Exploring Fort Collins: Road Trip Routes to Discover


From the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway winding through mountain vistas to Horsetooth Mountain hiking trails with panoramic views, Fort Collins is a gateway to Colorado’s natural beauty. In the city, the historic downtown district transports you back in time with Victorian-era architecture while the bustling Old Town has shopping, dining, and a lively craft beer scene.

Whether you’re road-tripping through northern Colorado or spending a few days exploring Fort Collins, this guide covers the top experiences you won’t want to miss


  • Scenic drives along the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway and mountain trails offer stunning Colorado nature views.
  • The historic downtown features Disneyland-inspiring Victorian buildings.
  • Outdoor recreation opportunities include hiking Horsetooth Mountain or biking the Poudre River Trail.
  • Craft beer tours, summer farmers markets, and local eateries showcase Fort Collins' food scene.
  • Old Town shopping, recreational opportunities, and family-friendly activities provide something for all interests.

Key Attractions

Fort Collins’ proximity to the Rocky Mountains and its picturesque historic downtown make it a popular tourist destination. The Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway provides 101 miles of mountain vistas while attractions like the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and local history archive the area’s cultural heritage.

But it’s the outdoor recreation that sets Fort Collins apart. With over 50 miles of paved trails, abundant open space, and nature preserves, Fort Collins is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Top hiking and biking trails ascend Horsetooth Mountain and follow the Cache la Poudre River, presenting stunning views of the Rockies’ foothills. In winter, nearby State Forest State Park offers snowshoeing trails that traverse high mountain passes.

Local Experiences and Culture

From community events to local shops and eateries, Fort Collins exudes small-town charm. The historic downtown district transports you back in time with its late 19th-century buildings, now home to boutiques, cafes, and galleries. Wander tree-lined streets to discover the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

In the summertime, locals flock to weekend farmers markets to sample fresh produce and handmade goods. At night, Old Town comes alive with people bar-hopping between craft breweries and listening to free live music. The centerpiece is Oak Street Plaza—a pedestrian walkway filled with restaurants, bars, boutiques, and street performers.

For true cultural immersion, join Fort Collins residents in activities like rollerblading along the Poudre River Trail or cheering on the Colorado State University Rams at one of their sporting events. From community theater productions to festivals celebrating local beer, food, and music, there are always cultural events that capture Fort Collins’ small-town spirit.

Outdoor Adventures

Boasting over 50 miles of paved recreational trails and abundant open spaces, Fort Collins encourages active outdoor exploration. Top hiking trails ascend Horsetooth Mountain, delivering panoramic views across the wild foothills landscape. Mountain bikers can challenge themselves on the expert Blue Sky trail while multi-use paths like the Spring Creek Trail allow room for cyclists, joggers, and rollerbladers.

The Cache la Poudre River provides miles of water recreation throughout the city. Visitors can go tubing, kayaking, or relax beside the water on riverside trails. In wintertime, outdoor enthusiasts can snowshoe or backcountry ski along the Montgomery Pass Route, traversing high mountain ridges and taking in views of the Never Summer Mountains. With stunning scenery in every season, Fort Collins delivers a quintessential Rocky Mountain adventure.

Historical and Cultural Attractions

As one of Colorado’s oldest settlements, Fort Collins’ history is interwoven throughout the city—especially in its late 19th-century architecture. The historic downtown district transports you back in time with its restored Victorian buildings, now home to shops, galleries, restaurants, and the popular Armstrong Hotel. Wander the tree-lined streets to discover the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery provides interactive exhibits exploring regional ecology, culture, and science. History buffs can visit the Fort Collins Archive to peruse photographs, newspapers, and documents chronicling the city and Colorado State University’s past.

Annual cultural events like the FoCoMX music festival and Fort Collins Beer Week showcase Fort Collins’ vibrant arts and craft beer scene. From honky-tonks to indie music venues, the city’s live entertainment spans all genres and eras.

