Colorado is the fourth-largest city in the state and is located in the northern foothills of the Front Range. The weather is mild enough year-round to enjoy day hikes. Popular destinations include Old Town, City Park, and surrounding prairies. The area also has plenty of parks, trees, bike paths, and walking trails for nature lovers looking to explore. Hiking trails Fort Collins Colorado, are popular among hikers. Moreover, you can engage in activities like fishing or camping nearby.
Is Fort Collins Good for hiking?
Fort Collins, Colorado, is located around an hour from Denver and just outside Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. It is a great destination for day hikes! Make sure to bring the necessary gear, including water and snacks, and dress in layers, as the weather can change quickly. Be aware of wildlife – keep your distance and never approach them. Also, note that most Fort Collins hiking trails dogs require dogs to be kept on leashes.
If you are on the best hikes in Northern Colorado, there are plenty of fantastic hiking trails Fort Collins CO, to explore. Whether you want a relaxing stroll or an exciting adventure, Fort Collins CO hiking trails have something for everyone. Here are some of my favorite trails and tips to keep in mind. Appreciate the stunning scenery that Colorado has to offer.
Be Prepared Before You Leave
Keep in your mind that weekends are the busiest times in natural areas. So visit earlier or later in the day or on weekdays to find parking more easily. If you cannot find parking, have a backup plan in mind and go somewhere else or come back at another time; avoid getting a ticket by only parking in designated spots.
Best hiking in Fort Collins can be a safe and enjoyable experience if certain precautions are taken. Check out whether you have the right gear or not. If not, grab the right gear. Most importantly, consider whether you are physically fit or not. Pay attention to your surroundings, like any thunderstorms or dangerous wildlife, and use good judgment while on the trail. Following these Colorado best hiking Fort Collins safety tips will help ensure your trip succeeds.
Best hiking trails near Fort Collins CO
Horsetooth Reservoir, located just 15 minutes away from downtown, is one of the best hiking near Fort Collins, is a popular outdoor destination offering biking, hiking around Fort Collins, fishing, boating, and camping activities. You can see its location on the western side of the Dakota Hogback mountain from Fort Collins.
How far are the Mountains from Fort Collins?
Nestled among the Rocky mountains Fort Collins Colorado, at an elevation of 5,420 feet, Horsetooth offers exciting terrain to explore. Though the hikes near Fort Collins are relatively short and uncomplicated, the scenery is stunning. To make your journey more comfortable, it’s best to wear a good pair of Fort Collins hiking boots. Your feet will thank you!
Hiking Fort Collins CO, at this spot is great for its scenery and various activities. You can enjoy boating, water-skiing, swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing, and picnicking. There is also a campground, so you can stay overnight. For those wanting to spend the summer on the lake, there are 6 and 1/2 miles of water available with boat rentals from the marina.
Fort Collins hiking is a great activity to enjoy in the 1,900-acre public park that is open all year long. Entry and camping fees apply. To get more information on Fort Collins hiking, or other activities available in the park, visit the Information Center, which is open Monday to Friday in winter and daily during summer.
Hiking the Horsetooth Rock Trail at Horsetooth Reservoir.
Horsetooth Rock Trail is located 4 miles west of the reservoir and close to Fort Collins. It offers stunning views and is open 24 hours a day. On the hike, you will experience a gradual transition from a grassy terrain to pine trees, and it will be 5.7 miles long altogether.
Guide to get to the trail from Fort Collins:
- Take Sherwood St west until Canyon Ave.
- Take a slight right and follow it until West Mulberry St. Continue on West Mulberry St for 1.5 miles and then turn left onto S Taft Hill Rd.
- Drive on Taft Hill Rd for 3.5 miles, then turn right onto W County Rd 38 E and go for 6.5 miles until you reach your destination—a beautiful mountainous view with a beaten path ready to be explored.
- The distance from Fort Collins walking trails is 4 miles.
- The difficulty level is moderate.
- Yes, dogs are allowed.
- The elevation range is from 5815 to 7256 feet, with a difference of 1441 feet.
- The trail is not a loop but instead goes up and back down.
Pineridge Natural Area
Pineridge Natural Area offers an easily accessible and highly rated Fort Collins hiking trail. The 4-mile route winds through grasslands with views of patches of pine trees, all set against the backdrop of a tranquil lake.
Bringing kids or taking your dog for a walk at Pineridge Natural Area is a great option; it’s open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
To reach the Pineridge Nature Area from Fort Collins, head west on Mulberry Street. Turn south onto Taft Hill Road and follow it for 1 ½ miles to W County Road. Then continue for about 6 miles until you see signs for Pineridge. This nature area is perfect for beginner hikers or people who want to enjoy a pleasant, easy walk in outdoors with their kids.
