Calls of the Wild at Heil Valley Ranch
If you have gotten out to some of the foothills and montane parks around the county lately and sat for a quiet moment amid your mountain bike race down the mountain or perhaps your run up the hill, then you may have heard a strange whistling kind of noise. It is not the sound of elves frolicking, it is actually a love song. The bull elk is calling out, just like a love struck teenager, for some companionship from a cow elk. The call is a bugle and can be heard now during elk rut. The only herd of elk that lives out their entire lives inside the borders of Boulder County calls Heil Valley Ranch home generally from September to May, making it one of the best places to hear the elk bugle.
The herd is numbered somewhere around 250 elk, which is an increase over the last decade. The elk have managed to remain inside of Boulder County throughout the year due less people in the northern part of the county, from the foothills to the continental divide.
While you can easily see elk just off the roads around Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, its a special thing to see it so much closer to your home. Hearing or seeing these Heil Valley Ranch elk is also more of a true wild experience, where as if you are in Rocky Mountain National Park and line up behind 20 other cars you can break to roll slowly past a herd of elk, just like any old zoo animal. Elk also have a certain musky scent that you may detect while out adventuring. If you do smell something musky, somewhat like a skunk, you may have just crossed the path of a elk!
Heil Valley Ranch also offers over 14 miles of trails on more than 5,000 acres. Besides a 1 mile loop reserved for hikers, all of the trails are open to mountain bikers and equestrians. The park is closed to dogs, so please leave your pup at home- this rule means that seeing wildlife is much more common. Other wildlife that you may encounter includes wild turkey, prairie rattle snakes, mule deer, abert’s squirrel, and much more. For a short family friendly hike, check out the Lichen Loop.
Heil Valley Ranch is just off of Hwy 36, in between Lyons and Boulder, off Lefthand Canyon Drive. Go check it out and hear some elk bugle their love songs away! Check out a call on YouTube
Lizzie works as a seasonal for City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, spending her days among the flora and fauna of Boulder both on and off the job. When it comes to knowing what to do and whats going on in the numerous open spaces around Boulder, Lizzie is your girl. After graduating from the University of Texas with a Geography: Environmental Resource Management degree, she came to Salida, CO to work in the San Juan National Forest and surrounding areas on a trail crew. Previously she has worked for Boulder County Parks and Open Space, other trail crews, and as an environmental educator. She has a passion for spreading environmental knowledge and bringing nature straight to the people.