“A long steady climb through foothills and Ponderosas.
— Jared Crockett
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
This is almost entirely singletrack that ascends the sloping sides of Sheep Mountain (aka Round Mountain). It's a long and steady climb over mostly Ponderosa covered dirt trail. There are some short sections that cross rock slides near the beginning. The end of the trail is the summit of Sheep Mountain. The summit isn't spectacular in itself, but getting there is a long and worthy journey!
Need to Know
The trailhead parking area is located in the Big Thompson Canyon, approximately 4 miles west of The Dam Store on Colorado State Highway 34 (approximately 12 miles west of Loveland).
This is a long one, so be sure to pack plenty of water. There is an outhouse at the parking lot, and then no other facilities the rest of the way. You'll cross a small spring well into the run, but signs warn against drinking that water (I tend to follow what the signs say).
The first section of the trail is the Foothills Nature Trail
which is a dirt road. After about a quarter of a mile, you leave the nature trail by turning left. There's a sign there marking the intersection. You continue to follow a rocky road about 100 yards up a climb and then the singletrack begins. After another quarter mile or so, you leave the City of Loveland property and enter forest service land.
You'll wind your way up and across the side of the canyon with beautiful views of the river below along the way. After a mile or so the trail switches back providing even better views of the canyon that you are ascending. Before long, you leave the canyon views behind and are greeted with expansive views of the plains and communities to the east.
The trail continues up through forest and rock formations. Because Round Mountain is not very dramatic, this trail starts to feel like it is getting pretty long. There's not too much incline to tell you that you're reaching the end. Rather, you just continue to gradually climb, and gradually climb some more, then more. Eventually, you "break out" on the summit, which is marked by a very large rock cairn. Unfortunately, there are not many views to speak of here, as the summit is covered entirely with Ponderosa forest. You can, however, take a short walk to the north from the summit and get another great view of the canyon below and Palisade mountain on the other side of the canyon.
Note, you can also mountain bike this trail.
History & Background
From the city of Loveland's website: Most of The Summit Adventure Trail was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. Portions have been rebuilt by the Loveland Ranger Force, a group of teenagers from Loveland.
The Summit Adventure Trail portion of the Round Mountain National Recreational Trail is primarily maintained by hikers and the National Forest Service, due to the fact that it leaves the City of Loveland's property, and enters the Roosevelt National Forest.
Many people utilize this public trail each year, and others help to maintain it! Along with the City workers who maintain the lower portion of the trail known as the Foothills Nature Trail
, there are also volunteers who help to patrol the upper portion of the trail known as the Round Mountain - Summit Adventure Trail through a program with the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers. The trail's beauty depends on you as well as nature. Please pack out any trash you see along the trail.