Heil Valley Ranch – Picture Rock Trail

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If you’re a mountain biking enthusiast in Boulder County, you have probably heard of Heil Valley Ranch open space.  Similar to well-known Hall Ranch, Heil Valley Ranch sports a number of mountain biking trails winding through the rolling grasslands, hanging valleys, and sandstone buttes of the foothills surrounding Lyons, Colorado.  In 2008, the Picture Rock Trail opened, connecting the existing Heil Valley Ranch trails to the Hall Ranch trail system.  This trail, designed and built by volunteers, starts at a very pretty parking lot right in Lyons.

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On this visit, we arrived in the late afternoon, for what we thought would be a quick walk.  It wasn’t until we were back home looking at the long shadows in the trail head picture that we realized how late we really started out.

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The trail starts out by heading through some relatively flat open space.  This is currently a re-vegetation area, so visitors are required to stay on path at all times.

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As we rounded the first hill, the trail began to wind through an absolutely beautiful valley, climbing as we went along.

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Even in the late afternoon, the area was beautiful.

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We found some small cacti along the trail:

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As well as a certain small animal who was afraid of the camera:

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Looking back the way we came, we had a beautiful view of the sandstone buttes of Lyons.

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We didn’t run into too many mountain bikers at 5:00 PM in the evening, but the ones we encountered were very courteous and good at sharing the single track path.

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About 2 miles in, we stopped at the giant sandstone picnic table to eat the lunch we packed in.  The picnic table is located on one end of the valley, right before you start hiking into the trees.  The panoramic view from here is, like everything else, beautiful.

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As we started to hike into the trees, we spotted a group of mule deer munching on the bushes.  Can you spot them in the picture?

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After hiking a ways through the trees,we reached another valley.  This valley was very green, and had the remains of a silo and some building foundations along the perimeter.  The red trail in the background made for an excellent photo opportunity, even in the low light on the evening.

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We were about ready to turn around when we heard the gobble of a wild turkey.  Having never seen one in the wild before, I decided I wanted to try and find him.  Right as we were approaching the junction with Wild Turkey Trail, we rounded a clump of trees to see not only the wild turkey we had heard earlier, but also a small herd of mule deer.

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Although the camera doesn’t do well in low light, we managed to get a few decent pictures of both the deer and our loud little friend.

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When the turkey saw us, he began to wander off back down into the valley.  We followed him along the trail for a while, then decided we had better head back before it got too dark.  As it was, we arrived back at the trail head at dusk.  I look forward to getting to explore more of this beautiful place in  the daylight at some point, maybe early morning when all of the animals are out and about again.

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