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FATMAP difficulty grade
With a trailhead easily accessible off of CR 175, North Backbone offers a pleasant change of pace for hikers in the Arkansas Hills.
Instead of beginning from town and climbing up the front side of the hills like on every other hike, you can start higher up the mountainside, accessing the trail system via a beautiful, rocky contour trail. For hikers looking for a long outing in the hills, North Backbone can serve as merely the access point to the greater Arkansas Hills Trail System.
But for most, simply hiking out-and-back on North Backbone will be enough of an adventure.
And if hiking that entire 6.5-mile round trip distance is too long, you can always choose to turn around earlier. By itself, North Backbone is a stunning hike, affording beautiful views of Salida, the Sawatch mountain range, and the northern end of the Sangre de Cristo range.
Along the way, the trail dips in and out of dry washes, traverses along rocky cliff sides, and wends its way through stands of pinon pines. During the winter, North Backbone often holds snow longer than the other trails in the Arkansas Hills trail system.
The mostly northern aspects of the hills fall in the shade during the days of low angle winter sun. But once the weather warms up, you’ll know that you’re hiking through a high desert environment! Cacti sand, and sharp rocks greet hikers traveling through this challenging ecosystem.
In the height of the summer, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, and be sure to keep your dog under control at all times. While North Backbone will never receive the acclaim lavished on the trails high up in the big mountains, this delightful trail provides a welcome escape from the challenges of daily life.