and motorized vehicles are not permitted within Hall Ranch.
  • It's illegal to enter, move or remove historic remains found in Hall Ranch.

Directions to Trailhead

Hall Ranch in Lyons, Colorado:

From Boulder, take Highway 36 14 miles north to the Highway 66 junction in Lyons. Turn left. Highway 66 will dead end at a "T" intersection on the west side of Lyons. Take a left on Highway 7 towards Allenspark. Hall Ranch is located 1.4 miles on the northeast (right) side of Highway 7.

Contact Information

Boulder County Parks & Open Space
5201 St. Vrain Road
Longmont, Colorado 80503
Phone: 303.678.6200
Fax: 303.678.6180

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"This was a really nice hike. Lots of wide-open views, and saw lots of deer on the way back. "
 -   -  Date Posted: November 19, 2012


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