With its prime location, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, Fort Collins is ideally situated for those who want to get out under Colorado's clear blue sky and experience the delights of nature. There are several convenient multiuse trails. The Poudre River Trail (www.poudretrail.org) is a 10.6-mile paved trail that follows the Poudre River from North Taft Hill Road to East Drake Road and the CSU Environmental Learning Center, passing Lee Martinez Park along the way. Plans call for it eventually to connect with Greeley. The paved Spring Creek Trail runs 6.6 miles along Spring Creek, passing through several city parks, from West Drake Road to East Prospect Road at the Poudre River, where you can pick up the Poudre River Trail. Both trails are popular with hikers, cyclers, and skaters during warm weather, and cross-country skiers when the snow flies. Contact the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau for additional information.
There is a vast amount of public land under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service within easy access of Fort Collins, offering opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. For details, check with the information center of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee Grasslands, 2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. E, Fort Collins, CO 80526 (tel. 970/295-6700; www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf).
Major Fort Collins city parks include: City Park, 1500 W. Mulberry St., with a lake, picnic shelters, playgrounds, playing fields, tennis courts, a fitness course, a pottery studio, miniature train rides, a 9-hole golf course, and an outdoor swimming pool; Edora Park, 1420 E. Stuart St., with the excellent Edora Pool Ice Center (a combination of indoor swimming pools and two ice rinks), plus playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts, a disc golf course, a fitness course, and horseshoe pits; Rolland Moore Park, which features an outdoor complex for racquetball and handball players, plus tennis courts, picnic grounds, softball fields, and basketball courts; and Fossil Creek Park, with playgrounds, a dog park, a skate park, and a wetlands interpretation site. For information on these and other city recreation facilities, contact the Fort Collins Parks Department (tel. 970/221-6600; www.fcgov.com/parks).
Among the most popular areas for outdoor recreation is Horsetooth Reservoir (tel. 970/679-4554; www.larimer.org/parks/horsetooth.htm), about 15 minutes west of downtown, just over the first ridge of the Rocky Mountain foothills. The 6 1/2-mile-long, man-made lake is named for a distinctive tooth-shaped rock that has long been an area landmark. It's reached via C.R. 44E or 42C, both off Overland Trail, or C.R. 38E off Taft Hill Road. At the reservoir and nearby Horsetooth Mountain Park, located several miles west via C.R. 38E (same phone as above), you'll find a wide array of outdoor activities, from fly-fishing to rock climbing to swimming and water-skiing. The entrance fee for the reservoir is $7 per vehicle and $7 per boat; other areas have a day-use fee of $6 per vehicle. Campsites run $10 to $20 a night and basic cabins $30 to $60.
Lory State Park, just west of Fort Collins along the northwest edge of Horsetooth Reservoir (tel. 970/493-1623; www.parks.state.co.us), is known for its scenic beauty and 20-mile trail system. To get to the park, take U.S. 287 north out of Fort Collins, leaving it to take 54G Road through Laporte, then head west on C.R. 52E for 1 mile, turn left (south) onto C.R. 23N for about 1 1/2 miles to C.R. 25G, where you turn right and drive about 1 1/2 miles to the entrance. State Forest State Park, about 75 miles west of Fort Collins via Colo. 14 (tel. 970/723-8366; www.parks.state.co.us), covers more than 70,000 acres with spectacular mountain scenery, alpine lakes, and an abundance of wildlife, camping, and trails. See below for details on activities at these areas, and check out www.parks.state.co.us on the Web. Day-use fees are $6 per vehicle at both parks; camping runs $8 to $18. At State Forest, a number of cabins and yurts are available for $60 to $110 a night.
Bicycling -- There are more than 75 miles of designated bikeways in Fort Collins, including the Spring Creek and Poudre River trails, both paved . There's also a dirt trail, the 5.8-mile Foothills Trail, parallel to Horsetooth Reservoir from Dixon Reservoir north to Campeau Open Space and Michaud Lane. For rentals of road and mountain bikes (about $25 per day), check with Recycled Cycles, 4031 S. Mason St. (tel. 970/223-1969; www.recycled-cycles.com); and if you need repairs for your own bike, visit Lee's Cyclery, 202 W. Laurel St. (tel. 970/482-6006; www.leescyclery.com), or its second location at 931 E. Harmony Rd. (tel. 970/226-6006).
Fly-Fishing -- Guided fly-fishing trips and clinics are available from Rocky Mountain Adventures, 1117 N. U.S. 287 (P.O. Box 1989), Fort Collins, CO 80522 (tel. 800/858-6808 or 970/493-4005; www.shoprma.com). They access the Big Thompson, Cache la Poudre, and North Platte rivers, plus waters on two private ranches and in Rocky Mountain National Park. Half-day guided walk and wade trips cost $135 for one person or $200 for two people, and full-day trips cost $225 and $290, respectively. Those who'd like to strike out on their own might try nearby Roosevelt National Forest. For further information, contact the information center of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee Grasslands and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 317 W. Prospect Rd. (tel. 970/472-4300; http://wildlife.state.co.us). Anglers heading out to State Forest State Park have a good chance of catching a variety of trout species; only artificial flies and lures are permitted in some lakes there.