- The distance walking trails in Fort Collins is 5.6 miles.
- This is suitable for beginners.
- Yes, dogs are allowed.
- The elevation of the area ranges from 252 feet.
- This is a loop trail.
Lory State Park
Lory State Park, located on the opposite shore of Horsetooth Reservoir in Bellvue, is a 20-minute drive from downtown. It focuses more on Fort Collins hiking than water sports.
At Lory State Park, there is a wide variety of day hikes near Fort Collins Colorado to choose from, with more than 20 miles of trails. Along the way, you can look for the geocache hidden at N 40 34.067 W 105 11.252. Remember to be aware as you share the trails with other hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. You can also enjoy rock climbing, fishing, and hand-launched boats in this state park.
If you plan to hike at Lory State Park for an extended period, you’ll need a backcountry camping permit. The hike to the first primitive campsite is about 2 miles. There are no amenities or fires allowed in the backcountry camping area.
Arthur’s Rock Trail at Lory State Park
Lory State Park, located 40 minutes west of Fort Collins in Bellevue Colorado, is home to Arthur’s Rock Trail. The park is open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. This trail features a combination of low grasslands, meadows, and pine forests as hikers ascend the mountain.
Arthur’s Rock trail offers a rewarding 3.4-mile hike with plenty of shaded areas along the way. For more experienced hikers, there is also the slightly more difficult Howard Trail option.
To get to Arthur’s Rock rail from Fort Collins, head west on Mulberry St until you reach Taft Hill Rd. Turn south onto Taft Hill Rd and go 3.5 miles to W County Rd 38 E. Follow County Rd 38 E for 8 miles until you reach N Co Rd 25 E. Turn right onto Red Canyon Ranch Rd after 2.3 miles and then turn right again onto Steller Ridge Rd 3 miles later which will bring you to the trail. While the trail is beautiful, be careful as it has a moderate difficulty rating.
- The distance from Fort Collins is 18.6 miles.
- The difficulty level between mods is too hard.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
- The elevation range is approximately 1100 feet.
- Type of Trial: Forward and Backward
Coyote Ridge Natural Area
The Coyote Ridge Natural Area is a great spot for year-round Fort Collins hiking. Located just 8 miles from Old Town and south of Horsetooth Reservoir, it is easy to get to. There are many different types of habitats in this protected space that you can explore.
Coyote Ridge is an area located where the plains meet the foothills. It is a popular spot for outdoor activities like Fort Collins hiking, mountain bike trails Fort Collins and horseback riding, with 2.3 miles of multi-use trails. There are also connections to Devil’s Backbone Open Space and Blue Sky Trail. The 1/4 mile Hidden Clues Trail interpretive loop is an interesting addition to this area, located about a mile into Coyote Ridge.
How far are the Mountains from Fort Collins?
Wildlife in Cheyenne Ridge includes mountain lions, bears, coyotes, lizards, rattlesnakes, deer, and songbirds. The area’s elevation is 600 feet above the plains and offers spectacular views of the Front Range to the north and the Rocky Mountains to the west.
The preserve is open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., but no overnight camping is allowed. Dogs are not permitted here.
The Coyote Ridge Natural Area has a trail called the Coyote Ridge Trail.
The Coyote Ridge Trail is located in the Coyote Ridge Natural Area. It is open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and is 4 miles long with an elevation gain of 564 feet. The trail offers stunning views along its route.
To access the Coyote Ridge Trail, take W Mulberry St for approximately 7 miles until you reach S Taft Rd. Turn south onto Taft Rd and continue until you approach Spring Mesa Rd. This is a great trail for both beginners and experienced hikers alike, as it offers stunning scenery and an abundance of wildlife. Enjoy your hike!
- The distance from Fort Collins is 9.7 miles.
- This is suitable for beginners.
- No dogs allowed.
- The elevation range is 564 feet.
- The trail goes up, then back down.
Maxwell Natural Area Foothills Trail
Maxwell Nature Area offers a variety of trails for Fort Collins hiking. It is full of lush grassy hills and plenty of activities for the whole family during the summer and fall. The 4-mile trail connects to Pineridge Trail, as well as other surrounding trails.
Visitors can view prairie dogs and other native wildlife on this trail, which is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
To get to the Maxwell Natural Area, take W Mulberry St west until you reach Overland Trail. Turn south onto Overland Trail and drive approximately 1 ½ miles until you reach Dixon Canyon Rd. Turn right onto Dixon Canyon Rd and follow it to the Maxwell Natural Area.
