Foothills Trail: North Half | Horsetooth Reservoir County Park
Fort Collins, CO | 04/05/20| 3.56 miles | 845′ gain
The 7.2 mile Foothills Trail runs through a number of parks and open spaces along the east side of Horsetooth Reservoir. We had previously done the northernmost section at Reservoir Ridge Natural Area. Heading south, the Foothills Trail next travels 3 miles through Horsetooth Reservoir County Park. I couldn’t convince Kyle to do this entire section (6 miles round trip) so we settled for half. We parked at the Skyline Picnic Area, the northernmost trailhead in Horsetooth Reservoir County Park and the only one with free parking.
We crossed the road and hiked south along the Foothills Trail, or what we thought was the Foothills Trail. We didn’t see a sign but the trail we were on was obvious until it petered out at an overlook. Oh…
This turned out to be just a side trail for the overlook and a memorial. We checked the map and saw that the Foothills Trail should be just below us on the east side of the ridge, and sure enough we could see it. Instead of backtracking, we bushwhacked the few hundred feet down the slope and soon ended up where we needed to be. Now that we were actually on the Foothills Trail, we continued south along the hillside and eventually switchbacked down to the bottom.
The Soldier Canyon Dam (one of many) was built between these two ridges to hold back the waters of Horsetooth Reservoir. We passed just below the dam.
Once past the dam, we began to hike up the next ridge. This was a very gradual trail and we quickly crested the top of the ridge and hiked down the opposite side.
Our stopping point was the Sunrise Day Use Area (still closed for the season). We walked down to the parking lot and sat by the water for a few minutes to let Bob swim around.
Soon it was time to head back to the car, so we turned around and followed the Foothills Trail north. We climbed up and down the first ridge, passed below the dam, and then climbed up the second ridge. We didn’t want to bushwhack again, so it was important that we follow the Foothills Trail to the proper crossover point. From this direction, it was much easier to find.
If you look at my map from the beginning of the post, you will see a small loop on the north side of our route. You will want to follow the northernmost segment of this loop to stay on the Foothills Trail. It turns out that earlier, we had crossed the road a little too far south and completely missed the proper connection. The correct connection is across from the north end of the parking lot and will have a sign once you crest the ridge.
Foothills Trail: South Half & Lake Access Trail | Horsetooth Reservoir County Park
Fort Collins, CO | 04/19/20| 3.69 miles | 489′ gain
A few weeks later, I returned to Horsetooth Reservoir to finish up the Foothills Trail and the other remaining short trails. Since the Sunrise Day Use Area was still closed, I parked at the southern trailhead, the Rotary Park Day Use Area. This is a fee area so I paid the $9 day use fee before setting out. I first wanted to hike down to the reservoir on the Lake Access Trail. This is a short, steep trail that heads west from the parking lot, switchbacking down to the water.
There were so many side trails in this area, combined with the snow and mud, that I could hardly figure out which was the correct trail. I eventually made my way down to the water, after following false trails and backtracking approximately 107 times. I then struggled again on the way back up, sliding around in the mud. I was really surprised this trail was even open with conditions like this. Had I not just paid the fee, I would have found a dry trail somewhere else.
I finally found my way back to the parking lot, quite a bit muddier than I was when I started, and then proceeded north on the Foothills Trail.
The Foothills Trail was muddy too, but it was much more gradual so I didn’t find myself slipping and sliding much. Compared to the northern half, the southern half of the Foothills Trail didn’t gain much elevation. I gradually made my way down to the water and then the trail flattened out for a while before I eventually reached the Sunrise Day Use Area.
Once again, upon reaching the parking lot, I stopped to let Lady play in the water. She concerned herself with dragging big sticks out of the water while I enjoyed my surroundings.
Inlet Bay Trail | Horsetooth Reservoir County Park
Fort Collins, CO | 04/19/20| 2.68 miles | 109′ gain
There is one last trail at Horsetooth Reservoir County Park, the only one on the western side of the reservoir. The Inlet Bay Trail contours around the west side of Inlet Bay. This is a wide and gradual gravel trail that travels through the Inlet Bay Marina, Campground, and surrounding neighborhoods. The views of Inlet Bay are nice, but civilization is always right behind you. I would call this more of a walking trail than a hike.
There is a trailhead at each end of the Inlet Bay Trail, but the southern Blue Sky Trailhead was closed for mud so I parked at the northern Soderburg Trailhead. The $9 fee I’d paid earlier was good for this area as well.
There were a number of dog walkers on this trail, it seemed to be a locals hot spot.
Since this trail was so short and flat, I finished very quickly and reversed the route back to my car. Definitely not one I’d ever do again, but still worth checking out!