“It’s a hidden gem,” says Rick Bunch, interim president of Friends of Lory State Park (Friends), a volunteer organization dedicated to providing volunteer assistance and fundraising support for the park. Located west of Fort Collins and north of Horsetooth Reservoir, in recent years the park has become a go-to spot for many outdoor enthusiasts, yet not everyone knows of its long history, its wildlife, and the wide range of recreational opportunities available there.
The Friends organization grew out of an effort made by a group of volunteers who pitched in to help repair 10 wooden bridges in the park destroyed by the Galena forest fire in 2013. The group stayed intact and two years later were formalized as a 501C3 non-profit organization. Bunch’s career was in park management. He had been offering environmental education for students at the park. He joined Friends when it was founded. Bunch expects to turn over the reins to a new president in the next few months but will stay active as vice president.
With a nine-member board and 50 some members, Friends partners with park management to foster park stewardship enhances environmental education and ensures recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.
Members assist with trail maintenance, help with special events, conduct fundraisers, and provide service-learning opportunities for college students. The organization is committed to the protection and preservation of this 2600-acre parcel of land that had a colorful history long before it became a state park in 1975.
In the 1800s, tribes of Plains Indians hunted bison on the land and harvested chokecherries and plums. French Canadian trappers were part of the scene. Later, the Howard family homesteaded there, eventually owning 3,600 acres of land featuring unique rock outcroppings, gulches, open meadows, and ponderosa pine forests.
Three generations of the Howard family grew up on the land, harvesting timber and raising cattle. In 1963, Charlie and Arthur Howard sold part of their land to real estate developers. In 1967, the remaining 2,600 was sold to the state of Colorado and became what is now the park. The Homestead Picnic area is located on the site of the original Howard family homestead. Three cedar trees and a few sandstone slabs mark the location of the house.
Arthur’s Rock, a prominent feature of the park and a popular rock climbing spot is named after Arthur Howard. The hiking trail to the summit is a 3.4 mile, moderate trek. Well Gulch is the only trail limited to hiking only. You can still see water pipes, part of the system built by the Howard family.
In 1975, the official opening date for the park, it was named in honor of Dr. Charles Lory, an early settler in the area and president of Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Colorado State University) from 1909 until 1940.
The park has an informative Visitor Center, 30 miles of hiking trails, equestrian jumps and trails, and opportunities for mountain biking. Restoration of a bike park in Soldier Canyon featuring ridges and hills is planned for this year. There is a pavilion and campfire area in Soldier Canyon, a site often used for wedding celebrations.
Lory is unique among state parks as it allows hunting. Wild turkeys, deer, and even bears can be hunted there.
Bunch says there are plenty of opportunities to serve as a volunteer, from working at the visitors’ center to trail maintenance, environmental education, and communications. Donations to benefit the park are always welcome. For more information visit loryfriends.org