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Chicks On The Rocks in the Rock Garden

On Sunday, 9/20, beautiful early fall weather was the backdrop for some awesome rock crawling fun on the Greer Road South Trail (Rock Garden), from the Ballard Road trail (both Larimer County, Colorado).

I (and hub, son, and dog) met up with friends Lil Rachet and Red Goat (and dog) in Loveland on Sunday in search of some muddy trails. Well, if you keep an open mind when wheeling the day is likely to turn out fantastic, which it did for us. No mud, but lots of rocks, and here’s how it went down…

We started out on Ballard Road Trail, as described on Trail Damage (TD). The TD directions were a little bit lacking, as we took Hwy. 34 W. from Loveland, and turned right on County Rd. 27 (which turns into Buckhorn Rd.). After a left to stay on Buckhorn at Masonville, we continued on Buckhorn Rd. where it turned left at the start of Stove Prairie Rd. (you’ll see a sign for Stove Prairie Open Area). At that left (where Buckhorn Rd. continues and quickly becomes a gravel road) you’ll drive 10.2 miles to find the trailhead of Ballard Road on the left. TD lists this 10.2 mile stretch as Pennock Pass, which is confusing because neither maps nor GPS nor signs say it’s Pennock Pass.

We actually drove past the Ballard Road trailhead at first, continuing on the gravel Buckhorn Rd. all the way to the start of the West White Pine Mountain trail, where we pulled over to picnic, air down, and disconnect sway bars. At this point (after comparing TD notes and maps) we realized that we’d passed the Ballard Road trailhead, and we headed back down after admiring some beautiful Colorado fall aspens.

TD is correct about the start of the Ballard Road trail being through private land marked with numerous “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs on the trees on both sides of the trail. This entrance through private land is indeed the start of Ballard Road trail, which is an easy drive for the most part. However, there is one area of the Ballard trail that would turn into a huge mud pit (!!) if wet, and there is no way around it. If muddy, have a friend, a winch, and anchor to help you through (our Jeeps bottomed out in this area but we made it through since it was dry).

At 5.1 miles from the start of Ballard Trail we reached a Y in the road (this mileage is different than what’s listed on TD – theirs is misleading and we spent some time contemplating different [private] spurs based on incorrect TD mileage notes). We opted first to turn right at the Y, which as it turned out took us down the easy Greer Road South East. This ended (as noted in Trail Damage) at a private locked gate. So, we turned around and went back, taking the other way off the Y – to the Greer Road South West (GRSW) spur. And that’s where the fun began!

Right away, GRSW was rocky, and increasingly so with areas of larger rocks for crawling over. This area was a 2.5 mile “obstacle” called the Rock Garden, aptly named as the trail was wet from Elk Creek and quite lush in areas. No mud though. But plenty of boulders and this was by far the most advanced trail I’ve done so far!

The GRSW trail ended with a large loop at the top (at about 10,500 feet) where there were several hiking trailheads. Lil Rachet and I paused for a photo opp.

Coming back down GRSW was just as exciting as going up, with a different perspective. All the same boulders to crawl over as we made our way back to Ballard Road, and from there back to Buckhorn Rd. and then to Fort Collins. Note: GRSW consists of some very narrow spots where it’s difficult to pass other vehicles. We did meet four Jeeps coming up on our way down, and had to do some difficult maneuvering to let them pass.

Back at home I had to take stock of the damage done to my Jeep, as I’d scratched my way along many trees and branches, and a couple times scraped bottom (once was completely my fault as I didn’t place my wheels on the highest point on the boulders I was traversing – Wheeling Tip: always place your wheels on the highest point!). My differential took a bit of a beating on this trail (my fault since I thought I had clearance…c-r-u-n-c-h), as did my skid plate. My sliders installed by Northridge have yet to show signs of the trail - maybe next time...

Overall the day was a great success and the Jeeps in our party performed admirably. Happy Trails!

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