- The distance from Fort Collins to the city center is approximately 10-12 minutes.
- Dogs are allowed on a leash.
- This is suitable for beginners.
- The elevation range is approximately 593 feet.
- This trail is a loop that goes both forwards and backward.
Devil’s Backbone Open Space
Located in Loveland, Devil’s Backbone Open Space showcases a beautiful natural wonder. South of Horsetooth Reservoir and Coyote Ridge, the trailhead is an amazing spot for a hike.
Devil’s Backbone is a beautiful Fort Collins hiking spot in Larimer County, perfect for all ability levels and the whole family. The park covers 2,198 acres, offering 12 miles of trails connected to Coyote Ridge Trail, Rimrock Open Space, and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. It is popular with hikers, runners, bikers, and horseback riders alike.
Make sure to bring water for your hike. You can get safe drinking water at the beginning of the trail. Parking may be full on summer weekends, so you may want to look for another nearby hike if that is the case. The trail is open for everyone from sunrise to sunset all year and there is no cost to enter.
Cache La Poudre River
The Cache La Poudre River is renowned for being the only free-flowing river that runs an impressive 70 miles.
Hikes in Northern Colorado’s Front Range Its beauty can be experienced firsthand in Fort Collins, making it a must-see destination.
The Poudre Trail is a 12.3-mile stretch that runs from the Bellevue Watson Fish Hatchery to the CSU Environmental Learning Center in Fort Collins. It is an easy walk on a concrete or asphalt surface. Therefore, it is suitable for hikers of all abilities. Along the way, hikers can enjoy views of small lakes, woodlands, grasslands, farms, parks, and some industrial areas.
Highway 14, west of Fort Collins is known as the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway. It is a 101-mile stretch that takes you to Walden and offers access to nature and plenty of campgrounds along the way.
Red Fox Meadows Natural Area
Red Fox Meadows is a natural oasis located in the middle of town, surrounded by residential areas. It is a great spot for city dwellers to take a break from their busy lives and enjoy nature. The meadow also helps with flood control and wildlife habitat preservation, as well as improving water quality in local streams and groundwater.
The short trails in this area are available to explore all year round and are especially beautiful during the spring and summer. It is a great spot for taking a walk or bike ride, where you can observe ponds and prairies, as well as plenty of wildlife, including foxes, fish, deer, turtles, rabbits, birds, and black-tailed prairie dogs. If you wish to carry on exploring, then the trails connect with Roland Moore Park.
Cover your skin and expect mosquitos during the spring and summer, especially when visiting the wetlands’ habitat. Dogs are allowed on leashes, and admission to the area is free of charge.
Safety Tips for Hikers
Fort Collins hiking can be a safe and enjoyable experience, but there are hazards to watch out for. Storms, lightning, snowstorms, dangerous animals, and unstable rocks can all be encountered on the trail. To stay safe and have fun hiking, it is important to bring the right gear, make sure you are in good shape physically, pay attention to your surroundings, and use good judgment.
Before you go on a hike, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Before going on your hike, check with a local park or forest ranger to get any updates about the current trail conditions and see if there has been any recent bear or other predator activity.
- Before going to the park, make sure to check the weather forecast. Remember that it will be colder and windier at higher elevations.
- Give a family member or friend your hiking itinerary, which includes your estimated time of return. Once you have returned, let them know. If you do not return within the expected time, ask them to contact Rocky Mountain National Park emergency dispatch at 970-586-1203.
- It is recommended not to go hiking by yourself. Try finding someone to go with you or join a hike organized by a park ranger.
- Keep everyone in your hiking party together by only going as fast as the slowest person. Consider everyone’s ability level when picking a hike, especially if you have kids with you. Make sure to always be able to see the children.
- Stay on the trail that is marked out for you.
- Do not rush while hiking. Go at a steady pace so you will have enough energy to finish the hike.
- Start your hike early to give yourself enough time to enjoy it and return before nightfall.
- Consider to take extra care when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park due to its high elevation. Drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen and reapply it regularly, and descend to lower elevations if you start to feel unwell. Altitude sickness can lead to headaches, nausea, and dizziness or make existing medical conditions worse.
There are more tips…
- Learn First Aid and carry a first aid kit so you know how to respond in an emergency. Taking a first aid class can help you understand how to handle different types of injuries.
- It is important to know where the nearest hospital or clinic is in case of an accident. If you do not know, ask a Ranger for help.
