Taking a day hike on one of the many trails near Fort Collins is one of the best ways to refresh your mind and body. With all the stress that students face, between school and jobs, it is a good idea to take a day off now and again to relax.
Meg Farwell, an Equine Science Major at CSU and an outdoor enthusiast, enjoys hiking in the mountains on the weekends.
"It is a good way to relax after a hard week at school," Farwell said. "You might as well use the mountains. They are right there and there is not much prettier than that."
The Big South Trail, located in the Poudre Canyon, is one of the many great opportunities near Fort Collins to take your mind off the strain of everyday life with a hike.
The Big South Trail travels alongside the Cache la Poudre River, at times wandering away into the woods and then tracking back towards the river. The trail runs for about 12 miles one direction with the only option of return being the way you came. This is rather long for a day hike so the best idea here is to walk for a few hours, break for lunch, then head back to your car.
One particularly nice feature of the Big South is that dogs are welcome on the trail.
Hiking with your dog is a great idea, according to Jo Van Cutsem an employee in REI's hiking department, as long as you are careful.
"It is like a family thing to do so why not bring your dog?" Van Cutsem said. "You have to keep in mind that you are not the only one on the trail, some people are scared of dogs so you should always keep a leash with you no matter what."
Around ten miles up the trail hikers will cross into Rocky Mountain National Park, where dogs are not allowed. At this point hikers with dogs should turn around, heading back towards the trailhead.
The best thing about day hiking, Van Cutsem claimed, is that anyone can do it.
"There is so much variety," Van Cutsem said. "You can do a small walk through the park or climb a fourteener (14,000 ft. peak) if you want. It does not take that long and it is fairly inexpensive."
An important thing to remember when you are hiking is to go with your friends. That way if something happens you have help. Always tell someone where you are headed and when you plan on returning so if something goes wrong help will know where to find you.
When hiking a sturdy boot that provides support is important as the trail can be covered with loose rocks that can easily twist an ankle. The mornings in the canyon can be cold and pants are a better idea than shorts, not to mention they offer protection from the shrubs and bushes that line the trail. Hikers also should pack a sweatshirt, rain jacket, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and always carry at least two liters of water per person.
To get to the Big South Trailhead, head north on College, Highway 287. Follow Highway 287 out of Fort Collins for about 11 miles, turn left at Ted's Place on to Highway 14, Poudre Canyon Highway. Drive Highway 14 for approximately 49 miles, the trailhead is on the south (left) side of the highway just before the Big South Campground and a bridge crossing the Poudre River. The drive will take just over an hour depending on traffic and time of day.