If you've made it to the lollypop, you've already had a great ride. Choose wisely: the trail has decidedly different character depending on which way around the loop you decide to take!
Take a left on the loop for a steeper and shorter climb. You'll keep about the same pitch you just climbed, and you'll get great views on your left back down towards the prairie dog town and bench at the top of the rock garden. Soon, once the trees thicken, the pitch will steepen and the switchbacks tighten for the hardest climb on the loop. It doesn't last long, and soon you'll top out near some great sitting rocks and your first good views of Longs Peak. Continue on past the homestead and up to the top of the loop. Nearly everyone takes a break here: a great sitting rock, a fantastic view, and it's all (okay, just mostly) downhill from here!
Take a right turn at the start of the loop and you get a longer, shallower climb with a steeper descent. Take note at the first hard right hander, there's often a trickle of water through here that can make the rocks a little slick in the spring, and icy in the shoulder months. After that, you'll meander through the forest easily climbing up, with some nice views of Highway 36 over your right shoulder. Make sure to keep one eye on the trail, some of these corners are a bit blind for riders coming downhill. Once you take a left up through the meadow it gets a little steeper with some rocks tossed in at the crest of the hill to make things interesting. One quick downhill to catch your breath, and one short uphill and you've made it to the top and the views. It's all (okay, just mostly) downhill from here! What about the downhill halves? Just read the uphill explanation backwards!!!
Special note: At the top of the loop, there is a trail spur that is hiking only. Don't be tempted to take it, it's not open to bikes. Thanks for being a good citizen, citizen!
|Nelson Loop GPX File||57.72 KB|
|Nelson Loop Google Earth File||2.58 KB|
|Hall Ranch Kiosk Map||776.02 KB|
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