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Big Loop Trail

 3.3 (3)
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4,009' 1,222 m


3,992' 1,217 m


17' 5 m


19' 6 m



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Max Grade (1°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · River/Creek · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The Historic Site is open at different hours throughout the year.

September to May - 9:00 am - 4 pm.

June to August - 8:00 am - 5:30 pm.

The site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

The park charges a living history fee of $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for 6 to 12 year olds and under 6 years of age are free. Interagency passes are accepted here.

Need to Know

There are restrooms at the parking area as well as places to fill your water bottles. There are no restrooms in the fort.

Depending on the time of the year, you can encounter various types of weather, so make sure to dress appropriately for the weather of the day.


The Big Loop Trail begins from the parking lot and works its way around the marsh, along the Arkansas River and terminates at Bent's Old Fort. When you park, there are restrooms and a pavilion with informational signs providing insights into how the fort was made, the people who shaped it's history, and the history of the area. While the paved walkway goes to the right and toward the fort, the Big Loop Trail takes off to the left via a wide grass path that has been moved mowed, grass path around the marsh.

Birds of various species and rabbits can be seen along the trail, so keep your eyes open. The trail makes its way back toward the road and you'll pass a picnic area and the entrance sign for the fort as the trail circles the far end of the pond. Take a moment to look back and enjoy views of the fort over the marsh before continuing on.

At 0.3 miles, the trail begins to follow the Arkansas River on the left hand side of the trail while the marsh remains on the right hand side. You'll cross a couple of wooden foot bridges that separate the marsh from the river before the trail moves away from the marsh at the 0.6 mile mark. The trail continues to follow the Arkansas River on the left hand side of the trail while the right hand side of the trail dries out and cottonwood trees become more prevalent. At 0.8 miles, the South Loop Cutoff veers off to the right and leads toward the fort and a set of Indian teepees that they have setup so you can see how Indians lived in proximity to the fort.

The Big Loop Trail continues through a grove of cottonwood trees as it wraps around the edge of the property. At 1.25 miles, you arrive at the junction of the South Loop Cutoff Trail, where you can either continue straight and make your way to the fort or turn to the right and continue exploring the Big Loop Trail. The trail goes a short distance before turning to the left and making its way to the fort.

On the right hand side, there are some teepees setup for you to explore before the trail emerges on the gravel path that goes around the fort. You can either go to the right or the left to gain entry into the fort. Once you have explored the fort and learned about its history, you can follow the paved path past the cemetery and marsh and arrive back at your car.

Flora & Fauna

The marsh and Arkansas River support a variety of wildlife that lives in the area. Deer and Turkeys may be seen feeding in the morning or around sunset. Rabbits can be seen scurrying along the trail. Postings for rattlesnakes remind you to watch where you step. There are lots of birds in the area, making it good for birders.

Shared By:

David Hitchcock

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 3 votes


  3.3 from 3 votes
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in Colorado


4 Views Last Month
239 Since Jul 1, 2019



The Arkansas River runs next to the fort. After an evening of thundershowers, the river runs higher than normal.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO
Sustained by the Arkansas River, this grove of cottonwood trees provides relief in the heat of the day and helped people survive on the Plains in the 1800s and 1900s.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO
Looking toward the high plains and the entrance to the historic site.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO
The trail is essentially a mowed path along the river as it heads toward the bottom lands where trees grow in abundance.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO
Bent's Old Fort as seen from the banks of the Arkansas River.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO
A wagon and canon sit alongside the paved walkway that leads to the visitor parking area.
Jun 29, 2019 near La Junta, CO



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