Horsetooth Falls, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Horsetooth Falls - 2.35 miles
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park - Fort Collins
|Round-Trip Length:||2.35 miles (roundtrip to base of falls)|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,815' - 5,830' (5,923' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+15' net elevation gain (+425' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Horsetooth Falls - 2.35 Miles Round-Trip
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park spans the Culver, Soderberg, and Hughey Open Spaces. This 2886 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 features 29 miles of multipurpose trails through native grasslands, ponderosa woodlands and rugged montane forests.
Horsetooth Falls tumble through a steep, narrow rock chute separating the Horsetooth Falls and Spring Creek trails. While the falls are subjectively impressive, families and runners will enjoy mild grades, open space and active wildlife on the short trip:
The hike begins from the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trailhead on the Horsetooth Trail, rising steadily up an open hillside to the Horsetooth Falls Trail split (.32 miles : 5,923'). The Horsetooth Falls Trail drops through a rolling meadow dotted with yucca, cacti, cattail and juniper. Look for deer, fox, coyote, snakes and rabbit in tall grass and along the forest fringe.
The trail curls north and dips across a seasonally wet gulch on a bridge (.9 miles : 5,745'). Note leafy cottonwood and willow in this riparian corridor, a contrast to drier ponderosa-pinyon forests all around.
The trail climbs steeply up the gulch's far side to the split for the falls and Spring Creek Trail (1.1 miles : 5,860'). A short, rugged spur leads to an alcove where the falls land (1.17 miles : 5,830'), while the Spring Creek Trail climbs above them for a bird's eye view.
Those seeking a longer outing may continue another 3 miles on the Spring Creek Trail into the higher northwest corner of the park.
- 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 31.860 W105 10.715 — .9 miles : Cross bridge over gulch
- N40 31.915 W105 10.782 — 1.1 miles : Split for falls' bottom and Spring Creek Tra
- N40 31.947 W105 10.822 — 1.17 miles : Horsetooth Falls
- 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.
- Be mindful of rattlesnakes that inhabit these grassy slopes and rocky outcrops.
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)