Best Easy Day Hikes Fort Collins  by Mary Reed

Best Easy Day Hikes Fort Collins Guide Book

by Mary Reed (Falcon Guides)
Best Easy Day Hikes Fort Collins  by Mary Reed
Often ranked as one of the best places in the country to live, Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University, a thriving economy, and—perhaps most important to quality of life— great access to outdoor adventure under 300 days of sun per year. Add thirteen local breweries, including the world- famous New Belgium Brewing, and après- hiking drinks are closer at hand than most trailheads.

© 2016 Mary Reed/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Easy Day Hikes Fort Collins" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 24.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 24.

“Big sky country” is a phrase associated with Montana, but it applies just as well to Eagle’s Nest Open Space in northern Colorado. Hike through this expansive grassland with majestic vistas that change with every step and include distant mountains, mesas, rock outcroppings, and, yes, lots of sky. Eagle’s Nest Open Space is named after Eagle’s Nest Rock, which—you guessed it—gets its name from the golden eagle nests that have reportedly called the rock home since time out of mind. You can almost count on observing raptors any day here, including red- tailed hawks, prairie falcons, and golden eagles. Before heading out for a hike, check the park’s website, Facebook page, or Twitter account for any wildlife closures or closures due to especially muddy trails.
Livermore, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Arthur’s Rock plays second fiddle to Horsetooth Rock, but in reality, the hike to Fort Collins’s second- most famous outcropping is an easier day hike and is more varied in terms of landscape features and botany—plus it’s (slightly) less crowded than its more famous neighbor to the south. You can see the granite massif that is Arthur’s Rock from the trailhead. The views change with every step as your goal gets closer and closer. Begin by walking into Arthur’s Rock Gulch, where the scenery quickly morphs from open grassland to ponderosa pine forest. You lose sight of Arthur’s Rock in the gulch, but you’ll want to watch your step anyway, as several sections of the trail have steep drop-offs.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
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In what seems to be the middle of nowhere, the Bent Rock Trail isn’t just a surprise, it’s surprisingly diverse and scenic. Parallel a creek through a small red rock canyon with the namesake bend in the sedimentary rock and then complete a loop in wide- open country. Red Mountain Open Space is part of the larger 55,000-acre Mountains to Plains Project, a collaboration among Larimer County—which manages Red Mountain Open Space—the City of Fort Collins, the Nature Conservancy, Legacy Land Trust, and Great Outdoors Colorado (funded by Colorado Lottery earnings). But Red Mountain Open Space is a distinct area within this region.
Norfolk, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
Start at the clear, riffling North Fork of the Poudre River and ascend to a mountain meadow so beautiful you’ll feel like Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music!
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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This is the ultimate birding hike. Bald eagles are common here in the winter, avocets are common in the summer, and you can hear the distinctive and melodious song of the western meadowlark year- round. Fossil Creek Reservoir is a National Audubon Society– designated Important Bird Area. The wide, flat Cattail Flats Trail frees you from looking at your feet so you can look skyward for some of the hundreds of bird species that are found here, either seasonally or year-round. The rock stars of this place are the bald eagles that call Fossil Creek Reservoir home over the winter. There are Eagle Watch programs December through February, but the Cattail Flats Trail is closed then. You will still have a good chance to see eagles from the other trails.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.7
This is a great place to be a student of nature. Enjoy edge habitats of grasslands, cottonwoods, and the Poudre River. Listen and look for birds and enjoy walking over a suspension footbridge. Among the trails in town, the CSU Environmental Learning Center Trails offer up a nice variety of features, including a suspension footbridge, deciduous trees, a riverside portion of trail, and the opportunity for a quick side trip to a raptor rehabilitation center, which was closed at least temporarily due to avian flu in 2015. From the parking lot, begin by hopping on the paved Poudre River Trail for about 50 feet—or better yet, ride to the trailhead and lock up (bikes aren’t allowed on CSU ELC trails). The footpath parts from the paved trail, takes you across a suspension footbridge (this is not the Poudre River), and drops you off at the beginning of this loop.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.3
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Tackle this trail at sunrise or sunset (or moonrise or moonset) to avoid the scorching sun of midday and to increase your chances of seeing wildlife like coyotes and mountain lions. Coyote Ridge is decidedly not a walk in the woods, so plan accordingly and enjoy the open spaces, wildlife, and a rewarding view after you ascend the ridge. Begin by walking due west in the high plains toward the foothills. This is a grassland area dotted with mullein and yucca. You will definitely see prairie dogs and birds, and you’ll have a good chance of eyeing rattlesnakes, coyotes, or mule deer. In a mile reach a cabin (and a pit toilet). The Hidden Clues Trail is a 0.2-mile interpretive trail behind the cabin. The Coyote Ridge Trail is about to start its ascent to the top of the ridge.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
There are several lengthy trails to the summit of Crosier Mountain, but this shorter option takes you through a ponderosa pine forest, past an old mine opening, to several vistas, and to a mountain meadow that is a good turnaround point. It may be simply a function of the fact that the trailhead parking can only accommodate about a half dozen vehicles, but the Crosier Mountain Trail (#931) is a great one for solitude—not to mention vistas, wildlife, and wildflowers. Begin by walking through a gate—be sure to close and secure it behind you. Walk on a gently ascending trail in a meadow where, among the mountain mahogany and rabbit- brush, you’ll see locoweed blooming in spring. Loco is Spanish for crazy, and when livestock eat this flowering plant, they exhibit the effects of the neurological damage its toxicity causes.
