She hiked midway up the hill, did a spin and climbed on without missing a beat. I smiled, as I just happened to be taking video, getting my fancy hiker in action. We marched on a bit longer. Stopped for another quick snack and looked farther down the trail, looked at the time, looked back where we had come and, very anti-climatically, called the hike for the day.

There aren’t many loop trails in Northern Colorado. Most lead to a lake, a peak or occasionally another trail that we will not see while hiking with young children. Instead we go in as far as we want then turn around. By the end of this summer we will be experts on the first two miles of many trails.

We still don’t pass up the 10 mile one way hikes just because our family will not be logging 20 miles. We decide how long we want to be on a trail and turn around when the time is right. If it’s just 1-2 miles, that’s okay. Lucky for us many hikes in Northern Colorado are immediately beautiful. Like Big South Trail.

Technically a 10 mile hike, the Big South Trail follows the south fork of the Poudre through Comanche Peak Wilderness eventually connecting to Corral Creek Trail. Due to a washed out bridge where the river can be pretty treacherous to cross, it ends up being more like 7 miles one way. This is all internet research because even before kids I have yet to complete this trail. But this would be a fantastic candidate for a backpacking trip with 19 designated campsites along the way… something to to consider if/when we have access to an overnight babysitter.

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The trailhead is situated right off highway 14, approx. 1.5 hours from Fort Collins, 47 miles up the Poudre Canyon. The south fork of the Poudre River is impressive with steep walls and fast water. It envelops you in a thick subalpine forest with lots of shade and decent but doable inclines. Watch out for portions of the trail that are rather narrow and border steep hillsides, some of which I felt more comfortable holding my 5 year old’s hand.

Also watch out for moose. We’ve definitely spotted one in the river below the trail while snowshoeing a few years back.

What are your favorite hikes you have yet to complete?


Drive Time: 1.5 hours from Fort Collins, 47 miles up Poudre Canyon

Trail Length: 7 miles one way to washed out bridge, we hiked approx. 1.5 miles in, for a 3 mile total hike when with the kids

Designated Rating: Moderate to Strenuous (Agreed)

Usage: Heavy, but not heavy like Gray Rock or Horsetooth. There are 19 parking spots and we have never had trouble parking. It’s a long enough trail that even with a full parking lot, it does not feel crowded.

Elevation Gain: 8,440-9,550

Trail Highlights: The river and canyon views! The thick forest! Adjacent to Big South Campground!

Trail Lowlights: Some rocky hillsides, could be tricky for kids

Optimal Time of Year: This is a trail we have hiked all seasons, it’s excellent for snowshoeing as well.

Would we go back? Yes, it’s definitely one of our favorites, who knows maybe we’ll even finish it some day.