Horsetooth Mountain Loop, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Horsetooth Mountain Loop - 7.1 miles
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins
|Round-Trip Length:||7.1 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5.815' - 5,815' (7,085' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,270' net elevation gain (+1,910' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Horsetooth Mountain Loop - 7.1 Miles Round-Trip
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park is located on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, 4 miles west of Fort Collins and 12 miles northwest of Loveland. 29 miles of interconnecting trails offer many routing options through native grasslands, ponderosa woodlands and rugged montane forests.
The Horsetooth Rock, Wathen, West Ridge, Tower, Spring Creek, and Horsetooth Falls trails form a moderately strenuous loop highlighted by views of Horsetooth Rock, open meadows along Spring Creek and a short spur to Horsetooth Falls.
The following description begins at the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead and runs clockwise:
The Horsetooth Rock Trail rises through mixed grasslands to the Horsetooth Falls Trail split (.32 miles : 5,923'). It continues steadily to the first of four connections and brief merges with the multi-use South Ridge Trail (.55 miles : 6,095'); remain on the Horsetooth Trail in each instance.
The trail winds north-northwest into a mixed pine forest that's home to deer, fox, coyote, skunk, bobcat, mountain lion, and bear. Rocky outcrops line much of the trail, a good place to find rattlesnakes.
Bear right just past a 4th and unmarked merge with the South Ridge Trail (2.0 miles : 6,875') to the Wathen Trail (2.05 miles : 6,888').
Turn right on the Wathen Trail, then left on the West Ridge Trail just ahead (2.1 miles : 6,820'). The West Ridge Trail is variously mild and rugged, undulating north across the east face of Horsetooth Mountain. Note lodgepole, fir and pockets of aspen at these higher elevations.
You'll reach an unmarked fork and bear right (2.8 miles : 7,060') to the Tower Trail service road (3.55 miles : 6,940'). Turn right on the service road, then right onto the Spring Creek Trail (3.7 miles : 6,930').
The Spring Creek Trail curls SE across the top of a long, sloping meadow - a good place to find wildlife. It moves to the north side of the meadow and drops beside it on milder terrain (4.2 miles : 6,665').
Spring Creek Trail passes an unmarked spur (4.6 miles - veer right), and connections for the Herrington (4.9 miles : 6,318'), Wathen (5.05 miles : 6,305'), and Soderberg trails (5.5 miles : 6,090') on the descent to the Horsetooth Falls Trail junction (5.9 miles : 6,005').
Bear right on the Horsetooth Falls Trail, and left again when it splits to the base of the falls soon after (it's a short 75 yard excursion to the base of the falls).
The Horsetooth Falls Trails crosses an oft-dry creek on a bridge, then dips and rolls back through open grasslands to the Horsetooth Rock Trail (6.8 miles : 5,923'). Retrace your steps on the Horsetooth Rock Trail back to the parking lot to complete the loop (7.1 miles : 5,815').
- N40 31.444 W105 10.865 — 0.0 miles : Horsetooth Mountain Trailhead
- N40 31.559 W105 10.744 — .32 miles : Horsetooth Falls Trail junction
- N40 31.707 W105 10.810 — .55 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #1
- N40 31.793 W105 10.948 — .75 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #2
- N40 31.906 W105 11.033 — .9 miles : Soderberg Trail connection
- N40 32.072 W105 11.469 — 1.7 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #3
- N40 32.203 W105 11.512 — 2.0 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #4
- N40 32.258 W105 11.581 — 2.05 miles : Wathen Trail connection - bear right
- N40 32.323 W105 11.618 — 2.1 miles : West Ridge Trail connection - bear left
- N40 32.687 W105 11.886 — 2.8 miles : Unmarked fork #1 - bear right
- N40 33.105 W105 11.777 — 3.55 miles : West Ridge Trail - Tower Trail split
- N40 33.181 W105 11.683 — 3.7 miles : Tower Trail - Spring Creek Trail split
- N40 32.763 W105 11.204 — 4.6 miles : Unmarked fork #2 - keep straight
- N40 32.566 W105 11.064 — 4.9 miles : Herrington Trail connection
- N40 32.450 W105 10.997 — 5.05 miles : Wathen Trail connection #2
- N40 32.188 W105 11.021 — 5.5 miles : Soderberg Trail connection #2
- N40 31.965 W105 10.790 — 5.9 miles : Horsetooth Falls Trail junction
- N40 31.559 W105 10.744 — 6.8 miles : Horsetooth Rock Trail junction
- N40 31.444 W105 10.865 — 7.1 miles : Horsetooth Mountain Trailhead
- Horsetooth Rock (7,256') caps Horsetooth Mountain, the park's tallest and most recognizable feature. According to Native American legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock bore a greater resemblance to a horse tooth, hence the modern name.
