Celebrate 2021 with a First Day Hike

Annie Lindgren on a hike in northern Montana, gaining experience hiking in grizzly country

Kick-Off 2021 with Some Northern Colorado Outdoor Hikes

Blaine Howerton

I love to hike. 2021 will hopefully be the year of New Beginnings, and we can be reminded of that by the beauty our area has to offer. The weather has afforded us all opportunities lately to get out and enjoy the outdoors, even in the heart of winter. Here are some favorites in our area.


Cottonwood Hollow Natural Area

This ecologically diverse site sits amid a complex of natural areas. Nearby you’ll find Prospect Ponds Natural AreaCSU’s Environmental Learning CenterRunning Deer Natural Area, and Riverbend Ponds Natural Area. Cottonwood Hollow is a great place to get away from the urban environment, not far from home.

Cottonwood Hollow’s wet meadow is an uncommon habitat type with 39 ponds and 278 acres of open water in the Poudre River corridor. It is a great place to spot birds and other wildlife.

Note: This is one of the few Fort Collins natural areas on which dogs are not allowed and one of only two on which bikes are not permitted (bike parking at the parking lot for those who ride to the site).


Horsetooth Rock Trail at Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Rock Trail is just west of the reservoir and 4 miles from Fort Collins. With beautiful scenery, it is one of the more often visited trails in the Fort Collins area. This trail is open 24 hours a day.

This hike starts with a gradual merge of grass into pine trees. The distance is 5.7 miles.


Kyger Open Space Trail

This is a straightforward trail, starting from the River Bluffs Open Space parking near Windsor.  Park in the small parking lot and access the trail from County Road 13, just north of HWY 392.

From the lot, head east on the flat paved trail, 0.25 miles. Optionally, take a right on the soft-surface trail circling the western/southern edge before reconnecting with the paved trail.

Photo by Matt Dierlam; Carter Lake near Berthoud

Carter Lake Trail

The Sundance Trail is on the western shore of Carter Lake, near Berthoud. The relatively easy trail is a somewhat rare Colorado hiking experience.

It’s rocky and connects the Southern Shore Campground to the North Shore Campground, 3 miles apart. The western shore is forested with pine and evergreen trees. The views are mostly east of the hogback ridge (which makes up the eastern lakeshore).



Maxwell Natural Area Ridge

From Banyan Drive, near the Hughes Stadium site, hike west on the Foothills Connector. You’ll soon arrive at a junction with Foothills Trail, which connecting west through the grassland. The trail climbs towards a saddle in the hills north of the ‘A.’

The trail dips into a meadow before turning south and climbing up to the ridgeline above the ‘A.’

The trail begins on flat, easy ground with few obstacles before climbing the hillside and passing through some more technical rocky sections. The views of the front range come when you reach the ridgeline above the ‘A.’

Enjoy the views both from the top and on your descent. This is a great local option for any day in the Fort Collins Area.





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