Part 5 of Fort Collins Footrails and Food: Longmont, North Shields Ponds, Ross and Running Deer

I am back here with the fifth part of my series on hiking, food, and attractions in and near Fort Collins, CO.

This particular post is a little bit of an interesting one, because I started out with this series focusing on trails. The parks that I cover here in Part 5 aren’t my favorite, as sad as that is to say. BUT I am hoping to explore all the Natural Areas in town, so that means checking out the amazing ones and the humble ones.

Additionally, because the experiences that culminated in this post happened mostly over the winter, there is more emphasis here on food than trails. AND I have some information on some cool attractions in the Longmont area – which is just south of Fort Collins. When traffic isn’t so bad, it is about an hour drive there.

So, if you are looking for some short winter walks, and lots of good food options, this is the series chapter for you. And if you are wondering about what to do on an afternoon in Longmont, I’ve also got some ideas for you.


North Shields Ponds Natural Area

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

North Shields Ponds Natural Area is a very small park near the Poudre River. It has tracks that circle two small ponds. This makes for a figure 8 trail of about 1.5 miles.

I must say, of the Fort Collins parks that I have been to, this was the only one that has made me uncomfortable. It’s tucked back in an area that is a little industrial, so it has a particular kind of traffic. So, I’d suggest not going here alone – at least based on my experience here.

Ross Natural Area

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2022

The Ross Natural Area is a small natural area that is home to a short, 0.7 mile section of the Spring Creek Trail. While there isn’t much hiking here, it is connected to Rolland Moore Park. So, it is a nice little area to bring the family for a day outside.

Running Deer Natural Area

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

Running Deer Natural Area is host to about 2 miles of trails. The terrain is flat, and situated in a reclaimed and restored part of the city. It is protects the historic White Pine Fire Lookout.

When I visited, there was a lot of construction in the park, so we weren’t able to visit the lookout. Without access to this part of the park, I honestly didn’t find this to be an exceptional place to visit. It’s also very close to prettier parks. Once all the trails are open again, I think this would be a fun place to visit to see the restored lookout.


Longmont Museum

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

One of the bigger towns between Fort Collins and Denver is Longmont. We go there fairly regularly for the tiki restaurant there (more below on that!). Longmont Museum is one great place to learn more about the history of Longmont and the surrounding area. On top of the history, the museum also has a tower with amazing views of the surrounding area, and they have some rotating art installations as well.

At $8 per adult ticket (in 2024), it’s a pretty reasonable price to pay to learn about the local story of place. Longmont Museum is not big, but it’s local and lovingly curated.

Tower of Compassion: Kanemoto Park, Longmont

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2022

In an unassuming park in Longmont, CO is a really unique and beautiful Japanese Pagaoda. I was pretty shocked to find this five-tiered structure, shaped like a Japanese temple in a small town on the Front Range. The park surrounding it is nice, but nothing particularly special in so far as American parks go. But the Compassion Tower, as it is called, is clearly the gem of the park, and feels very out of the place.

I was wondering if these was a sort of Sister City deal, but it turns out that the Compassion Tower was gifted to the town of Longmont by the Kanemoto family. All the way back in 1919, the family settled in Longmont, where they settled down to farm and run their own business. Eventually, they started many businesses in the town, which significantly supported Longmont’s growth over time. With this success, the family gave back to the town – donating Kanemoto park, the Compassion Tower, along with a fire station, St. Vrain Greenway, among other things.

Besides being cool then, the Compassion Tower is a key part of Longmont’s history that might not otherwise be known to those not familiar with the town’s history.


Bejing Noodle

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

On the western side of Fort Collins, there is a really cool Chinese restaurant, called Bejing Noodle. What’s so cool about it? It’s not your typical American Chinese restaurant! They feature genuine Chinese foods, and that includes bunches of things I’ve never seen before.

Their restaurant is a small, humble place with reasonable prices. I plan on going back to keep trying new things!

They are open Monday through Saturday from 11am – 8pm.

Address: 1005 W Stuart St a 1, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Bluebird Café

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

Bluebird Café was the first restaurant I ever ate at in Fort Collins. I was taken here by my now-boss for my interview, and ever since then, this warm little restaurant has become my go-to breakfast place. I’ve had many a meal here, and the food is always good. The restaurant is also very cozy and accomplishes the diner feel without being too dated.

My favorite thing to get here is half a waffle covered in fruit. But they also have more healthy options. Everything I’ve gotten here is simple, and good.

They are open every day from 7-2p (sometimes earlier).

Address: 524 W Laurel St, Fort Collins, CO 80521

DC Oakes

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

DC Oakes is somewhere that feels like it is a chain, but it isn’t. For me, I liked what I got there, but it just hasn’t been an exceptional enough of a spot for us to go back to. If you are looking for a nice American option, with a brewery, I think DC Oakes would be a good place. But if you are only in Fort Collins for a short time, it wouldn’t be at the top of my list.