- Horsetooth Falls tumble through a steep, narrow rock chute separating the Horsetooth Falls and Spring Creek trails. The creek and falls flow seasonally, peaking in early May and after hard summer rains.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Horsetooth Rock or Horsetooth Falls trails, and therefore cannot complete the loop as described. Bikes may use the South Ridge and Soderberg trails to form a comparable route.
- Horsetooth Reservoir lies at 5430', spans 2040 acres, is 6.5 miles long and 180' at its deepest point.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- There are 3 maintained campgrounds and 7 cabins within Horsetooth Mountain Park. Camping is permitted in designated spaces only. You may reserve in advance, or secure a space on site (first come, first served). Reservations are recommended.
- South Bay Campground
- Inlet Bay Campground
- Boat-In Campsites (on the west side of reservoir)
- Nightly fees vary by season, and range from $15 per night for non-electric campsites to $60 per night for a cabin in peak season. Individual sites and cabins vary in capacity, so make specific inquiries when reserving.
- Call 1.800.397.7795 or visit www.larimercamping.com for more information and reservations.
- Fishing is permitted in Horsetooth Reservoir with a valid Colorado fishing license. Ice fishing is not permitted.
Rules and Regulations
- There is a $6 dollar day use entry fee to Horsetooth Mountain Park. This is required of all individual walk-ins, bikes, and vehicles. Use self service pay stations if no attendant is on duty.
- Annual permits can be purchased for $65 (Larimer County resident), or $85 (non resident).
- Dogs are permitted on trails within Horsetooth Mountain Park, but must be leashed at all times.
- Hunting, open fires, firearms, and fireworks are strictly prohibited within Horsetooth Mountain Park.
- All watercraft, including motors and ancillary parts, may be inspected on site for exotic invasive species before launch.
Directions to Trailhead
The Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead is located on the west side of Horsetooth Mountain Park in Fort Collins, CO. The trailhead is located 2.5 miles from the South Bay Entrance Station (6.4 miles from the Taft Hill - 38E intersection, and 13.1 miles from I-25):
From Boulder and Denver
Take I-25 North to the Harmony Road - Timnath exit (#265). Turn left (west) on Harmony Road for 7 miles, which becomes County Road 38E at the Taft Hill Road intersection. Travel west on County Road 38E approx 4 miles to the South Bay Entrance of Horsetooth Reservoir. Continue another 2.4 miles on 38E from the South Bay entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
From Fort Collins
From Harmony and Taft Hill Road, turn west onto County Road 38E. Continue west on County Road 38E approximately 4 miles to the South Bay entrance. Continue another 2.4 miles on 38E from the South Bay Entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
From Highway 34 (Eisenhower), go north on Wilson. Wilson becomes Taft Hill Road in Fort Collins. Turn left (west) onto County Road 38E and travel approximately 4 miles to the South Bay entrance. Continue another 2.4 miles from the South Bay Entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
Larimer County Department of Natural Resources
1800 S. County Road 31
Loveland, CO 80537
8 am - 4:30 pm (M-F, except holidays)