Drake, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
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Ever noticed how many natural features are named with the devil in mind? Devil’s Tower. Devil’s Lake. Devil’s Rock Pile. And here, Devil’s Backbone. But the only thing devilish about this trail is the summer midday temperatures in this open space with few specks of shade. It would better be described as heavenly in terms of access, infrastructure, and vistas. Fill up with water at a trailhead spigot before starting on this loop, which should take an hour or less to walk. First pass a cottonwood-shaded picnic area and negotiate some steps and footbridges before accessing the Wild Loop of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. To your west is the obvious geological centerpiece of this land. The Devil’s Backbone, a so-called hogback ridge, juts up as much as 100 feet from the ground and continues for the length of the hike and beyond in a north-south direction.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
The enjoyment of this trail begins before you get out of the car—driving through Big Thompson Canyon is a sight to behold. Just a dozen miles from Loveland, you’ll be hiking in the forest the entire length of the trail. End with an overlook from a Civilian Conservation Corps–era stone shelter.
Masonville, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
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The trailhead sign for the Foothills and Reservoir Loop Trails could read “Welcome to Prairie Dog Town.” The southern half of this loop, which rings the 40-acre Dixon Reservoir, takes you through a prairie dog town. To the southwest you will see, as the name suggests, a pine- covered ridge. Easy is one of the best words to describe this trail. Easy access. Easy hiking. Easy wildlife viewing. All of these factors contribute to the popularity of the Pineridge Natural Area, which was part of the first purchase the city made for these natural areas, back in 1976. Expect to share the wide trail with anglers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. The reservoir is a reliable place to view bird life, especially Canada geese and ducks. Ospreys and bald eagles have also been sighted here.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
It might be a stretch to call the Greyrock Trail an easy day hike, but it’s not a stretch to call it a classic Fort Collins–area hike. Start at the Poudre River and ascend a mountain to a meadow and skirt the base of this granite massif before descending a verdant gulch. The Greyrock Trail is both challenging and satisfying. Come prepared for a good half-day outing so that you don’t end up calling Larimer County Search and Rescue as so many others have. Bring plenty of water (there is no potable water at the trailhead), a sun hat (the meadow trail is exposed), and make sure you are fit enough to hike 1,500 to 2,000 vertical feet. Also, make sure you can identify poison ivy. That said, this is one of the best hikes in the region by just about any standard.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.8
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The deservedly popular Hewlett Gulch Trail is a flat path along a riffling creek that you will cross a number of times in a relatively wide and open gulch. Bring your sandals or waterproof boots and enjoy the water, views, flora, and fauna. Hewlett Gulch Trail (#954) is one of the few trails around Fort Collins that follows moving water along its entirety. Better yet, it’s a mountain creek that creates a relatively flat gulch—you will gain less than 500 feet in elevation in the 2.1 miles from the trailhead to the turnaround point.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
The hike to Horsetooth Falls is an attractive alternative to hiking all the way to the top of Horsetooth Rock, which is not the easiest of easy day hikes. Any time is a nice time to hike to the falls, but plan it after a rain or snowmelt to find the cascade running full. Sometimes the beaten path is beaten for a reason. Case in point: the easy and rewarding hike to Horsetooth Falls. Begin the trail on the north end of the parking lot, marked with a trailhead kiosk and trailhead sign. Start ascending right away in the open foothills landscape of grasses, yucca, and wild plum. The trail is wide and smooth. Look southwest and you can see the notched Longs Peak and other peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park on the horizon. To the east is Horsetooth Reservoir and to the west is Horsetooth Rock.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
