From the rugged Medicine Bow Mountains of State Forest State Park to the frothy rapids of the Arkansas Headwaters, Colorado has a state park system that makes other countries jealous. Funny thing is, many Coloradans don't know about these outdoor gems. Here, we introduce you to the best of the best.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
—Photo by Sarah Boyum
Lory State Park
Just west of Fort Collins in a swath of rolling hills and valleys is a 2,500-acre park that serves as a secluded yet accessible getaway from the hubbub of Northern Colorado city life. Flanked on the east by Horsetooth Reservoir and on the south by Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, Lory State Park goes from wildflower meadows to ponderosa pine forests to jutting rock outcroppings in one panoramic glance.
The Draw Excellent horseback riding over varied terrain. The 22 miles of trails that trace hills and valleys and meander along reservoir coves are even more enticing because they link to 29 miles of open-space trails.
The Terrian Geology buffs are in luck. Because of its location at the crease line between the Great Plains and the Front Range, Lory is a sculpted landmass containing striking rock silhouettes, such as protruding sandstone hogbacks that are the result of ancient erosion. Look for Arthur's Rock, a prominent formation and landmark overlooking Fort Collins.
For the Adventurous Look for the equestrian jump course in the southern part of the park, or try the Timber and Howard trails for expert-only mountain loops.
The Alternatives If you prefer two wheels over four legs, check out the new Corral Center Mountain Bike Park for 69,600 square feet of dirt-jumping, off-roading territory to hone your skills. Or launch your canoe, kayak, or raft a couple of miles away at Horsetooth Dam and take a spin on the reservoir.
Pit Stop Before you hit the trail, stock up on picnic goodies at specialty sandwich shop Backcountry Provisions in Old Town Fort Collins (140 North College Ave.). Choose from two dozen sandwich varieties with imported meats and cheeses.
Get There From Fort Collins, take U.S. Highway 287 (College Avenue) north to Laporte; continue for a mile and turn left on Rist Canyon Road (CR 52E). After a mile, turn left on Front Street (CR 23), follow for 1.2 miles, and turn right on Lodgepole Drive (CR 25G). Drive for 1.5 miles to the park entrance. For more information, call 970-493-1623.