Category: Colorado Travel

Part 3 of Fort Collins Foothills and Food: Pinewood Reservoir, and Edora Park

There is loads to hike, taste, and experience in Fort Collins, Colorado. So far, I’ve already covered several city open spaces, trails, and restaurants in Part One and Park Two of this series. So, I am continuing the guide to the city here with coverage of new trails, restaurants and more!

Our hikes in this part 3 of the Fort Collins Foothills and Food series include the trails of Pinewood Reservoir, and the Coterie off of Spring Creek Trail from Edora Park. The restaurant spots include some of Fort Collins most unique spots, and this is the first part of this series to include other attractions here in the city.

Hikes in Fort Collins

Pinewood Reservoir and the Ramsay-Shockey Open Space

(c) ABR 2022

Pinewood Reservoir is part of the Larimer County park system. And I better start out this section of my post by mentioning that it’s not actually in Fort Collins. It’s about 45 minutes away from town and close to Loveland. That being said, I am still going to include it here, because it isn’t too far from town, and Pinewood has some very nice hiking options.

In particular, I did two trails when I went – Shoshone Trail and Besant Point Trail, which can be combined to create a lollipop. This lollipop was roughly 3 miles and included walks along the lake and ascents into the rolling hills that surround it. To access this lollipop route, park at the southern trailhead, where the restrooms are. Then, from there, you will follow Besant Point Trail along the southwestern edge of the lake along the shore. It’s a great place to see wildlife and enjoy the general beauty of the calm water of the reservoir.

(c) ABR 2022

Besant Point Trail ends when it conjoins with the loop, Shoshone Trail. We chose to hike up first, so we went into the hills as soon as we got to the junction. We took a clockwise direction. From there, the Shoshone trail is a bit more challenging than the shoreside trail, since it has some elevation gain. There are some great views from higher up, however, so if you are looking for a more challenging trek, I definitely suggest doing both trails.

To get here, you will take Taft Hill Rd/Wilson Road south from Fort Collins. Then you will turn west onto the 34. After that, you will need to head southwest towards Carter Lake, which you will pass while following County Road 18E. The easiest way to get good directions will be to put the lake into Google.

Need to Know Information

(c) ABR 2022

Land Manager: Larimer County

Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle

Difficulty: Moderate

Bathroom at the Trailhead: Yes

4WD Necessary: No

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Footrails and Food in Fort Collins, CO: Fossil Creek Reservoir, Maxwell Natural Area, and More

The northern most city in Colorado’s Front Range, Fort Collins is known for being home to Colorado State University. It’s a growing city, but with all the charm of a smaller town. Whether you are visiting, or moving here, there are plenty of trails and good food to be had. Along with the first part of this series, this guide will fill you in on where to hike in Fort Collins and a short series of food reviews for spots in town. Come with us to get an idea of new spots to check out for food and nature.

Where to Hike in Fort Collins

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space

(c) ABR 2022

Fossil Creek showcases a grand lake, and many birds utilize this habitat throughout the year. Along with trails, there are a couple of bird watching blinds, picnic areas, and a ranger station with a full bathroom. If you are thinking about where to hike in Fort Collins, and you are looking for a spot that is family friendly, Fossil Creek is a great option for where to hike in Fort Collins. The parking lot is between two main trail options.

The Cattail Flats Trail a 1.6 miles lollipop trail, and is the longer of the two options. It is a mostly flat trail that crosses the grasslands of the park, before stopping by the shore of the lake. This trail is closed in winter, so if you are set on seeing it, make sure to visit during any other season.

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A Day in Golden, CO for Hiking, Museums, and More!

Just outside of Denver, Colorado sits a little town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s got the perfect balance of access to the urban plains, small-town feel, and entrance into the mountains themselves. This little, lovely spot is Golden, CO.

