"Free ~10 mile hike at Round Mountain" Loveland Off The Beaten Path Tip by megsoc13
Loveland Off The Beaten Path: 1 reviews and 0 photos
You might think Loveland ends where the mountains begin but it actually extends up the Big Thompson Canyon a ways. If you're going UP the canyon (Hwy 34), the Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park is on the right about 4 miles past the entrance to the canyon. This is a nice place to grill and stick your feet in the icy river after a hike. Across the road (left side), right before a large curve to the right, is the turn-off for the hiking trail (most of which is in a National Forest).
Park your car at the base where there is a bathroom and warnings of rattlesnakes. There are actually 2 trails you can do. The really short and easy trail forks to the right. I'm not sure how long but probably less than 2 miles round trip. It ends at a shelter overlooking HWY 34. It's a good view of the canyon road but not much else unless it's the right time of day and the mountain goats or big horn sheep are climbing up the opposite slope!
The long, almost 10 mile round trip hike forks to the left. Once it starts heading up the mountain, there is rarely a break. This is not an easy hike! Besides heading straight up there are a lot of smaller rocks that make it harder to climb. There are a few awesome views. About half-way up is Pot Rock(?); you can't miss it. From here you can see Loveland and far out onto the plains. Most of the first half of the hike is completely exposed to the sun; the last part has more pines trees. You'll also be able to see views of Carter Lake and Pinewood Reservoir on this hike. The end/summit is anti-climactic (no view because of the trees) but you do get to sign the registration book and add a stone to the stone mountain. This trail is good exercise but also frustrating. I don't feel the need to do it again but others might enjoy it more!
Make sure you allow yourself enough time to get back down. Most of the trail gets dark really early. Also watch out for mountain lions. We got stalked by one!