Parks and Open Spaces
Whether you’re in Fort Collins for a weekend or an extended stay, it’s nearly impossible to explore all of the trails, lakes, and streams in the surrounding foothills and mountains. Below you will find a sampling of the many outdoor attractions Fort Collins is known for. As a hub for your Colorado adventure, Fort Collins has big-city offerings with the amenities of a Colorado mountain town. Camping, fishing, hiking and exploring open space are all encouraged on your visit to Fort Collins, which plays host to National Forests and Horsetooth Reservoir. Attractions in and around the city will keep you busy for days! Be sure to check trail conditions and review these Care for Colorado guidelines before you head out.
Lory State Park is a beautiful owned and operated park just west of Fort Collins and runs between Horsetooth Reservoir and the beautiful foothills. Enjoy over 26 miles of scenic trails with varying terrain from rolling valleys to mountainous hillsides. Popular activities in this park include short or long hikes, mountain bike rides, horseback rides and trail runs. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway close to suburban Fort Collins, check out Lory State Park’s excellent backcountry camping. Water recreation is also popular here due to the many trails that connect to Horsetooth Reservoir. From these trails you can explore some the bays and coves by kayak, paddleboard, or canoe. Lory State Park is the perfect recreation getaway for those looking to stay close to the suburban sprawl of Fort Collins.
Top Trails in Lory State Park
Horsetooth Rock’s little brother known as Arthur’s Rock is the most popular hike in the park and it boasts magnificent views of Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins from above. On a day that you’re looking for a challenging hike but don’t want to spend your whole day doing it, Arthur’s Rock is your trail. Located in Lory State Park, this 1.7 mile trail is easily accessible from town and puts you in open mountain space within minutes. Enjoy the multiple overlooks at each switchback until you reach the top of Arthur’s Rock sticking out over the trees, which provides for the perfect view of the Reservoir and city.
Timber Trail is a moderate to difficult trail featuring 3.7 miles of beautiful views, pine forest landscape and the park’s six primitive backcountry sites. Also enjoy a group picnic area along the trail where you can fuel up with a packed lunch. The trail climbs steeply through grass and shrub lands before leveling off behind Arthur’s Rock.
This 1.5-mile trail offers a self-guided nature tour through the grasslands, mountain shrub, and timber life zones. Learn about the wildflowers, steep rock walls and wetland vegetation that line Well Gulch Trail with stations along the way. This trail is perfect for those wishing to learn more about botany, geology and animal life in Lory State Park while being immersed in nature.
Shoreline Trail is a comfortable one-mile hike that leads down to the edge of Horsetooth Reservoir. The red sandstone hogbacks offer a striking background to the grassy meadows where deer graze. Use this trail to access the coves and bays of Horsetooth Reservoir for a water adventure or enjoy it for an easy hiking or mountain biking adventure.
Kimmons Trail is 1.1 miles and offers an easy to moderate hike with spectacular views of Horsetooth Reservoir and the eastern plains. If you’re looking to extend the hike/mountain bike adventure a little father, continue onto the connecting Timber or West Valley Trails.
Looking to explore the mountains west of Fort Collins, CO? There is approximately 650,000 acres of National Forest System lands in Larimer County, full of recreational opportunities throughout the year including camping. The Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests began back in 1897 as part of the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve, then was renamed the Colorado National Forest in 1910, and finally was renamed to honor President Roosevelt in 1932. The Canyon Lakes Ranger District manages these National Forest System lands for forest health, traditional forest uses and recreation. The district is home to four Wilderness areas, three national recreation trails and Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River – the Cache la Poudre River.
In 2018, the City of Fort Collins celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Fort Collins Natural Areas. There are nearly 50 natural areas spread around throughout Fort Collins. Visitors and locals are welcome to explore every single one of these breathtaking places. These natural areas account for over 36,000 conserved acres in and around the heart of Fort Collins. When it comes to immersing yourself in nature, you really can't go wrong in choosing one of these areas to explore. Each one has it's own uniqueness special to its location. Check out live webcams before you go to determine which one to choose!
A unique part of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest is the vast open prairie east of Fort Collins called the Pawnee National Grasslands. Hundreds of years ago, camps of nomadic Indian tribes lived throughout these grasslands until the late 19th Century. The Pawnee National Grasslands include 193,000 acres of public land in two areas located 30 miles east of Fort Collins. Plenty of recreational opportunities are available here along with camping. The Pawnee National Grasslands are best known for birding and attract large groups of birders throughout the year. The area is home to several high plains species as well as the Colorado State Bird, the Lark Bunting. Read more info about birding in Fort Collins here.
Colorado is a hotbed for birders, boasting nearly 500 recorded species. Fort Collins offers exceptional opportunities to view many of these birds thanks to 48 protected Natural Areas encompassing more than 41,000 acres and 114 miles of trail. Natural Areas are pockets of land that offer recreation, education, scientific data collection, culture, ecological enhancement, and aesthetics – oases in an urban environment. Read more.
When it comes to wildlife watching bring your binoculars and enjoy seeing abundant winged and four-legged creatures. For myriad birds and big fauna—moose, elk, big horn sheep, and deer—cruise up the Cache la Poudre Canyon. Explore Laramie River Road or pop over to the other side of Cameron Pass and visit the State Park Moose Visitor Center. And never forget, these are wild animals—not pets, not zoo critters—so don’t approach or feed them and always view from a distance and use caution. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be dangerous. It’s stressful for them and could get you injured.
You can check for conditions, closures, and recommendations by visiting the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) website and app.
Authentic to Fort Collins
U.S. Forest Service Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests
Manages recreation such as camping in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests (including the Poudre Canyon), and the Pawnee National Grasslands. Call or visit the website for information.Learn More