For visitors, it’s got just about everything that you could need. There’s hiking in Golden, CO, good food, museums, and the Coors factory. (Did you know Coors was made in Colorado? Somehow I didn’t!) All this makes a day trip to Golden, CO a great option for any itinerary, and a must for anyone living in the state.

This short guide will give you a sense for the town, and help you plan your own trip to this lovely and easily-accessed mountain town.

Five Great Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Golden, CO

A taste of the mountains, close at hand

day in Golden CO

(c) ABR 2023

The mountain towns of Colorado are world-famous for the beautiful landscapes that they are nested within, and for their own, small-town USA charm. Golden has got you covered with both of those. You might not be up in the high Rockies, while visiting, but you will have amazing views of the mountains all around. And the town itself is gorgeous. Just taking an hour or two to walk the old, downtown area is a must. The buildings are lovely and there are loads of unique shops to check out. Taking in this little town is a great way to stay your day trip to Golden, CO, in fact.

It’s a really short drive from Denver (15-20 min) to get to Golden. It’s so close in fact, I would almost say that Golden could be considered a suburb. This means that if you don’t have time or the desire to drive deep into the mountains, this is an awesome option for a day of adventure and exploration.

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Two (Relatively) Easy Lake Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is rightfully known for its challenging and potentially dangerous treks through the mountain range for which the park is named. But not every beautiful trail through this park is a high adventure track for experiencing hikers only. And for those lovers of water among us, there are also beautiful trails that features montane lakes of exceptional beauty. In particular, I’d like to give you a glimpse into two easy lake hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Both are great for folks of all abilities and can be very family friendly as well. Gem Lake is a more challenging, upwards trek through the forest to a small, mountain lake. And Lily Lake is a short, flat hike that will take your around the body of water, with plenty of breathtaking views to be had on your stroll.

Let’s open the door to RMNP and see if these hikes are right for you.

Picking Your Easy Lake Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

At a glance, these two hikes are pretty different from one another, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to pick which one fits your needs. Alternatively, we did both in one afternoon and if you have the stamina for that, it’s a great day out in the park.

easy lake hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lily Lake (c) ABR 2022

Lily Lake is the shorter and easier of these hikes. There isn’t much elevation change, and you will have an easy stroll around the water. This is a busier area, however, with a smaller parking lot that is partially shared with trailheads across the highway. This can make parking a challenge and we had to cross the highway from our car, which I am not fond of. That being said, this is the better trail for an easy family hike, or for those friends among you who aren’t looking for a huff and puff up a mountain. This is a very accessible in terms of hiking skill level.

Gem Lake is a bit longer of a trek and it is more challenging of these two easy lake hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park because there is some elevation change from the trailhead to the lake itself. In fact, while this trail isn’t horribly hard, it is a pretty steady upwards hike. This is a wilder feeling area, and it has a pretty substantial parking lot that is more out of the way than Lily Lake. There is a bathroom here and when we visited, there were also volunteers at the trailhead. This is a doable family hike for families with kids that are used to hiking upwards.

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Foot Trails and Food in Fort Collins, CO: Pineridge, Riverbend Ponds, and Arapaho Natural Areas

Fort Collins in northern Colorado is a small(ish) college town that is known for being home to Colorado State University. And it is now home to Nightborn Travel. So, while this town might not be the #1 tourist spot in Colorado (which is not a bad thing), I will be exploring the trails and restaurants in Fort Collins (or FOCO) as thoroughly as I can.

We’ve got an amazing array of trails up here, managed by the city, county, and state, and it’s my goal to visit them all, big or small.

The restaurant scene here is also pretty small, but I am convinced that there are some gems out here.

Whether you are a long term local, a transplant like me, or a visitor to the area, join me now as I start to explore and appreciate my new home. If you are wondering about hiking in Fort Collins or food in Fort Collins, this is the guide for you.

