If you’re looking for a fairly short and moderately strenuous hike along the Front Range, Arthur’s Rock Trail is a great option. It’s in Lory State Park and is a wonderful alternative to the more crowded (but wonderful!) Horsetooth Rock hike. It’s a hike to a granite outcropping named for an early settler. In the 1.7 miles to almost 7,000 feet you gain approximately 1,100 feet as you hike through forest, meadows, and scramble on craggy rock. The views of Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins are amazing for the top!
Getting There: In Lory State Park in Fort Collins
Trail Stats: 1.7 miles each way (3.4 miles round trip), about 1,100 feet elevation gain, max elevation is around 6,800 feet, dogs allow on leash
When my friend Mindy, author of the 3rd edition of “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver and Boulder,” and I got to the trailhead about 8:15am on a Sunday morning there was still plenty of parking. When we finished, the lot was full. If you want to do this hike, go early. We saw a ton of dogs on this trail as well as families. Both of us have hiked this trail before so we knew we were in for a moderately strenuously hike filled with some great views. After short walk on a multi-use trail, we saw the sign for Arthur’s Rock Trail. It’s a foot traffic only trail that starts climbing right off the bat. We started seeing wildflowers and blooming cacti in this first section. After we zigzag up the first switchbacks we were treated to the first view point. It’s a prelude of what’s to come.
At about the half mile mark there’s a split. You can go left on Howard Trail which will take you to the rock, or stay on Arthur’s Rock Trail. Since it wasn’t too busy, we stayed on Arthur’s Rock Trail hiking across a meadow with a great view of Arthur’s Rock. We went back into the forest, across a sloping meadow, and up a series of gradual switchbacks through the forest.
At 1.1 miles, there’s a rock outcropping. The scenic overlook is well marked. We scrambled up on the boulders to look out over the meadow we just hiked through and at Horsetook Reservoir and the northern part of Devil’s Backbone Ridge which extends southward through Longmont. In the meadow and along the trail near the scenic overlook there were lots of wildflowers.
Hiking the last stretch through the forest, the trail got a lot rockier. When we got to .1 mile from the summit, we turned right and started up the steep rock gully. Where the sun was positioned it felt like we were climbing up a stone staircase to the sun. Go slow and watch your footing in the last stretch. It’s short and steep.
When we got the top, we found spots to sit, have snacks, and enjoyed the wonderful view of Horsetooth Rock and Fort Collins. It was a perfect morning for a hike with a view so we took full advantage of having some fun at the top and even did a little yoga including tree pose.
Once we got back to the scenic overlook spot instead of hiking all the way down on the trail we came up, we decided to take Fireline Trail. It was a great choice as we quickly lost the increasing stream of hikers on Arthur’s Rock Trail. We only saw a couple enjoying a snack on a rock and a guy hiking up who said “this is the secret trail.” That “secret” has great views of the reservoir and virtually no one on it, at least that’s what we experienced. Fireline Trail connects back with Arthur’s Rock Trail and we returned to the trailhead. This hike is one of my favorites along the Front Range.