After last week’s trek up to Wyoming, this weekend’s recommendation is quite close. In comparison, you’ll almost be staying in your own backyard. But sometimes the best gems are right under our noses.
Coyote Ridge Open Space sits right where the southwestern corner of Fort Collins meets the foothills. Just outside of town, the land dips into a shallow valley filled with tall grasses. Just west of that valley are the foothills. But they do not seem like much at first glance. The same can be said describe the whole trail — at least at first. You have to hike it a bit to get to the good stuff.
The trail starts off right off of the main road and parking lot. It shoots westward and then zigzags to the base of the first foothill. The hush of passing cars soon fades away into the hiss of winter wind. In the summer, I can only imagine the symphony of crickets that you’d find.
Then you’ll pitch upward into a valley between two hills and start to climb. Here, the dark shadow of the larger hills block out the horizon and climb above the treeless slopes of the lower land. You’ll see Horsetooth rock from a southern angle. Look back and you’ll see all of Fort Collins spilling eastward.
After a short climb, the trail splits in two. Pick a way and go around the loop. You’ll hike along side some red cliff sides, around rock formations protruding from the ground like bone and through some more shallow valleys. All the while, take in the view of the foothills and the temperate weather we are in for this weekend.
A quick note: This trail hooks up with the Rim Rock trail about half way around this loop. You could continue on that trail all the way to Horsetooth Reservoir, but that is quite a trek.
Once around the loop, head back the way you came to complete the easy 3-mile hike.
The trail is also very well maintained; I would even urge mountain bikers to have at it.
To get here, take Taft Hill Road all the way south. You will pass Harmony Road as well as Trilby Road. A couple hundred yards after Trilby, you’ll see the sign for Coyote Ridge. Pull on in and hop on the trail. No worries about a fee on this one; it’s free.