Foot-trails and Hiking in Fort Collins

Tips and Safety Note for Hiking

hiking in fort collins

Viewpoint Trail at Pineridge (c) ABR 2022

Before heading out, check out the COTrex App for trail conditions. FOCO is very careful about closing trails when they are wet and prone to damage by use or potentially dangerous. Please don’t disobey trail closures while hiking in Fort Collins or elsewhere.

But remember, ANY time you go out hiking or traveling, your safety is your responsibility. This guide and any other guide is no guarantee of your safety. Check the weather. Wear the right clothes. Let people know where you are going. Bring snacks and water. ETC! Do your own research and be prepared.

As a final tip, many of these trails are near water which means that you need to exercise extra caution with yourself, your kids, and your pets. All water is dangerous, even if it looks calm.

Pineridge Natural Area

hiking in fort collins

Pineridge (c) ABR 2022

Pineridge Natural Area has a special place in my heart, because these are the first trails that I ever tried out for hiking in Fort Collins. In fact, I think it was only my second or third day after having moved into town that I visited. Not only that, but Pineridge helped me ease back into hiking after taking several months off due to plantar fasciitis.

This natural area is nestled between the foothills and a large city park called Spring Canyon. There is parking on both sides, and luckily, bathrooms to the south and north as well. But the amenities on either side are different. Near Spring Canyon Park, you can easily access Pineridge, but you can also access a dog park, skatepark, and traditional park. You can also park next to the Dixon Reservoir, and from there you can launch a small boat into the lake. On the flat plateau between the ridge and the lake you might catch sight of the local prairie dogs.

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2022

From the Spring Canyon side of the natural area, you will take the Foothills Trail up the small ridge from the park. Then you can cross the top of the ridge and walk down to the lake, which you can circle using the Reservoir Loop Trail. From the lake side, you can more easily get to the lake, as well as a couple of short, uphill trails – the Veiwpoint Spur and Timber Trail.

All of these trails are pretty short, but you can make up different combinations of various lengths and level of challenge.

Need to Know Information
hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2022

Land manager: City of Fort Collins

Entrance fee: None

Bathroom available at trailhead: Yes

4WD needed to access: No

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Part One of Things to Do In Denver, CO

As with any large city, there are so many cool things to do, that it’s hard to pick just a few. For those of you visiting Denver, CO, I will be compiling my thoughts on various activities and food locations across the city to help you pick the best options for you and the length of your stay. For those who live in and around Denver, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these spots. But for now, in this first installment I’d like to share my impressions of Denver’s Meow Wolf installation, Belmar Park – a nice spot for history and a stroll, and a couple takeaways for African cuisine in the city and drinks at Death and Co.

TL:DR Go to Meow Wolf. Skip Death and Co. And explore the suburbs for good food and a unique park.

About Me and How I Travel – Is This Guide for You?

(c) ABR 2022

The blogs that I get most excited about are those written by people who have a similar travel style to me, and who are looking for similar things.

Relevant to this urban guide – I’d like to briefly describe what it is that I look for while visiting cities, so you can tell if this guide is for you.

First, when it comes to museums and art, I am a huge fan of immersive installations. I like being able to explore, touch, climb, and experience history and art.

I’m also a HUGE nerd, so give me fantasy and sci-fi and I will be happy.

And finally, when it comes to hiking, I am not a purist. I consider most trails to count as hiking and when it comes to exploring new places, I enjoy strolling parks of all sizes and difficulties.

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Hiking Mount Falcon: Western Loop Trail Near Denver, CO

There is many a trail near Denver, CO. I’d go so far as to say that the city is world renowned for its hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities. A lot of the big, famous hikes are outside of the city, however, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. There are some amazing hiking opportunities within 45 min of the city center, and Mount Falcon is one of them.