Food and Drink Experiences

Fort Collins is a destination for foodies and craft beer enthusiasts alike. The city’s farm-to-table dining scene emphasizes fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from local producers. Downtown eateries like The Emporium serve contemporary American cuisine made with regional products while breakfast hotspots like Snooze offer specialty Benedicts and pancakes.

But Fort Collins is arguably best known for its craft beer. With over 20 breweries in the city, a guided “brewery tour” lets you experience top taprooms like New Belgium, Odell, and Funkwerks. Many breweries offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of their operations and most have outdoor beer gardens perfect for summer imbibing.

The best way to taste Fort Collins’ food and drink is by attending one of its weekly farmers markets or annual food festivals. From June to October, locals flock to weekend farmers markets to sample fresh produce, artisan goods, street food, and live music. Annual events like Taste of Fort Collins are also a delicious way to experience the city’s vibrant culinary scene.

Shopping and Leisure Activities

Fort Collins offers plenty of shopping and entertainment for visitors of all ages and interests. Historic Old Town is the city’s shopping hub with pedestrianized streets filled with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and cafes.

The Oak Street Plaza hosts events like musical performances, farmers markets, and art fairs throughout the summer. Families will also enjoy activities like touring the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, meeting farm animals at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, or riding the trolley around Old Town.

In the foothills west of town lies the Cache la Poudre River, a popular spot for tubing, kayaking, and paddleboarding during summer months. Families often float down the river before stopping for a picnic along the shore. The Cache la Poudre Trail also provides 48 miles of paved recreational paths excellent for walking, jogging, biking, and rollerblading with beautiful views of the foothills.

Travelers seeking leisurely mountain scenery can take the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway northwest from Fort Collins into Roosevelt National Forest. The 101-mile route climbs over Cameron Pass through protected forests and alpine meadows before descending along the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.

Scenic Drives and Road Trip Itineraries

Fort Collins’ proximity to the Rocky Mountains makes it an ideal starting point for scenic drives into Colorado’s dramatic landscapes. The Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway traces 101 miles of the rugged Cache la Poudre River, traversing verdant wetlands and forests before switchbacking over Cameron Pass.

For a scenic road trip loop, take the Cache La Poudre northwest to Walden, then head south on CO-125 through the North Park basin’s wide mountain valleys. Continue over Willow Creek Pass, then follow US-34 northeast back to Fort Collins. Stop along the way to enjoy wildflower meadows, panoramic vistas, and historic mountain towns like Walden, Rand, and Red Feather Lakes.

Travelers with more time can embark on an adventure-filled 7-day northern Colorado road trip from Fort Collins. Head west into the mountains near Rocky Mountain National Park for hiking and kayaking, then loop south to explore Denver and Boulder. From cultural attractions to outdoor recreation, a Fort Collins home base lets you experience Colorado’s vibrant urban centers alongside its natural splendor.

University Life and Activities

Colorado State University adds youthful energy and cultural attractions to Fort Collins. Visitors can tour CSU’s historic Oval and the lush grounds of the Horticulture Center. The university’s Foothills Campus also abuts some of Fort Collins’ most popular hiking trails.


What are the top things to do in Fort Collins?

Top attractions include the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway, Horsetooth Mountain hiking, craft brewery tours, shopping and dining in Old Town, outdoor recreation along the Poudre River, and cultural attractions on the Colorado State University campus.

What is there to do in Fort Collins in the winter?

Popular winter activities include snowshoeing on trails along the Montgomery Pass Route, ice skating at Edora Pool Ice Center, skiing at nearby Eldora Mountain Resort, and visiting Old Town restaurants, cafes, galleries, and breweries.

What is Fort Collins best known for?

Fort Collins is best known for its historic Victorian downtown that inspired Disneyland’s Main Street, abundant craft breweries like New Belgium, Odell, and Funkwerks, outdoor recreation, and scientific industry anchored by companies like Anheuser-Busch and Woodward.

How many days should I spend exploring Fort Collins?

Most itineraries recommend spending 2-3 days in Fort Collins to see top sites like Horsetooth Mountain, Old Town, and the New Belgium Brewery, while also enjoying local dining and nightlife. Nearby outdoor areas and scenic drives can fill additional days.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.