Horsetooth Rock, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Horsetooth Rock - 5.0 miles
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins
|Round-Trip Length:||5.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,815' - 7,256' (7,256' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,441' net elevation gain (+1,526' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Horsetooth Rock - 5.0 Miles Round-Trip
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park encompasses the Culver, Soderberg, and Hughey Open Spaces. This 2,886 acre park is located on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, 4 miles west of Fort Collins and 12 miles northwest of Loveland. Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park supports 29 miles of multipurpose trails through native grasslands, ponderosa woodlands and montane forests.
Horsetooth Rock (7,256') caps Horsetooth Mountain, the park's tallest and most recognizable feature. According to Native American legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku.
European settlers believed the rock bore a greater resemblance to a horse tooth, hence the modern name. Numerous routes lead to the summit; the most direct route begins at the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead and follows the Horsetooth Rock Trail:
The Horsetooth Rock Trail rises through open grasslands dotted with yucca, cacti, and cattail to the Horsetooth Falls Trail connection (.32 miles : 5,923'). It continues steadily up a well defined path to the first of four connections and brief merges with the multi-use South Ridge Trail (.55 miles : 6,095'). Remain on the Horsetooth Trail in each instance.
The trail winds north-northwest into a mixed pine forest that thickens as you progress. Look for signs of deer, fox, coyote, skunk, bobcat, mountain lion, and bear along the way. Large outcrops flank much of the trail, which are good places to find a sunning rattlesnake. Frequent breaks in the timber provide views over the lower foothills, Horsetooth Reservoir and eastern plains.
The trail reaches a 4th and unmarked merge with the South Ridge Trail; bear right to remain on track (2.0 miles : 6,875'). Note that a side spur veers left to excellent views of the Horsetooth.
A short distance ahead is the Wathen Trail connection (2.1 miles : 6,888'), beyond which the trail grows rugged and periodically ill-defined over rock slabs. Remain vigilant to a set of rock-notch steps just below the Audra Culver Trail split (2.25 miles : 6,982').
The trail keeps a north-northwest heading past an informational sign before curling steeply to a gap on the north side of the Horsetooth. Here you'll begin a short but rugged scramble (back south) to the top of Horsetooth Rock and Horsetooth Mountain summit (2.5 miles : 7,256').
The summit is long and thin with unabated panoramas across the eastern plains, lower foothills, reservoir, and Rocky Mountains. Notable from these heights are hogbacks, or homoclinal ridges, that run uniformly north-south between the plains and foothills.
These uplifted and tilted formations are typically comprised of two compressed sedimentary layers that eroded at different rates. As the softer layer erodes, its slopes steepen and the harder layer emerges along it edges. These rounded formations with a jagged rock outline resemble the knobby spine of a hog.
- N40 31.444 W105 10.865 — 0.0 miles : Horsetooth Mountain Trailhead
- N40 31.559 W105 10.744 — .32 miles : Horsetooth Falls Trail junction
- N40 31.707 W105 10.810 — .55 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #1
- N40 31.793 W105 10.948 — .75 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #2
- N40 31.906 W105 11.033 — .9 miles : Soderberg Trail connection
- N40 32.072 W105 11.469 — 1.7 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #3
- N40 32.203 W105 11.512 — 2.0 miles : South Ridge Trail connection #4
- N40 32.258 W105 11.581 — 2.1 miles : Wathen Trail connection
- N40 32.329 W105 11.716 — 2.25 miles : Audra Culver Trail connection
- N40 32.418 W105 11.810 — 2.5 miles : Horsetooth Rock Summit
- The Horsetooth Rock Trail is for foot travel only. Cyclists and equestrians must take the equidistant South Ridge Trail from the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead. Dismounts are necessary beyond the 4th Horsetooth Rock Trail - South Ridge Trail junction to reach the summit.
- While the Horsetooth Rock Trail is generally well maintained, rock slabs just below the summit - and the rugged boulder scramble leading to the summit - can be treacherous when wet or snow-covered.
- Horsetooth Reservoir is located at 5,430', spans 2,040 acres, is 6.5 long, and 180' deep at its deepest point.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- There are 3 maintained campgrounds and 7 cabins within Horsetooth Mountain Park. Camping is permitted in designated spaces only. You may reserve in advance, or secure a space on site (first come, first served). Reservations are recommended.
- South Bay Campground
- Inlet Bay Campground
- Boat-In Campsites (on the west side of reservoir)
- Nightly fees vary by season, and range from $15 per night for non-electric campsites to $60 per night for a cabin in peak season. Individual sites and cabins vary in capacity, so make specific inquiries when reserving.
- Call 1.800.397.7795 or visit www.larimercamping.com for more information and reservations.
- Fishing is permitted in Horsetooth Reservoir with a valid Colorado fishing license. Ice fishing is not permitted.
Rules and Regulations
- There is a $6 dollar day use entry fee to Horsetooth Mountain Park. This is required of all individual walk-ins, bikes, and vehicles. Use self service pay stations if no attendant is on duty.
- Annual permits can be purchased for $65 (Larimer County resident), or $85 (non resident).
- Dogs are permitted on trails within Horsetooth Mountain Park, but must be leashed at all times.
- Hunting, open fires, firearms, and fireworks are strictly prohibited within Horsetooth Mountain Park.
- All watercraft, including motors and ancillary parts, may be inspected on site for exotic invasive species before launch.
Directions to Trailhead
The Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead is located on the west side of Horsetooth Mountain Park in Fort Collins, CO. The trailhead is located 2.5 miles from the South Bay Entrance Station (6.4 miles from the Taft Hill - 38E intersection, and 13.1 miles from I-25):
From Boulder and Denver
Take I-25 North to the Harmony Road - Timnath exit (#265). Turn left (west) on Harmony Road for 7 miles, which becomes County Road 38E at the Taft Hill Road intersection. Travel west on County Road 38E approximately 4 miles to the South Bay Entrance of Horsetooth Reservoir. Continue another 2.4 miles on 38E from the South Bay entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
From Fort Collins
From Harmony and Taft Hill Road, turn west onto County Road 38E. Continue west on County Road 38E approximately 4 miles to the South Bay entrance. Continue another 2.4 miles on 38E from the South Bay Entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
From Highway 34 (Eisenhower), go north on Wilson. Wilson becomes Taft Hill Road in Fort Collins. Turn left (west) onto County Road 38E and travel approximately 4 miles to the South Bay entrance. Continue another 2.4 miles from the South Bay Entrance to the parking area and trailhead on the north side of the road.
Larimer County Department of Natural Resources
1800 S. County Road 31
Loveland, CO 80537
8 am - 4:30 pm (M-F, except holidays)