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Length: 3.2 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Why we love it: Savor solitude and a trio of easy-access high-country lakes with options to overnight or continue farther into Roosevelt National Forest.
When to go: Summer through late fall or year-round with traction devices or snowshoes
Pre-hike fuel: Near the junction of Highway 287 and Red Feather Lakes Road, pit stop at the historic Forks Mercantile & Saloon for an espresso, a to-go sausage muffin, and your last reliable gas.
Post-hike buzz: Hit locally owned and operated Potbelly Restaurant & Lounge for comfort food and suds before leaving Red Feather Lakes.
In a state with as many fresh-mountain-air addicts as ours, it can be tough to find elbowroom in a high-country trailhead parking lot. But there’s an easy workaround: Poudre Canyon. West of Fort Collins, aspens shroud untrodden trails, spruces shelter unnamed lakes, and summer blooms cling to granite monoliths. It’s a veritable hiker’s playground, and few seem to know about it.
Find a slice of the goodness on a quick hike from the first of the trio of Creedmore Lakes, teeny tarns in the Roosevelt National Forest, north of Red Feather Lakes. To do it, take the westernmost trail (it’s unmarked but look for a metal gate) from the terminus of Forest Service Road 180 C and plunge into a granite basin where the lowest of the Creedmores sits. A 250-foot-tall crag flanks the shallow pool to the northwest, and a conifer forest grows up to the shoreline on the east. Follow the dirt path through the pines to the north edge where a sandy beach makes for an excellent lunch spot. (There are also a number of established dispersed sites here if you’re planning to overnight.)
Near mile 0.7, negotiate a slabby granite monolith that abuts the water to regain the singletrack on the north edge of the lake. From here, it’s a little less than a mile to the North Fork Cache la Poudre River, but the going is slow: Although you lose more than 300 feet in elevation on the way, detritus from a prescribed burn litters the path. High-step over fallen timber, duck beneath low-hanging branches, and skirt around deadfall in the young forest, where new aspens are just tall enough to splinter the light across the trail.
Reach the overgrown bank of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River, which is slow-moving and relatively shallow by September, at mile 1.6. Retrace your steps on the return.
See more: To explore the second and third Creedmore Lakes, pick up the other (easternmost) trail from the end of FS-180 C. The path meanders through a spruce forest, hanging around 8,400 feet in elevation the whole way. A short spur near mile 0.6 takes you to the bank of the middle tarn; reach the third after about a mile.
Getting there: From Denver, take I-25 north to CO 14 west. From there, follow CO 14 about four miles to Highway 287. Take 287 roughly 21 miles north before doglegging west onto Red Feather Lakes Road in Livermore. There, head 24 miles west on Red Feather Lakes Road before linking rough dirt roads—Creedmore Lakes Road, North Lone Pine Creek Road, Chicken Park Road, and Creedmore Lakes Road again—five or so miles to FS-180 C. The trailhead sits at the bottom of a rutted Jeep track; high-clearance vehicle required. Park on the side of the road around a half-mile short of the lot if driving a sedan. (Easy bet: Punch 40.85352, -105.59514 into your maps app when you have service.)