- Bring a trail map or guidebook with you. Use the map to monitor your progress and know where you are at all times.
- Bring enough water with you, especially when it is hot out. If you want to drink from backcountry sources, be sure to purify the water first. Boiling for one minute or using a filter will help protect against Giardia lamblia – a parasite that can cause intestinal infection and various symptoms.
- Staying hydrated while hiking with liquids such as water or sports drinks is best. Avoid drinking soda or alcohol, as this will lead to dehydration.
- For a high-energy boost on the trail, choose snacks like fruit, granola, peanut butter, bagels, power bars, fruit bars, GORP (trail mix), beef jerky, or candy.
- When hiking in the higher elevations of the park, be aware that snow and deep drifts may be present, even late into the season. Exercise caution on all snowfields as they can conceal crevasses or largely hidden cavities. Also, do not slide on snow banks, as it is easy to lose control and collide with rocks or trees.
- Hikers should use caution when near water sources such as glacier-fed streams and lakes, as the water can remain very cold even in warm weather.
More things to remember…
- Hypothermia is a serious condition caused by the body’s core temperature dropping too low. To prevent it, keep yourself dry when hiking – especially at higher elevations where the temperature can drop quickly. Wear layers not made of cotton, and always bring a wind-resistant jacket and rain gear – even on sunny days! Get an idea about the signs of hypothermia and what to do if someone has them as part of your first aid training.
- If you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer, be aware of the potential for heat exhaustion. Make sure to stay hydrated & wear sunscreen & a hat. Ensure that everyone in your party has an idea about the signs of heat exhaustion and what to do if someone exhibits them.
- Wear sunglasses year-round, especially in areas with high altitudes.
- Wear boots that give your ankles support.
- Always have a way to start a fire, such as waterproof matches or an emergency firestarter.
- Pack light! Bring only what you need.
- Carry a small flashlight or headlamp with you when hiking in the mountains. It gets dark much quicker at higher elevations, and if something unexpected happens on the trail, you may end up having to finish your hike in the dark.
- If you develop a blister or hot spot while hiking, you can reduce the discomfort and avoid further damage by using moleskin. To prevent blisters, keep your feet dry, change socks when they become wet, and use Body Glide before starting your hike.
- Trekking poles can make Fort Collins hiking easier by taking some strain off your legs when going uphill or downhill. They also provide extra stability on slippery or icy terrain.
Lot more to consider!
- Wear shoes and use your hiking poles or a stick for support when crossing a stream that is more than ankle-deep. Unbuckle any straps connecting your pack to your body so you can take it off quickly if necessary. If the stream is swollen due to heavy rains, do not try to cross it. Wait until the water levels go down.
- If you plan to go Fort Collins hiking at high elevations during winter or early spring, be aware that the trails may be covered with snow and ice. Make sure to wear crampons or other types of traction devices on your boots for your safety.
- You should never attempt to get close to a wild animal, even if it looks cute and harmless. Many injuries have been reported when people try to take pictures of the animal.
- Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park have the chance to see up to 35 black bears. To avoid having an unwelcome encounter with a bear, it is important to understand their behavior and how to stay safe in a bear country. For more information, please follow the link.
- It is rare to see a mountain lion in Rocky Mountain National Park. But it is important to take precautions while hiking. Stay with someone else, make noise as you go, and keep children nearby. If you do come across a cougar, stay calm and do not run away. Speak in an authoritative voice while making yourself look larger and intimidating; throwing rocks or sticks may help scare it away. Mountain lions usually hunt at night but can attack during the day- be especially careful when children are present. While mountain lions rarely target humans as food, they can still become aggressive; if this happens, fight back instead of running away.
- Ticks are more active during spring, and the start of summer, and they can carry illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. To protect yourself, make sure to completely remove any attached ticks and disinfect the area. If you have rashes or lesions around the bite site or experience any unusual symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
Is Fort Collins Good for hiking?
Fort Collins provides plenty of activities after a day of Fort Collins hiking. Fort Collins is popular as one of the top beer destinations in Northern Colorado hikes. Therefore visitors will have lots of breweries to choose from. When it comes to dining, Fort Collins offers great options for those looking for a meal in one of Colorado’s biggest towns.
After you have eaten a good meal and had time to rest, it is time to freshen up and explore the town. You can try out plenty of fun activities on a date night instead of going out to eat. If you are willing to visit Fort Collins, consider staying overnight since there are many great hotels in town. The Armstrong Hotel is one of the most popular spots for accommodation.