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Length: 4.5-mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Why we love it: Just two hours of trail time gets you veranda-style seating for some of the best views on the Front Range.
When to go: Summer through late fall, although there is serene hiking to be had in the winter as well (microspikes recommended).
Pre-hike fuel: Slip into a seat at Lucile’s in Fort Collins for some creole comfort food, like a savory omelet stuffed with spicy sausage or New Orleans–style French toast.
Post-hike buzz: Spread out under the sun on New Belgium Brewing’s front patio with a pint of the newly released Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, a spicy ale featuring habanero chili peppers.
Dogs: Allowed on a leash
Fort Collins is blessed with a backdrop of dramatic foothills and serrated hogbacks. But if you’d rather romp around the ridgelines than admire them from afar, plan a visit to Lory State Park, a playground for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Among Lory’s generous trappings is Arthur’s Rock, named after one of the original homesteading family’s sons. It’s the park’s standout promontory and a go-to for locals—at least the ones who are willing to work for it. This trail climbs 1,100 feet to the top.
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Get there by hiking along Arthur’s Rock Trail, which leaves from the eponymous trailhead, through a compact grotto of assorted foliage dressed in reds and golds; this thicket is flanked by a waterfall that waxes and wanes with the weather. Next, you’ll cross a wooden bridge and emerge into a sprawling prairie grass meadow. Climb a handful of switchbacks 300 feet through scattered ponderosa pines to a teaser overlook at mile one, where you’ll spot Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins below. In another half-mile, the trail pinballs between huge boulders to the Arthur’s summit and faraway views to the east. Quick tip: Hike in late afternoon to see the hogbacks glowing orange in the east with the fading sun.
From the high point, backtrack just a bit and turn right onto Arthur’s Rock Trail to make it a loop (turning left would make this an out-and-back). When you come to the junction with Howard Trail, head left to take it all the way back to the trailhead, descending through ponderosa and burnt yellow grasses (watch for grazing mule deer) on a long series of switchbacks.
Getting there: From Denver, head north on I-25 to the CO 14 exit. Follow CO 14 for four miles west to U.S. 287. Continue on U.S. 287 to 287B. Follow 287B west 3.5 miles to Bellvue. From Bellvue, follow CR 23 south for 1.4 miles to Lodgepole Drive. Turn right and follow Lodgepole Drive 1.6 miles south to the park entrance. (A daily entrance pass is $10.) The trailhead is another two miles south at the end of the park road.