Exploring the Natural Beauty of Fort Collins, Colorado


From hiking and biking trails that wind through pine forests to lakes teeming with wildlife, Fort Collins has something to offer outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. Yet it manages to balance immersion in the natural world with modern amenities and a vibrant local culture.

Fort Collins’ location provides it with diverse ecosystems and landscapes. Alpine forests, rolling foothills, river canyons, wetlands, and open prairies each harbor their own natural wonders. And its four distinct seasons mean ever-changing scenery and endless opportunities to experience nature year-round.

Whether you’re seeking thrills, scenic vistas, outdoor education, or sustainable travel, Fort Collins delivers. Its extensive trail networks connect visitors to nature centers, botanical gardens, and wildlife sanctuaries. And local businesses and non-profits promote eco-tourism and environmental stewardship.

So come discover over 150 miles of hiking and biking paths winding through lush forests and flower-filled meadows. Spot hawks circling pine-covered foothills and mule deer grazing in sunny glades. Dip your toes in an alpine lake or cast your line into a rushing river. Fort Collins invites you into its wilderness playground.


  • Fort Collins offers hiking, biking, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Visitors can explore diverse ecosystems like pine forests, foothills, rivers, prairies, wetlands, and alpine lakes.
  • Four distinct seasons provide ever-changing scenery and year-round outdoor recreation.

Key Attractions

Lory State Park

Over 25 miles of hiking and biking trails allow visitors to immerse themselves within Lory State Park’s pine forests and wildflower meadows. Watch for mule deer, black bears, coyotes, and over 100 bird species while exploring this rugged foothills landscape.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Boating, paddleboarding, and waterskiing draw adventure seekers to Horsetooth Reservoir. Anglers can reel in rainbow trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass on its waters. And miles of multi-use trails encircle the reservoir, offering hikers and mountain bikers stunning vistas.

Poudre River Corridor

The Cache la Poudre River carves dramatic canyons as it tumbles down from the Continental Divide. Visitors to the Poudre River Corridor can fish, raft, kayak, or tube in its rushing waters. Or opt for calmer activities like hiking, biking, horseback riding, or picnicking along its banks.

Hiking Trails

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Fort Collins for its abundance of scenic hiking trails. Local favorites include the Spring Creek Trail, Fossil Creek Trail, Pineridge Natural Area, and Running Deer Natural Area. From short nature walks to strenuous mountain treks, hikers of all abilities can find their perfect route.

Many trails traverse diverse ecosystems, allowing hikers to experience prairies, wetlands, foothill forests, and alpine vistas on a single trek. And most connect to other outdoor recreation networks, enabling further adventures via bike paths, climbing routes, or river access points.

Whether you come for exercise, scenery, wildlife viewing, or an escape into nature, Fort Collins’ hiking trails deliver. Just be sure to respect trail etiquette and pack out what you pack in to preserve these natural spaces.

Family Outdoor Activities

From paddling calm waters to fishing shaded streams, Fort Collins offers many family-friendly ways to enjoy the outdoors. Gentle trails at Pineridge Natural Area cater to young hikers. And spots like Salyer Natural Area allow children to safely splash through shallow creeks.

Families can also rent paddleboards or kayaks to explore Horsetooth Reservoir. Guided rafting trips down the Cache la Poudre River provide thrills for older kids while keeping younger children safe. Or families can opt for ranger-led activities, educational programs at nature centers, or catching and releasing fish from easily accessible waterways.

Wildlife Viewing

A diversity of habitats near Fort Collins supports an abundance of wildlife, offering visitors ample opportunities to spot native species. Mule deer, red foxes, coyotes, black bears, bobcats, and mountain lions all dwell in the foothills and forests. Great blue herons, belted kingfishers, red-tailed hawks, and over 200 species of birds flock to wetland areas.

In addition to chances to observe wildlife along most trails and open spaces, dedicated wildlife viewing areas provide your best opportunity to glimpse elusive species. So grab some binoculars and visit Running Deer or Eagle View natural areas near dawn or dusk to potentially see deer, coyotes, bald eagles, owls, and more.

Environmental Education

Fort Collins integrates environmental education into many tourist activities through nature centers, guided tours, and special events. Visitors can attend ranger talks, join birding tours, take naturalist classes, or volunteer on habitat restoration projects. These programs instill appreciation for local ecosystems while minimizing environmental impact.

For example, the Fort Collins Natural Areas Department offers nature-based educational and recreational programs throughout the year. And the local Audubon Society partners with the city’s Nature in the City initiative to protect wildlife habitat and provide community education.

So join a wildflower walk, take a full moon hike, go on a beaver ecology tour, volunteer at a native plant nursery, or participate in an annual butterfly count. Gain outdoor knowledge while supporting conservation efforts across Fort Collins.

Eco-Tourism and Sustainable Travel

As a community deeply connected to nature, Fort Collins encourages eco-tourism and sustainable travel. Visitors can stay at LEED-certified hotels, dine at farm-to-table restaurants, and partake in zero-waste events. Many outfitters promote green recreation by renting e-bikes, offering guided minimal-impact hikes, and operating rafting shuttles fueled by biodiesel.

Local non-profits also organize volunteer eco-tourism activities like trail building, trash clean-ups, and invasive species removal. So visitors can help protect the wilderness areas they explore.

When venturing into natural spaces, follow Leave No Trace ethics by staying on designated trails, packing out all trash, keeping wildlife wild, and leaving areas as (or better than) you found them. Employ these sustainable travel tips to minimize your environmental footprint.

Seasonal Activities

While summer may be the most popular season, spring wildflowers, fall foliage, and winter snow also bring visitors flocking to Fort Collins. In spring, flooded wetlands draw migrating birds while summer offers long sunny days on the water. By fall, golden aspens contrast with evergreen pines. And winter provides snow-covered vistas plus opportunities for skiing and sledding.

The area’s four distinct seasons mean ever-evolving outdoor activities. Summer offers camping, hiking, biking, boating, paddleboarding, tubing, and more. Spring and fall lend themselves to photography, birdwatching, wildflower walks, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Winter activities include ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife tracking.

So enjoy kayaking the Poudre River’s raging spring waters or meditating beside a frozen lake in winter. Witness the wonder of nature’s cycles while partaking in seasonal outdoor recreation.


Where are the best spots for nature photography in Fort Collins?

Many natural areas like Running Deer, Bobcat Ridge, and Eagle View offer spectacular scenery. Popular spots include overlooks along the Poudre River Trail or Horsetooth Reservoir for sunrise/sunset shots. Wildflower meadows, lakes, forests, and farms also provide idyllic backdrops.

What types of fish can I catch in Fort Collins?

The Poudre River and its tributaries harbor brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout while Horsetooth Reservoir holds rainbow trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, and kokanee salmon. A state license is required to fish public waterways.

Are there outfitters for outdoor equipment rentals?

Yes, many local shops offer outdoor gear like stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, tubes, rafts, e-bikes, snowshoes, and cross-country skis. Rentals provide affordable ways to access equipment for water and winter sports while minimizing environmental impact.

Do I need an additional pass to access natural areas or open spaces?

No pass is required to access Fort Collins’ natural areas and open spaces. Many trailheads offer free public parking. Visitors should follow posted regulations and practice Leave No Trace environmental ethics.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.