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|Trail Name||Horsetooth Falls|
|Nearest City||Fort Collins|
|Distance||2.4 Miles Round Trip|
|Elevation Gain||50 Feet|
|Low Point||5,750 Feet|
|High Point||5,800 Feet|
|Trip Reports||Horsetooth Falls|
|Show large Google Map|
|Show large topographic|
Located in Horsetooth Mountain Park west of Fort Collins, the hike to the falls is a pleasant, family-friendly hike through meadows and a rocky canyon to a diminutive but high cascade.
How to get there
From Harmony Rd. in Fort Collins, proceed west past Taft Hill Rd. This turns into CR 38E. Follow this road around Horsetooth reservoir, about 6 miles from the Harmony/Taft Hill intersection, to the Horsetooth Mountain Park parking lot. Entrance and parking is on the right hand side. Restroom facilities and running water are available at the parking lot. A park permit is required to access Horsetooth Mountain Park ($6 per vehicle in 2007).
The trailhead at the Horsetooth Mountain Park parking area is at the end of the parking lot, near the lavatory. There is a large trailhead information sign marking the spot. The Horsetooth Falls Trail and Horsetooth Rock Trail head out from the parking lot to the right (east) of the information sign. This trail is for hikers only. The trail to the left of the sign, that goes behind the lavatory, is the South Ridge Trail, which is the mountain bike route to Horsetooth Rock. Hikers to Horsetooth Rock and Horsetooth Falls share the same trail for the first 1/4 mile or so; the Horsetooth Rock Trail then splits off to the left, and the Horsetooth Falls Trail continues straight. Note that mountain bikes are not permitted on the Horsetooth Falls Trail.
Just beyond the intersection, the trail drops down over the ridge, and passes through a meadow that can be filled with wildflowers in the spring. Soon you'll reach a bench along an overlook into the Spring Creek Canyon, before the trail descends gently into the canyon. At the bottom, the trail crosses a footbridge before ascending back up the opposite side of the canyon a ways, before continuing on to the falls. Keep an eye out for a split in the trail, and head left to go the the falls. The trail to the right is the Spring Creek Trail, that eventually hits the Soderberg Trail. If you want to make this a longer loop hike, returning up the Spring Creek trail and down the Soderberg Trail increases the total distance to about 3.5 miles.
From the split in the trail, descend slightly into the bowl encircled by granite cliffs. This is a small stream in an arid land, so don't be surprised if it's only a trickle. To see the falls at the fullest, plan the hike during the spring runoff. Nevertheless, the rocking surroundings and pool of water below the falls makes the hike well worht the effort, even during a dry spell.
On the return hike, turn left at the intersection with the Spring Creek Trail, and walk up the switchbacks a short distance to the overlook over the falls. Be careful of the cliffs and dropoffs in this area - keep young children under close supervision.
The elevation gain noted above is misleading, as there is a fair amount of up-and-down along this trail. But it is still a relatively easy hike, appropriate for children and family outings.
Fees, Permits, etc.
- A park permit is required to access Horsetooth Mountain Park ($6 per vehicle in 2007).