Fort Collins Donut Company

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

Fort Collins Donut Company is located inside of Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar and Pub, and they have pretty limited hours from Thursday to Sunday. But if you are looking for fresh, tasty donuts, this is the spot in Fort Collins.

When you order at FOCO DOCO, they will freshly pull together the donuts and the flavors. And they are little donuts, so if you don’t want a huge treat, these are also a great option.

Address: 215 N College Ave, Fort Collins, CO 80524

Himalayan Bistro

These momos are exceptional! Don’t judge them based on this picture! (c) ABR 2023

I love Indian food, and while I know less about Nepalese food, I have VERY much enjoyed what I have had of it. So the Himalayan Bistro has become a regular spot for me. Not only do I love getting some entrees from them (which last me for 3-4 meals), I also really love their momos (or Nepalese dumplings).

Furthermore, as a lover of sweet chai, I stop by the Himalayan Bistro for a to-go cup of chai with far regularity. It has a great balance between the complex flavor of a good chai, and sugary goodness.

They atmosphere in this little restaurant is also really nice. They have a beautiful mural and pictures that make you imagine visiting Nepal yourself.

They are open Monday to Saturday, and they are closed on Sunday. They open at 11a to 2:30p and they then take a break until 4p and close at 9p.

Address: 2720 Council Tree Ave #184, Fort Collins, CO 80525

Izakaya Jooa

hiking in fort collins

(c) ABR 2023

This is another restaurant that we went to when I first came to Fort Collins to interview for a job. For a long time, Izakaya Jooa was closed due to COVID impacts, and I was convinced that we would never get to enjoy this cute little, Asian restaurant again.

An Izakaya is a kind of Japanese bar, and Izakaya Jooa has the warmth and coziness of a nice, neighborhood gathering space. And they have a mix of Japanese and Korean food. I typically go here for bibimbap and so far it has never disappointed.

For the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant and the good food, this is definitely a spot I would recommend if you are looking for some Korean (but not BBQ).

They are open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 9p.

822 S College Ave, Fort Collins, CO 80524

Nimo’s Sushibar

(c) ABR 2023

I actually hesitated to write this part of my guide… because I honestly feel like Nimo’s is a secret that I’d like to keep. Nimo’s Sushibar is the best sushi I’ve ever had – and that includes sushi from Japan. But the folks who own and run Nimo’s are from Japan, and the love they put into their food is very apparent.

They have a simple menu, but everything that they do, they do extremely well. Their fish is exceptionally tasty and fresh. If you don’t like sushi though. This place won’t be somewhere that you enjoy. That’s because that’s most of what they have.

If you do want to go to Nimo’s, call ahead for a reservation. I believe that they are open from Thursday to Sunday from 5-9p.

Address: 921 E Harmony Rd #104, Fort Collins, CO 80525

Swaylos in Longmont

(c) ABR 2023

One of our favorite restaurants in Northern Colorado is Swaylos Tiki. Of course, this is partially because we are huge tiki fans. But I am also a huge fan of Swaylo’s atmosphere and their drinks.

They have two sections of the restaurant in terms of décor. The inner section is a “pirate” ship that surrounds the bar. It is darker in here, and the wooden booths are lined with tiki mugs and other nautically themed objects. The outer ring is brighter and complete with rattan chairs and parrot chandeliers (that I would love to have in my tiki room). Their drink menu is a mix of classic tiki drinks and Swaylos originals.

And personally, I like the Hawaiian/Asian fusion food here as well. They even have Haupia pie for dessert!

Swaylos opens every day at 4p.

Address: 1315 Dry Creek Dr, Longmont, CO 80503

Exploring More of Colorado?

Are you planning a trip to Colorado, or thinking about visiting spots that you haven’t see yet in your home state? I’ve got a growing list of guides on hiking and exploring this state – especially on the Front Range. Of course, you might also check out the other parts of this series, which cover more of Fort Collins’ trails and restaurants.

For the rest of the Fort Collins series:

Part 1 includes information on hiking at Pineridge Natural Area, Riverbend Ponds, Arapaho Bend Natural Area.

Part 2 has got you covered for trails at Fossil Creek Reservoir, Maxwell Natural Area, Environmental Learning Center, and Kingfisher Point.

Part 3 takes you out into Pinewood Reservoir and Ramsay-Shockey Open Space, and the Coterie and Spring Creek Trail.

Part 4 is your quick guide to hiking at River’s Edge and Salyer Natural Areas, Reservoir Ridge Natural Area, and Soaring Vista Natural Area.

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  1. Loved your post. Having many years of experience on the front range, I appreciated your honest assessment. I was involved in the planning of the Ft Collins’ river trail back in the early 70’s. I hope you are enjoying your CO journey.

    • waitingforrain28

      Oh Gene! It’s great to hear from you! I would love to catch up sometime soon. I’ve been loving the foresight that was put into the natural areas of FOCO, and it’s cool to hear that you were involved in the past.

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