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Hiking in Fort Collins and not paying a trip to Horsetooth Rock is like being in Paris and not bothering with the Eiffel Tower. It’s the very icon of the city, so strap on your boots, walk to the top of Horsetooth Mountain, and make a final scramble atop the granite rock that resembles, well, a horse’s tooth. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty, and Fort Collins has Horsetooth Rock. That’s more than just T- shirt wisdom: Horsetooth Rock is the most iconic landscape feature of Fort Collins, and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is wildly popular among the populace. So popular, in fact, that you should plan to hit the trails on a weekday or arrive quite early on a weekend. Beginning at around 5,800 feet in elevation, the trail is in a wide-open landscape of grasses and shrubs, including wild plum that blooms profusely in the spring.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Just 45 minutes from Fort Collins, the trails on Mount McConnel provide more of an alpine feel than most hikes this close to the foothills. Start near the Poudre River in the popular Mountain Park campground and hike partway up Mount McConnel, where you can enjoy a forested hike with views. As you drive into Mountain Park, cross a wooden vehicle bridge (the trail where you will exit is just to the left on the other side of the bridge) and take a right, entering the day- use area—that is, unless you are camping at the popular Mountain Park campground. Begin at the well-marked trailhead and walk downstream back to the entrance road and cross the road before ascending in earnest. This section of trail is littered with pasqueflower in early spring. Interpretive signs explain much of what you should expect to see on this trail. For starters, at a higher elevation you’ll see some aspen trees out of the gate, plus ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Chipmunks and Albert’s squirrels are common here, as are many chatty birds like Steller’s jays, mountain chickadees, and woodpeckers. Look for mule deer as well.
Livermore, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
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This otherwise- typical foothills hike affords views to the west of Horsetooth Reservoir, to the east overlooking Fort Collins, and north into Wyoming. The northern terminus of the 9.6-mile Foothills Trail is located in Reservoir Ridge, and this small loop gives you a taste of that trail. Begin by hiking up Reservoir Ridge, which, in fact, is a ridge that serves as the eastern rim of Horsetooth Reservoir. Expect to see other hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians on this close-to-town trail. This area is part of the Dakota Ridge, which refers to the entire length of the first ridgeline along the Front Range between the high plains and the Rocky Mountains. Much of this ridgeline has the classic hogback form with a hard layer of Dakota Sandstone lining the very top of the ridge.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
Walk around these neighborhood ponds and along the Poudre River while taking in views of the mountains to the west and the watershed restoration efforts conducted here in 2014–2015. The North Shields neighborhood still has the feel of the rural area it once was. There’s a good chance you’ll see people fishing when you arrive, and as you hike around the north side of the ponds, suburban homes give way to ranchettes where horse pastures abut the trail. Begin a counterclockwise loop by walking along the edge of North Shields Street to gain the north side of the eastern pond. You’ll be hiking on a dirt road with the pond to your south and neighborhood homes and access trails to your north. The pond is choked with cattails, so look for water-loving birds, such as red-winged blackbirds. Soon you’ll come to the end of the first little pond—you could circumnavigate it by taking a left to continue around it.
Laporte, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
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Once a gravel mine, Riverbend Ponds is now a neighborhood natural area where you are guaranteed to see a variety of birds and other water- loving wildlife while you hike. The land that is now Riverbend Ponds Natural Area was mined for gravel from the 1950s through the 1970s. The seven mining pits filled, over time, with water. Then the plants and animals moved in. Then the City of Fort Collins purchased the land and turned it into a public natural area.
Fort Collins, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
Start in grasslands and walk through a break in the red- rocked hogback ridge before descending to the shores of Horsetooth Reservoir on this hike that stands in contrast to most in Lory State Park.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
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