Colorado Travel Planning Guides : Fort Collins Visitors Guide : Poudre Canyon


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Fort Collins Vacation Guide to Poudre Canyon


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Fort Collins, Colorado, Poudre Canyon

Poudre Canyon

Truly a hidden treasure.

(Click on map to enlarge)

Poudre Canyon and Red Feather Lakes Area MapThe Cache la Poudre River Canyon is truly a hidden treasure, with majestic cliffs and intriguing rock formations enveloped in ponderosa and lodgepole pines, sage brush, mountain mahogany and aspen. The Cache la Poudre River - the place where French-Canadian trappers hid their gunpowder during a raging blizzard in the early 1800s, hence the name - begins high in the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, along the Continental Divide. Flowing north and east through Roosevelt National Forest, it tumbles down the slopes of the Front Range and meanders through the city of Fort Collins. From its headwaters to the confluence with the South Platte River east of Greeley, the Cache la Poudre drops 7,000 feet.

The Poudre is Colorado's only nationally designated "Wild and Scenic" River. Colorado Highway 14, which follows much of the river, is designated a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway between Fort Collins and the town of Walden. The Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway is recognized as one of the state's premier scenic highways; more details can be found in our Day Trips section.

Poudre Canyon & Red Feather Lakes
Just north of the beautiful Poudre Canyon and the wild and scenic Poudre River, is the rustic village of Red Feather Lakes.

We invite you to enjoy the unrivaled old fashioned hospitality that makes this area such a local favorite. Red Feather Lakes is located in the Northern Colorado Rockies, surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest and its sparkling streams, lush mountain meadows and stately peaks. The town's dozen or so quaint shops and cafes provide the fuel for the many outdoor activities that abound, from fishing in one of the many mountain lakes to hiking, snowshoeing, or horseback riding on the hundreds of miles of trails.

Hike, bike or ride horseback along the numerous trails that begin in the canyon and allow access into the backcountry.

Click on map to enlarge

Poudre Canyon Hiking Trails - See Map above


1. Greyrock
3.0 mi.
2,055 ft.
9.0 mi.

2. Hewlett Gulch
3.0 mi.
640 ft.
10.3 mi.

3. Young's Gulch
4.0 mi.
1,160 ft.
12.6 mi.

4. Mount McConnel
2.5 mi.
1,200 ft.
22.1 mi.

5. Dadd Gulch
3.0 mi.
1,400 ft.
28.4 mi.

6. Mineral Springs Gulch
4.0 mi.
300 ft.
25.7 mi.

7. Roaring Creek
5.0 mi.
2,300 ft.
39.9 mi.

8. Blue Lake
5.0 mi.
1,320 ft.
55.0 mi.

*Driving distance is calculated from the entrance of Poudre Canyon to the trailhead. To get to the entrance: take College Avenue (US Hwy 287) north to CO Hwy 14. Check out for more detailed information.

Camping & Picnicking
There are 13 National Forest campgrounds in the area, with more than 250 sites for overnight camping, and nine day-use areas. Camping is permitted only in developed areas along the river.

Winter Sports
Many Forest Services roads and trails receive heavy snow during winter months and are ideal for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Two of the most popular areas close to Fort Collins are Cameron Pass, about 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins, and Beaver Meadows, near Red Feather Lakes north of the city. These areas both offer a wealth of opportunities for backcountry experiences in the summer as well.

Big game hunting on National Forest lands is popular during the fall. The Colorado Division of Wildlife manages permit and game regulations; call (970) 472-4300 or visit for more information.

FishingTop of Greyrock, Poudre Canyon, Colorado
Near the town of Rustic, wild trout waters are managed for fly and lure enthusiasts. On the remaining 50 miles of river, anglers may catch and keep stocked rainbow and brown trout. Colorado Division of Wildlife fishing licenses may be purchased at local sporting goods stores.

Whitewater Boating
Convenient access, clear water, challenging rapids and beautiful scenery make this a river-runner's paradise from May though September. Rafts, canoes and kayaks are suitable on various stretches of the river. Experienced commercial outfitters provide full and half-day trips for individuals and groups.

Wildlife Watching
Wildlife may be spotted throughout Poudre Canyon. Bear, mountain lion, elk and deer are found at all elevations. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are often seen scaling rock walls near Rustic, and moose are common west of Cameron Pass. Always view wildlife from a safe distance. Do not approach wildlife and never leave small children alone. Contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife for detailed guidelines.

Gateway Natural Area
Gateway Natural Area, is located where the North Fork joins the main Poudre River and is the site of the city's old water filtration plant. Though tucked away from the noise of the highway, Gateway is only 15 miles from Fort Collins. You'll find hiking and mountain biking trails, fishing, a launch area for kayaks and canoes, first-come, first serve picnic tables with grills, informational kiosks and a natural playground.

Most of the materials for the natural playground were reused, recycled or found on site. Elements include stepping stumps, a rock stream-bed, a wooden boardwalk, a sandy area, a carved boat, a rustic log ladder, rock walls and a willow tunnel.

Pingree Park
Pingree Park is currently the mountain campus and conference center of Colorado State University. Situated at 9,053 ft in the mountains of the Mummy Range, Pingree Park offers spectacular views and a tranquil and secluded mountain valley. During the summer, Pingree Park hosts a variety of conferences, workshops, meetings, and retreats, from CSU Natural Resource and Forestry classes to corporate groups using the popular Challenge Ropes Course.

Sleeping Elephant Rock
Uncannily like it's namesake, Sleeping Elephant Mountain is clearly visibly from the adjacent campground. The campground, dotted with juniper, aspen and sage is nestled between the Cache la Poudre River and Highway 14. Popular nearby activities include fishing, hiking, and scenic driving.

A legendary music venue, restaurant and bar located in stunning Poudre Canyon, Mishawaka's restaurant and bar are open year round, and the outdoor amphitheater is open seasonally from late May to late September. Mishawaka features diverse musical acts as well as weekly outdoor movie nights and transportation to the site
is available from Fort Collins. Mishawaka treasures the natural beauty of the Canyon
and works diligently to be a sustainable member of the community.

Cameron Pass
From Fort Collins to Walden, Colorado Highway 14 climbs through Poudre Canyon and then crosses Cameron Pass, descending into North Park through the Colorado National Forest. With spectacular views, this is a popular and challenging route for avid cyclists as well as a highlight of the scenic drive on Highway 14 though Poudre Canyon. Ringed by snowcapped mountains, the area is studded with canyons and granite cliffs, rushing rivers and soaring peaks and frequented by both locals and tourists.


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