bugsy running on lone rock beach with the airstream and f-150 in the background

Five days in Fort Collins, CO–Big Trip #1

We visited Fort Collins in May 2016 during Big Trip #1.

greyrock mountain running dog

I have a strange personal attachment to Ft Collins. I had never been there, didn’t know much about it other than its general location north of Denver, but for some reason for something like twenty years I’ve always had a thought in the back of my mind that I should live there. So I was super excited to finally get to visit, and yes, it’s an awesome town and I could totally live there. Hiking just minutes away, breweries seemingly on every corner, bike trails throughout town, and a walkable, interesting downtown make it a great little city.


airstream and dog in fort collins

Ft Collins KOA. I’m starting to feel a little defensive about staying in so many KOAs, but really, location, location, location… We had a big campsite with a great patio with a grill, firepit, and glider chair, close to the rental cabins which would be a plus when our Denver friends came up for an overnight visit. Internet was decent. The “resort” has a million kid-friendly amenities that we didn’t care about, and you’ll pay a premium for that even if you don’t use them, but again—it’s the location.


jessup farm fort collins

We ate good food here and there while in Ft Collins, but only one meal is worth a special shout-out. Here are the good-if-not-noteworthy restaurants:

And, drumroll: We went to lunch at the Farmhouse at Jessup Farm and it was stellar. The fresh, local, seasonal food; the attentive service; the quaint farmhouse atmosphere… loved it. The cocktails were top-notch, too, and right across the street is the Jessup Farm Barrel House brewery! Also on site in the adorable little Jessup Farm Artisan Village: a yoga studio, a coffee shop, a bakery, and a few other charming shops. So great.


odell brewing beer tasters

J’s reviews are up on the Breweries pages, and that’s way better info that what I would provide. Ft Collins has many breweries; we visited the following:

Non-hiking activities

bugsy in fort collins
bugsy on the poudre trail
  • Walk around downtown, window-shop, maybe check out a brewery. Bonus: Saturday mornings there’s a farmers market with all sorts of local goodies.
  • Run the Poudre Trail along the river. Locals pronounce it “pooder.” There’s a convenient trailhead just past the KOA entrance, and it’s a couple miles up the trail to downtown.
  • Visit a marijuana dispensary. Even if you aren’t a smoker (I’m not), you can surely appreciate the novelty of pot sold in a store, if you’re from out-of-state. We stopped by Organic Alternatives, and contrary to what you may picture, the shop is sophisticated, the “budtenders” are classy, the array of products is surprising, and nothing about the experience is seedy at all.


greyrock mountain hiking dog

J had to make a quick trip home on business while we were in Fort Collins, which is sad for him because Bugsy and I did two hikes while he was gone (and another plus for living in Ft Collins: the drive to and from the Denver airport wasn’t bad at all, even in Friday rush hour). So J, don’t read anything below. Everyone else, read on.

I did a fair amount of research before choosing my hikes. My parameters: I wanted them to be several miles, with big views, not tons of people (but not zero people, since I’d be hiking solo), and not too far from Fort Collins. I read on a few “best of”-type lists that Greyrock and Horsetooth mountains can’t be missed, but I also saw them on a list of hikes to avoid–the logic being since they’re on so many “best of” lists, that makes them too popular and therefore not worth it. While I understand that logic, because I don’t really like people all that much, for them to be on the the “best of” lists in the first place, they must be special–and they’re awfully convenient. So I did them, and did not regret it.

Greyrock Mountain

poudre river greyrock mountain
greyrock mountain forest
greyrock mountain vista
greyrock mountain meadow
greyrock mountain hiking dog
greyrock mountain hiking dog

I loved this hike. It started with a gorgeous drive up into Poudre Canyon to the trailhead, only about 20 minutes from the KOA. We got the last parking spot along the road around lunchtime on a May weekday, so yes, it’s popular. After passing a fair number of hikers on the first couple miles, the crowd thinned, and by the time I was scrambling around on the rocks at the top, it was just Bugsy and me. Heading down the backside of the mountain past the meadow, we had the trail all to ourselves. This trail is long enough, with climb enough, to give you a workout, and the terrain is varied: rock scramble, mountain meadow, forest, stream. I think Bugsy loved it too; it definitely wore her out.

Horsetooth Falls and Horsetooth Rock

horsetooth falls
dog on horsetooth rock
horsetooth mountain valley view
horsetooth mountain reservoir view

This trail was way more crowded, but it’s a bit closer to town, and I hiked it on the day before the Colorado State University graduation, so presumably extra people were around. This trail is a little less strenuous, but has nice views after yet another rock scramble (and this time there were people around to be impressed with Bugsy’s mountain goating skills) and a waterfall. We did the waterfall first, figuring it would be more crowded later in the morning as it got hotter (and based on the crowds heading down that trail as we finished hiking, that was a good guess) and then had a snack up on the rocky top. I’m glad I did it, since it’s a Fort Collins must-do, but I wouldn’t rush to do it a second time. I’d do Greyrock again, though.


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