Sep 282011
Authors: Jason Pohl

The mountains to the west are immersed in seas of yellow and red flowing down steep mountainsides, seemingly begging to be explored by foot.

Luckily, you don’t have to drive to the far Western Slope or even the other side of the Continental Divide to experience what a breathtaking autumn in Colorado truly looks – and feels – like.

But before you take off for your day hike on one of dozens of local trails or embark on a trip further into the mountains, there are some life-saving things that officials want you to know.

“The most important thing to stress is to never break up a group,” said Mike Fink, a 30-year member of Larimer County Search and Rescue Team. “Usually when we get a call, it’s never for a group of five people. We’re always looking for one person who gets left behind or goes up ahead.”

Fink also stressed the importance of awareness of the trail you are hiking as well having extra water, clothing and a light no matter what.

As you look for something to do as midterms and papers pile up, look no further than these three popular and local hikes.

Grey Rock

Visible from much of Fort Collins, Grey Rock is located just 20 miles from the CSU main campus. Driving up to the trailhead along the Poudre River, the sounds of the water mixed with the scent of pines and glow of changing leaves will leave you ready for a day on the 3-mile trail leading to the summit.

The pronounced granite formation looming over an open meadow has several routes leading to its overlook at 7,000 feet. The most common trip can usually be completed in a few hours. From the rocky summit, you can look down on Fort Collins to the east or look out at hundreds of miles of mountain ranges and snow-capped peaks to the west.

Blue arrows have been added to clearly mark the trail, but several people each year are rescued as they lose their bearings and become lost as the sun sets.

“Just let someone know where you are going and when you will be back,” Fink said. “We send people (search and rescue members) up immediately after we get a call.”

Lory State Park

Encompassing much of the hillside visible from the “Aggie-A”, Lory State Parkprovides visitors with a variety of afternoon activities or an easily accessible weekencamping trip.

Whether you want to mountain bike, hike or ride a horse, the 26 miles of trail that wind throughout the park offer something for everyone. Many who visit, hike to Arthur’s rock, the most noticeable rock formation in the park, along a moderate 2-mile trail to the summit.

If you just want to leave the hectic world of academia behind for a day, Lory State Park has plenty of spots to hang out, relax and enjoy Colorado’s Front Range.

“It’s definitely nice to get out to the mountains and have it so close,” said Elliott Silvers, a senior economics major. “It’s a good get-away from the city.”

Horsetooth Rock

After driving around the south bend of Horsetooth Reservoir, you will soon find a parking lot and trails leading up to the summit of this Fort Collins icon. The most common route is a moderate 3-mile hike, but for those looking for more adventure, trails connect this hike to Lory State Park and even down to the Devil’s Backbone west of Loveland.

   The summit will give you a view far off into the mountains to the south and west, as well as several other areas of forest worth exploring in the coming weeks before snow blankets Colorado.

Proximity and ease have made this one of the most popular hikes in the area, averaging more than 100,000 visitors each year, according to Travis Rollins, the visitor services manager for open spaces in the city.

“It’s a symbol of Fort Collins and of Larimer County,” he said. “Everyone sees the rock and wants to get to the top.”

Senior reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at

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