Golf -- Fort Collins has three municipal courses: Collindale Golf Course, 1441 E. Horsetooth Rd. (tel. 970/221-6651); City Park Nine, 411 S. Bryan Ave. (tel. 970/221-6650); and SouthRidge Golf Club, 5750 S. Lemay Ave. (tel. 970/226-2828). Tee times should be reserved 3 days in advance. Two privately owned courses open to the public are Link-N-Greens Golf Course, 777 E. Lincoln Ave. (tel. 970/221-4818), and Mountain Vista Greens Golf Course, 2808 NE Frontage Rd. (tel. 970/482-4847). Courses are open year-round, weather permitting, and greens fees are in the $20 to $25 range for 18 holes.
Hiking -- The Comanche Peak Wilderness area, 67,500 acres of pine and spruce-fir forests below expanses of alpine tundra, offers scenic hiking trails along the north and east sides of Rocky Mountain National Park. Contact the information center of the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee Grasslands.
State Forest State Park has miles of hiking trails and even gives overnight visitors the opportunity to stay in a yurt. There are 26 miles of trails at Horsetooth Mountain Park that are shared by hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Finally, Lory State Park has about 20 miles of hiking trails, where the top of Arthur's Rock -- a hike of 2 miles -- offers a marvelous view across Fort Collins and the northeastern Colorado plains.
Horseback Riding -- For the most part, riding is permitted anywhere in the Estes-Poudre District of the Roosevelt National Forest without special permit or license. Horsetooth Mountain Park, State Forest State Park, and Lory State Park have horse trails as well. Tip Top Guest Ranch, 22 miles west of Fort Collins in Bellevue (tel. 970/484-1215; www.tiptopranch.com), offers a variety of guided rides, including 2-hour rides ($40 per person) and pony rides ($8).
Kayaking -- Rocky Mountain Adventures offers kayaking classes covering the Eskimo roll, paddling techniques, and white-water skills. Tuition prices are $60 for the roll, $40 for paddling, and $210 for a 2-day "Fast Track" class. Private instruction is also available.
Classes for all levels are also available from Poudre River Kayaks, Inc., a part of the Mountain Shop, 632 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, CO 80524 (tel. 800/403-5720 or 970/493-5720; www.poudreriverkayaks.com), which also offers kayak rentals ($25 for 2 days, including needed gear).
Llama Packing -- Using llamas as pack animals is relatively new in the United States, but they are rapidly becoming the pack animal of choice in the Rocky Mountains. Guided llama trips, overnight pack trips, and llama leasing are the specialty of Buckhorn Llama Co. (tel. 970/667-7411; www.llamapack.com). Guided pack trips for one to three people cost $350 per person per day.
Mountain Biking -- A good choice for mountain bikers is the Foothills Trail, which runs along the east side of Horsetooth Reservoir from Dixon Dam north almost 7 miles to Michaud Lane. Horsetooth Mountain Park, Lory State Park, and State Forest State Park have excellent trails appropriate for mountain biking as well. In addition, there are yurts for overnighting at State Forest State Park.
River Rafting -- River-rafting enthusiasts have ample opportunities for boating the Cache la Poudre, a nationally designated wild-and-scenic river. Rocky Mountain Adventures offers half-day and full-day trips on the Cache la Poudre and four other regional rivers. Costs range from $44 to $62 for a half-day and $92 for a full day. A Wanderlust Adventure (tel. 800/745-7238 or 970/484-1219; www.awanderlustadventure.com) and A1 Wildwater (tel. 800/369-4165 or 970/224-3379; www.a1wildwater.com) offer half-day trips on the Cache la Poudre River for similar prices.
Skiing & Other Winter Sports -- Cross-country skiers will find plenty of trails and rolling hills at Lory State Park, surrounding national forests, and in State Forest State Park, where they can stay overnight in a backcountry yurt system owned by Never Summer Nordic (tel. 970/723-4070; www.neversummernordic.com). The eight yurts, which are circular, tentlike canvas-and-wood structures on a high wood deck, have wood-burning stoves, padded bunks, and complete, albeit nonelectrified, kitchens. Most sleep up to 6, and one sleeps at least 10. Winter rates for the entire yurt are $95 to $120. In summer, rates are $65 to $80. State Forest State Park also has an extensive system of snowmobile trails, either groomed or packed, that is separate from its cross-country ski trail system. The park also has several yurts for $60 to $110 a night.
There's year-round ice skating at Edora Pool Ice Center; it costs $4.50 for adults to age 59, $3.50 for youths 2 to 17, $4 for seniors 60 to 84, and free for infants under 2 and seniors 85 and older. Call for current hours.
Swimming -- Edora Pool Ice Center (EPIC), at 1801 Riverside Dr. in Edora Park (tel. 970/221-6683), offers swimming, water exercise programs, and diving. The indoor Mulberry Pool, 424 W. Mulberry St. (tel. 970/221-6657), has lap lanes, a diving area, and "Elrog the Frog," a poolside slide. Both have recreational swimming and lap swimming; call for the current schedule or check out www.fcgov.com/recreation. The City Park Outdoor Pool, 1599 City Park Ave. (tel. 970/416-2489), is open afternoons during warm weather (closed in inclement weather). Admission at each of the three above pools costs $4 for adults to age 59, $3.25 for youths 2 to 17 and for seniors 60 to 84, and is free for infants under 2 and seniors 85 and older.
Wildlife Watching -- Although you'll see some wildlife and water birds at Lory State Park and Horsetooth Reservoir, go to State Forest State Park to try to catch a glimpse of the state's largest moose population, along with elk, mule deer, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and black bears. State Forest State Park's Moose Visitor Center has wonderful displays and wildlife-viewing information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.