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  • Writer's pictureJulie Reisinger, RVT, LATg

Trail Review: Oxbow Trail System

Here in the San Luis Valley, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful views of the Colorado landscape, and an abundance of wildlife. While hiking in the mountains is just a short drive in almost any direction, many of our towns have some great trails in them, perfect for short walks, and many can be easily adjusted for those who want longer excursions. In the “Trail Review” series of blogs, we will be exploring and reviewing these trails and their suitability for your four-legged friends.

Gary and Gabby on the Inner Oxbow Loop

Location: Alamosa

Elevation: 7600 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Varies; see below

The Oxbow Trail System is actually my favorite group of trails in Alamosa for two main reasons:

  • the diversity of wildlife watching opportunities in all seasons

  • most of the trails connect, so you can customize how long you want your hike to be

The Oxbow Trail System consists of four separate trails: Inner Oxbow Loop (.47 mile), Outer Oxbow Loop (.9 mile), Simpson Loop (1 mile), and Rio Inspire Trail (1.1 mile). The Inner and Outer Loops are easily accessed from the disc golf parking lot, while the Simpson Loop can be accessed from the North River parking area, or by following the Rio Inspire trail north. The trailhead for the Rio Inspire is a short walk south along the Twin Peaks loop (from the disc golf parking lot), by going north along the Twin Peaks Loop from the State Street parking area, or from where it meets the Outer Oxbow Loop. It may sound confusing, but when you look at the map below, it makes a little more sense.

From the City of Alamosa website (link in article)

All of the trails being connected to each other makes it easy to adjust your hike to suit your mood, ability, or dog’s energy level. There aren’t really any elevation changes on any of the trails, although you may encounter mud, sand, exposed tree roots, and occasional fallen branches. The trails are generally in good condition, but you will want to practice basic warm weather safety, and avoid hiking during the hottest parts of the day, especially on the Simpson Loop, where there is no shade. While all of the trails are dog-friendly, leashes are required (per the City of Alamosa), and you should always pick up after your pet.

Stella loves the Outer Oxbow Loop!

Best “Starter” Trail: Inner Oxbow Loop (short and almost entirely shaded)

Best Trail for Wildlife: Outer Oxbow Loop (most diverse wildlife)

Best Way to Explore ALL of the Trails: Starting at the disc golf parking lot, go to the Twin Peaks Loop and head south to the Rio Inspire Trailhead, then follow the Rio Inspire all the way up to where it joins the Simpson Loop; after completing the Simpson Loop, reconnect to the Rio Inspire and take it to the Outer Oxbow Loop - take the northern part of this loop to get the full view of the outside of the pond that forms here and to connect with the Inner Oxbow Loop; you’ll miss a small part of the southern Outer Oxbow that goes through a wooded area, but you can easily access this after meeting up with the Inner Oxbow if you desire. This complete hike is about 3 ¾ miles, about half is mostly shaded (parts of the Outer Oxbow/Rio Inspire and all of the Simpson Loop are unshaded). You can also start at the Simpson Loop and do these trails in reverse, I just like to end with the shady part.

New to hiking with your dog? Check out our blog Tips for Hitting the Trails with Your Dog for some pointers!

While you can see wildlife on any of these trails, the Inner and Outer Oxbow are a delight for bird watchers, especially during the spring and summer when seasonal visitors arrive. Raptors can be found year-round along all of these trails, and last year we got to watch Great Horned Owls grow from chicks to fully flighted adults over the spring and summer! Check out the gallery below for just a small sample of the birds you may find here:

Here are some handy tips for watching wildlife with your dog

In addition to birds, you can also find other wildlife on these trails, such as: ground squirrels, raccoons, deer (although you’ll probably find more in town than on the trails!), muskrats, beaver, and porcupines. Other than ground squirrels, the animal I’ve found the most along the trails is the porcupine, and although I haven’t seen any, these trails do go through both coyote and mountain lion habitats, so keep your pets leashed to avoid animal encounters!

Porcupine at the Oxbow!

The city of Alamosa has created some amazing trails for us to enjoy without having to travel much at all. Help keep our trails beautiful by picking up after your dogs and yourselves! Find the official trail guide, directions to the trails, and map at the City of Alamosa website here.

Have a trail you’d like to see reviewed? Contact us through the website or by emailing us at!

For more tips on enjoying the great outdoors with your pet, check out Tips for Hitting the Trails with Your Dog, Watching Wildlife with Your Dog, and Summer Safety for Pets. Stay up-to-date and subscribe to our blog at the bottom of this page, or by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

All photos are © by Julie Reisinger

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