In particular, the Western Loop Trail is a relatively easy-moderate trail that is great for families. This short trek also features several different, historic points of interest which include the cornerstone of a once-imagined, Summer White House (yes, for the president of the United States). Hiking Mount Falcon is a great way to learn more about Colorado’s history and experience the amazing scenery of the lower elevation Rocky Mountains.

hiking mount falcon

Walker Home Ruins (c) ABR 2022

Hiking Mount Falcon

If I were to describe the shape of this trail, I would say it’s a mix between a lollipop and an out and back trail. The loop is actually in the middle of your journey, and it offers the opportunity to turn your outing on this trail near Denver, CO into a shorter hike.

hiking mount falcon

(c) ABR 2022

From the trailhead, follow the track down towards the bathrooms and the Castle Trail (past the branch for Parmalee Trail). This is a very wide section of trail that feels a bit developed, but it makes passing and hiking with the crowds more comfortable. Eventually you will come to the junction between Castle Trail and the Tower Trail and you will have your first route decision on your hands. Castle trail is much flatter, and leads to the Walker Home Ruins. The Tower Trail leads to Mount Falcon, so it has more elevation gain. If you’d like to start with the more challenging hike, start with the Tower Trail. If you want to make sure you see the ruins, start with the Castle Trail.

Castle Trail and the Ruins

hiking mount falcon

Walker Home Ruins (c) ABR 2022

While hiking Mount Falcon, we took the Castle Trail first, and went straight to the Walker Home Ruins. This section of the trek is flat and meanders through the forest. It’s a bit well-loved, but the trail stays wide, so the crowding isn’t too bad. The Walker Home Ruins are the remains of a 1910s home that once belonged to the wealthy entrepreneur that bought the mountain. What remains are the stone walls of the home, and anything your imagination can conjure up.

hiking mount falcon

White House Summer Home (c) ABR 2022

From the short spur to see the ruins, we continued east on the Castle Trail on the longest spur of the hike. This took us past the junction at Two Dog Trail and past a picnic spot with amazing views of the city. Up the mountain on Walker’s Dream Trail is a bizarre historic relic, a marble block at the corner of Walker’s “Summer White House” site. If the idea of kids donating their money to a wealthy landowner so he could build a summer home for the United States president sounds odd to you… well, it is. The summer home was never built, but we now get to enjoy what remains of the fanciful idea.

Mount Falcon and the Tower

hiking mount falcon

Meadow Trail (c) ABR 2022

From the Summer White House site, turn around and head back to the junction with the Meadow Trail. This is near where you turned off for the Walker Home Ruins; take the Meadow Trail. Predictably, this trail will take you through an impressive meadow. It’s still relatively flat here. Be sure to enjoy the unique plants and flowers in this sunny part of the mountains, free from the shading crown of the trees.

The easy part of the trail will end, however, when you start to hike up towards Mount Falcon itself. You will notice a pretty big difference when you turn off of Meadow Trail onto Tower Trail. From here, you will hike up, up, up to aforementioned “Tower.” This is a raised platform where you can enjoy the heights and take pictures of the mountains.

hiking mount falcon

Eagle Eye Shelter (c) ABR 2022

The good news is that from here you will mostly be hiking down. And on your way off the mountain you will pass by another fascinating ruin – the Eagle Eye Shelter. This is what remains of a family home built on the side of the mountain, complete with marble accents from the old, abandoned Walker home. You will follow Tower Trail back to Castle Trail and then go back the way you came to the trailhead to complete your hike.

Need To Know Information

Trailhead Map

Trail length:

Trail difficulty: Easy to moderate

Restrooms available? Yes!

Entrance fee:

4WD needed to access? No

Other suggestions: The trailhead is small at Mount Falcon, so be sure to have a plan B if you go and the lot is full. You might also consider waiting a bit if you get to the trailhead and the lot is full. Like anywhere, trails have waves of users throughout the day.

How To Get There

(c) Google Maps

The best way to access the Western Loop trail near Denver, CO is to park at the Mt. Falcon Park- West Trailhead. Otherwise, you will be doing quite a bit more hiking than you might be planning.

You can put the West Trailhead into Google and get to the parking lot, but if you’d like to check your route, keep reading.

