Well Gulch Nature Trail
|Trail Name||Well Gulch Nature Trail|
|Nearest City||Fort Collins|
|Distance||1.2 Miles Round Trip|
|Elevation Gain||395 Feet|
|Low Point||5,480 Feet|
|High Point||5,875 Feet|
|Trip Reports||Well Gulch Nature Trail|
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The Well Gulch Nature Trail in Lory State Park northwest of Fort Collins is a short (1.2 mile loop) self-guided nature trail that gently climbs through the lush vegetation of Well Gulch, then returns via a route through the forests and grasslands of Lory State Park, past the Homestead Picnic Area, and finishes with a short jaunt back up the Valley Trail to the parking lot. For those looking for a longer hike, the Well Gulch Trail can be taken to the Timber Trail or the Overlook Trail, offering great views of Lory State Park, Horsetooth Lake and Fort Collins. The Well Gulch Trail is a perfect option for a family-friendly hike that is close to Fort Collins, or can be extended by hiking to the Timber Trail for those wanting a more strenuous hike or a longer outing.
How to get there
From Fort Collins, take US Hwy 287 north through Laporte (stay on the route that goes through Laporte, not the 287 bypass). At Vern's Place, veer left onto County Rd. 52E and proceed 1 mile to County Rd. 23E in Bellvue. Go south 1.4 miles to County Rd. 25G. Turn right, and continue 1.6 miles to Lory Park Rd. Turn left onto Lory Park Rd., and stop at the entrance station to pay the $6 entrance fee. From the entrance station, continue south on Lory Park Rd. about 1 mile to the Well Gulch Trailhead (look for the trailhead sign on the right, parking lot is on the left side of the road). If you reach the Homestead Picnic Area, you've gone too far.
Alternately, from downtown Fort Collins, go west on Mulberry St. until it deadends into Overland Trail Rd. Turn right (north) on Overland Trail, and go about 2.5 miles to Bingham Hill Rd. Turn left (west) on Bingham Hill Rd, over the hill, and continue until it intersects with CR 23E. Turn left (south) on 23E, and turn right onto 25G. Follow the directions above into the park.
Facilities are available at the parking lot, no water.
The Well Gulch Nature Trail, located in Lory State Park, is an enjoyable 1.2 mile, gently-sloping trail. Before you begin the hike, make sure to pick up a Well Gulch interpretive brochure at the trailhead, or from the Visitor Center at the entrance to the park. As you walk the trail, you'll find numerous numbered stations that provide information about the plants, wildlife, history and geology of the area.
From the trailhead, this hike takes you into Well Gulch, a lush, deep gulch to the north of Arthurs Rock. As you leave the trailhead and enter the gulch, the terrain and vegetation quickly change from the arrid grasslands around the trailhead to the surprisingly lush and shaded forests and wetland vegetation of Well Gulch, making it a good choice on a hot summer day.
As you continue the gentle climb into the canyon, you'll be treated to a variety of scenery, from the rocky walls of the narrow canyon to the lush vegetation surrounding numerous small pools fed by the creek and by small springs. At about 0.5 miles, you reach the intersection for the nature trail loop. From here, you can return via the loop trail, or continue up the canyon toward Timber Trail.
Continuing on, the lush shaded foliage of the gulch opens up into sunny, grassy meadows. The trail then crosses the creek and emerges out of the gulch onto the sunny and drier south-facing hillside of the gulch. At about 1/2 mile beyond the turn-off for the nature trail loop, a short climb takes you to the intersection with the Timber Trail. From here, you have several options:
- Return to the trailhead, either the way you came, or via the nature trail loop, which branches off from the trail about half way back to the trailhead;
- Turn right onto Timber Trail, and take it back to the Timber Trail trailhead at the Timber Group Picnic Area, near the Visitors Center at the entrance to the park. From here, you can return to the Well Gulch parking lot via the Valley Trail, which parallels the main road that bisects Lory State Park;
- Turn left onto Timber Trail. This route offers views of the sandstone hogbacks and Horsetooth Reservoir below, before winding its way back to the lusher north side of Well Gulch. The Timber Trail continues on to Arthurs Rock and the more remote reaches of the Park.
Returning back down the gulch, the nature trail branches to the right, forming the remainder of the nature trail loop. This 3/4 mile continuation of the trail gently climbs out of Well Gulch, and traverses the meadows and Ponderosa forests of Lory State Park, before descending back to the grasslands at Homestead Picnic Area. The picnic area is located at the site of a homestead claimed by John Kimmons in 1891. Kimmons traded his land to John and Ruth Howard in 1897. The Howard family established a cattle and horse ranch and lived on the site until 1963. A small pipeline, still visible in Well Gulch, provided fresh water to the house from a natural spring. The flagstones leading to the front porch, and some juniper trees planted by the Howards, are about all that can now be seen of the homestead.
From Homestead Picnic Area, return to the Well Gulch parking lot either by walking along the road, or by returning to the Valley Trail, which intersects with the Well Gulch Trail just a few hundred yards north of your location.