Trail Tales: Fine Winter Walking

Poudre Trail headed west (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE


Fort Collins has had some excellent city planners throughout its history. Witness the big wide streets in Old Town — wide enough for a horse and wagon to turn around.

In modern times, witness the clear-headed, far-seeing effort to create open space around the city. We need it now, as we become a much more populated place.

Also, witness the recreational trail system that stretches throughout the city. Not only is this a well-planned effort, but, little did planners know, it would be so very important during a pandemic.

Historic info on Poudre Trail (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

That’s one of the ways I have gotten through the last two years more or less sane, is through walking our city’s trails.

But I’m not just a “fair weather” walker. I go all year round. Recent treks smack dab in the middle of winter have underscored the fact that we have a valuable resource here with our trails.

Actually, I established my daily walking habit a couple of decades ago and for so many years, I would walk in any and all weather — from freezing my beard in sub-zero temperatures to sweating out a hot 90-degree afternoon.

Lately, though, I’ve been more cautious about going out when there is residual ice after major snowstorms — at least in my neighborhood walks.

Near entrance to Cattail Chorus Natural Area (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Fortunately, many of the trails in Fort Collins have paved walkways that are cleared speedily after storms. In just the last few weeks, despite several snowstorms, I have been able to enjoy long, satisfying walks in safety and comfort.

Check out the Trails Map that is readily available along any of the routes. The Poudre Trail has 12.3 miles of hard surfaces, Spring Creek Trail has 6.6, Fossil Creek Trail has 4.8, the Power Trail has 4, and the Mason Trail has 4. That’s more than 30 miles of hard-surface trails within the city. These trails stretch from north to south and east to west, are easily accessed, and serve the city like a vital, outdoors vascular system.

My walks recently have all been on segments of the Poudre Trail.

Starting near Prospect Road, my first walk headed west, passing the Cattail Chorus and Kingfisher Point Natural Areas. I’ll have to return later in the year to Cattail with my grandsons — there’s a kid-friendly nature trail there that looks intriguing.

Poudre River near Prospect Ponds (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

During my latest walk there, I became an object of interest to a large, sharp-eyed hawk. Or not — it was probably just looking for something smaller for lunch.

My second walk started in Lee Martinez Community Park and headed west, passing along the Poudre River, through some woods, and then past various ponds that attract plenty of birds.

I enjoyed not only the unobstructed view of the foothills on this part of the trail but also informational placards about the wildlife in the area. There is also a cool relief map that shows the river’s course through Fort Collins and is decorated with tiles telling of area history.

Message carved in stone (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Out in the chilly running water of the Poudre, scooting between patches of ice and snow, my companion and I saw some Common Goldeneye ducks.

My third walk headed southeast from a parking lot near Prospect Road, down to the Prospect Ponds Natural Area. The Poudre Trail there eventually hooks up with the Environmental Learning Center’s trail system. That’s another area I want to explore more thoroughly later in the season.

Along the trail that day I spied an odd, primitive-looking structure surrounding two stone benches. Engraved into one of the benches was an important message: “Participate in Pollution Prevention”.

At other times, I have also used the Spring Creek Trail and the Mason Trail, but there is just so much more to experience. Honestly, I should just walk them all.

Here, I’m touting the Fort Collins trails system in general, but I’d also like to mention that there is dry, safe walking within city parks as well.

Along the Poudre- Happy Trails for All (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

I live very close to Overland Trail Park and the walkways there are cleared quickly after snowy weather. The walk from the east end of the park to the west end isn’t very far, but you pass by a marsh festooned with cattails, get a beautiful view of the foothills from the wide-open soccer fields and see the birds attracted to the park’s pond.

The message here is that Fort Collins planners have done some hard thinking in the past and the result is nearly 365 days a year recreation — with an extensive trail system and oodles of neighborhood parks.

Go ahead and get outside. Breathe the air, see some wildlife, and say hello to other walkers, runners, and bikers who share the love of being outdoors. It revives the spirit, strengthens the body, and makes going back inside — even as the pandemic seems to be winding down — much more tolerable. 


Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Explore his channel on YouTube at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt”.


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