If you’ve driven in Fort Collins or Larimer County, you’ve likely seen Horsetooth Rock. The stone landmark sits at 7,255 feet above Horsetooth Reservoir. It’s also a popular hike.
The trail starts at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, not the reservoir. There is a $6 fee per vehicle at the parking lot.
Getting to Horsetooth Rock is a good challenge and hikers have options. No matter which way you go, expect an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet from the parking lot to the bottom of the formation.
1. The Horsetooth Rock trail. This trail is 2.5 miles each way, out and back, and hiker only. The trail starts in the parking lot and winds its way up to the rock. There are several trail splits along the way, make sure you watch the signs. This is an interesting trail that in single track at times and road wide at times. The trail winds its way through forest, between rocks and around other features. It has a nice variety with great views of the reservoir and Front Range.
2. Horsetooth Rock and Horsetooth Falls loop. Approx. 6.5 miles. This is a great way to see the park, including a waterfall on the way to Horsetooth Rock. This loop takes hikers down to the river, through a scenic canyon, past a raging waterfall and into the forest as it winds its way up to Horsetooth Rock. This was probably a good time to see the falls with the snow melting. Take the Horsetooth Falls split off the Horsetooth Rock trail. At the falls, backtrack to the Spring Creek Trail to the top of the falls. After exploring, back track to the Spring Creek Trail again. Take the Spring Creek Trail to the Wathen Trail and loop back to the Horsetooth Rock Trail.The trail ends at the bottom of the formation, so you will have to boulder to the top. At the summit, you will be able to see RMNP, Longs Peak, Pikes Peak, Wyoming and the Great Plains. After some pictures and a good PB&J on top, to head back down you will take the Horsetooth Rock Trail back to the parking lot.
3. Pick up a map and create your hike/loop. The park has 29 miles of trails so you can easily create your own loop.
As you hike along, notice the names of the trails. The Wathen, Herrington, Soderberg and Culver trails are named for the families that homesteaded this area in the early 1900s.
While you may think Horsetooth Rock could look like the teeth in a horse’s mouth, according to a local European legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, cut in two by the powerful Native American, Chief Maununmoku, thus protecting his people from the giant’s wrath. (Yes, I read the history of my hikes along the way)
I took my friend from Indiana and he did well. So I think it’s a great hike to take visitors for a good view and good hike that is not too easy, but not crazy challenging. The climbs are always worth the views.