From Denver, you will need to take the 285 west, into the mountains. When you hit the town of Indian Hills, turn off of the freeway onto Parmalee Gulch (the 120) and head north. Past Parmalee Gulch Park and St. Anne’s in the Hills, you will turn right onto Picutis Rd. Take an immediate right to stay on this road as it loops up through the forest. Then take a very hard right onto Nambe Rd and follow this until it turns into Mt Falcon Road.

You can then follow this road to its end, where it turns into a parking lot/trailhead for hiking Mount Falcon.

Strange History

hiking mount falcon

View from the Summer White House (c) ABR 2022

Mount Falcon’s human history goes back thousands of years, but the ruins that dot the park these days are linked to a man named John Brisbane Walker. He bought the mountain in the late 1800s. He then built a mansion on the mountain, which looked down at the growing city of Denver. I guess this view really made him dream big, because from there, he started planning the Summer White House. John really loved that view enough that he felt Mount Falcon was worthy of the US president living on its shoulders for the summer. The marble cornerstone that is still onsite was laid in 1911.

Now, if you visit Mount Falcon, you will definitely feel the love for this place. It is beautiful. But what I thought was most interesting, is that Mr. Rich Man Walker was planning on asking the school children of the United States to contribute their “pennies” to the project. Mhm.

hiking mount falcon

Sketches of the Summer Home

While I would love to be able to visit a marble wonder in the mountains of Colorado (because… the sketches for the Summer White House were beautiful), I am happy that this guy’s dream didn’t come to fruition. The mountains are more peaceful now and the views that John loved so much have been preserved.

As for his original mansion, it was burned down by a fire in 1918. The story of the land afterwards is somewhat evident in the Eagle Eye Shelter. This crazy platform on the edge of the mountain is what remains of a private home. When you walk up to it, you will note the unique marble slabs on walk up. This marble was taken by the family from the old Walker mansion and reused.

Eventually, Jefferson County Open Space acquired the land of Mount Falcon for the public in 1974. Thanks to those hard-working folks who make places like this open for exploration and enjoyment.

Trail Thoughts

hiking mount falcon

(c) ABR 2022

Access to nature is important. Sounds silly to say, but Mount Falcon is a testament to how much work it can be to create and maintain “open spaces” or natural spaces for people to explore and experience.

For me, the natural world is a place where I can meditate, and open my mind. It can be a huge challenge, physical and mental. Or it can be a stroll through the woods along a creek. I’ve learned to mourn and celebrate change through nature. And I’ve learned about the unique beauty of the world, from the celebrated landscapes to more humble places that many consider to not be worth their time.

Nature is everything to me. Those spaces where I can find peace and experience things not created by humans.

hiking mount falcon

(c) ABR 2022

But there are so many people who would like to do those things, and would benefit as much as me or more, who can’t get out on the trail. They might not live in a city like Phoenix or Denver where trails are nearby. Or they might have physical or monetary limitations that make even those places hard to get to.

What’s been so joyful to me has been working with the people who are focused every day on expanding parks, taking care of the ones we already have, and improving access in so many different ways. If you can, give your Parks Department some extra love. Whether they are behind-the-scenes folks or rangers, these folks make nature accessible.


Remember, your safety in the wild is up to you. This guide is not a promise of safety.

Follow the tips above (they are not comprehensive), and do your own research on safety. Check the weather, travel when it is safe to do so, and don’t risk yourself for a hike.

Land Acknowledgement

The land that we know today as Colorado is the territory of the Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pueblo, Shoshone, and Ute tribes. The Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe a currently federally recognized Indian Tribes of Colorado.

For a historically in-depth land acknowledgement, check out the American Library Association’s Indigenous Tribes of Colorado.

Exploring More of Colorado

There will be more Colorado guides coming to Nightborn Travel soon! We moved here in 2022, and have just started exploring this beautiful state.

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