Best Fort Collins Trails – Paul’s Top Five [PHOTOS]
As the dog days of summer wind down, one of the most perfect times of the year is here. This is the prime weather time for almost all warm weather activities, and Northern Colorado truly has something for everyone. Since we are at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins trails are among the best in the world. This area has one of the largest diversities of hiking trails to choose from, so choosing just 5 for the list was quite a challenge. But, the work (hiking the actual trails) I had to put in was all pleasure! So, here are my Top 5 Fort Collins Trails.
You know that big ‘A’ that is emblazoned in white bleach on the hill just west of town? Ever wonder what the heck it is doing there? Well, the CSU Rams used to be called the CSU Aggies, an homage to the schools agricultural roots, and the ‘A’ is there to preserve that heritage. The ‘A’ Trail, or Foothills Trail is right in that area. It can be accessed from Maxwell Natural Area or from West Prospect and it is a quick but fun jaunt up the first slope of the Rocky Mountains with a great view as a payoff at the end. Even more fun is to take it all the way up to the road, cross over to Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, and descend all the way to the reservoir to take a quick dip (this is not an approved swimming area in Horsetooth, so I use the term ‘dip’ loosely). This is the perfect Fort Collins trail for a lunchtime adventure. Bottom to top to bottom doesn’t take long and gives you about 3 miles of distance with respectable elevation gain.
Poudre Trail stretches from West Laporte to the CSU Environmental Learning center all the way down on Ziegler. It is paved, so there is plenty of traffic from bicycles, rollerbladers, and the occasional skateboarder, which unnerves some, but there should be no problem if you just stay on the right side of the line. There are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the wild and scenic Cache la Poudre River. This the ultimate Fort Collins trail for fisherpersons, because it parallels the Poudre almost its entire distance. You’ll find memorial benches, workout and stretching stations and plenty of birds and other wildlife along the Poudre Trail. It is a true gem of Colorado.
Originating in Lory State Park, which is technically Bellvue, Arthur’s Rock is a very short drive from Fort Collins and likewise a short hike to incredible views of Horsetooth Rock, Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins. This one has a quick elevation gain, so it’s all up on the way in and all down on the way out. There are two options to the summit, depending on how much time and energy you would like to expend.
2. Foothills Trail – North Access
Take Michaud west from Overland Trail and you’ll find the trailhead to the Foothills Trail, one of the best Fort Collins trails. From here you can connect to a multitude of natural areas and experiences. Stay to the north and you have Reservoir Ridge, a gorgeous natural area that borders Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and the Reservoir. Head south and you can connect to Maxwell Natural Area, Pine Ridge Natural Area and Maxwell Reservoir. Take that path on a Saturday in the fall and you could actually see the Rams football team play at Sonny Lubbick Field at Hughes Stadium. South and west will connect you to the ‘A’ Trail and there are even other routes that give access directly to Horsetooth Reservoir. Around sunset, seeing herds of deer is the norm, not the exception. Foothills Trail is one of the finest Fort Collins Hiking Trails.
Tied for 1st Place!!!
Grey Rock and Horsetooth Rock Trails!!!
Grey Rock is truly a fantastic hike. It has two different ways up and down…one shorter than the other. The last ½ mile is actually pretty burly. There is some pseudo bouldering to be done, so if you are not able to do some scrambling, reaching the summit may prove to be difficult. But when you arrive at the top there are numerous mountaintop ponds that are amazing and views all around are just breathtaking! You can gaze across the plains to the east and at the snowcapped peaks to the west. Grey Rock is incredible!
This has to be the signature Fort Collins trail. To stand at the pinnacle of the summit of Horsetooth feels spiritual. It is the mountainous sentry that watches over the town, and it has seen scores of generations come and go. The beginning of the Rocky Mountains creates much beauty, but singularity in rock formation like this can’t be found just anywhere. The Flatirons of Boulder compare, Red Rocks is in the conversation, but Horsetooth is special to Northern Colorado, as is the view from the summit. The interesting thing is that the view to the east may be outdone by the view to the west. It’s a long way down to the grassy rolling hills that are behind Horsetooth, and then it’s one of the most magnificent mountain ranges in the world well into Utah. Spectacular!!
What is your favorite Fort Collins trail?