Lying within the Roosevelt National Forest and the Pawnee National Grassland, the Big South Trail is about 10 miles one way, with a significant elevation gain. The trailhead is located off CO Highway 14 just before the Big South Campground and the large bridge over the Plourde River. Parking is available at the trailhead for about 19 cars, and restrooms and water can be found at the campground. Be sure to tote water with you for the journey, as well as clean up bags.
For the next 7 miles, you'll see 19 designated trailside campsites with views of the river, with 4 more at Corral Creek further south. This trail follows the course of the Plourde River for 7 miles through the river valley, also known as "The Wild and Scenic Corridor of the Cache la Poudre River." The river itself is hugely powerful and its bottom is covered in rocks, with boulders jutting from shore in knifelike formations. Though this is a popular white water kayaking destination, the hiker risks serious injury by venturing into the water to cross.
Leaving the river behind, you'll soon come to a large boulder field and fields of talus. These are very treacherous sections of the trail and should be crossed with care. You may want to bring trekking poles to help you through this, and dog boots to protect your pooch from sharp edges and hot rocks. Other parts of the trail traverse meadows and grasslands with bountiful wildflowers like Colorado Columbine in the spring and summer. The flowers attract hundreds of butterflies that flit about as you walk.
When you reach the trail end, you'll be treated to a furbulous waterfall amid the thick forest, which provides a peaceful place to rest before heading back to the trailhead, or backtrack to one of the several trails that intersect with Big South and go in an entirely different direction. There is access to the Rocky Mountain National Park via the Plourde River Trail, and Big South also joins the Corral Creek Trail.
While some parts of the Big South Trail are steep, boulder-ridden and wet, the rewards are well worth the effort. Views of the river, the mountains, the silence of a deep forest and the joy of a butterfly-laden meadow will overshadow any discomfort or small mishaps you may experience! Woofderful!