Getting outside in Colorado often means heading to the High Country. That’s a shame, because the Eastern Plains offer a serene landscape that is perfect for exploring, with uncrowded areas like the Pawnee National Grassland. Thirty-five miles east of Fort Collins, the nearly 200,000-acre site offers dramatic scenery and some of the best bird watching in the state.
Wander through the seemingly endless grasses and wildflowers by foot, bike, horseback, or car to the namesake Pawnee buttes that jut up from the ground. As you explore, keep your eyes peeled for the fossils and arrowheads that litter the park and make sure to bring a camera to capture the 400-plus species of plants that cover the prairie.
If you want more time to explore , camp at the nearby Crow Valley Recreation Area–complete with horseshoe pit, onsite grills, and picnic tables.
When to go: May and June when the wildflowers are in full bloom and hawks, falcons, and swallows nest in the surrounding cliffs.
Getting there: Take I-25 north to Fort Collins and State Highway 14 to Country Road 77.
Bonus: Download the Forest Service’s self-guided 21-mile driving bird touring guide before you go.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock