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Fort Collins - Colorado

Founded in 1864, as a post to protect travelers using the Overland Trail and as a trading center for northern Colorado settlers, Fort Collins is a scenic city of more than 100,000 people who live in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rockies. Situated midway between Denver and Cheyenne, this town is a relaxed place, and home to Colorado State University.

The University provides a base for an outstanding cultural cultural scene, with more than the usual number of bookstores, small shops, art galleries, historic sites, good restaurants, coffee houses, and several micro brewpubs.

Within an hour of the city, you'll find the natural beauty and rugged scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Red Feather Lakes region, and the canyon of the wild and scenic Cache La Poudre River. This is an ideal place from which to explore the Northern Colorado Rockies, with guest ranches, state and county parks, and forest recreation areas just a few minutes away.

What to See and Do

The best place to begin a visit here is to go to the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau, at 3545 East Prospect Road, at the southwest corner of Prospect & I-25. (970) 491-3388 or 800-274-3678.

Cultural Scene

The city is well endowed with performance venues, including the 1180-seat Lincoln Center performance hall, and the much smaller Bas Bleu Theatre in downtown Fort Collins. Performing groups include the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra, Opera Fort Collins, OpenStage Theatre, and the Carousel Dinner Theatre. During the year, you'll find an ongoing series of art and music festivals.

The Historic Old Town District is centered on College Street (State Route 287), which was the original main driving route north from Denver, before Interstate 25 was built. Many original buildings from the early 1900s have been preserved and are home to offices, stores, and restaurants.

History buffs will enjoy visiting Avery House, 328 West Mountain Avenue, a home built in 1879 by Franklin Avery, who was instrumental in bringing the railroad to this part of Colorado. It was Avery who surveyed the town, designed the wide streets, and then established the first water projects which brought farming to the plains just east of the Rockies. The home is open on Sundays and Wednesdays, from 1 to 3 p.m. For information, call (970) 221-0533.

For a good overview of local history, go to the Fort Collins Museum, at 200 Mathews Street, downtown. The museum emphasizes the natural environment and the lives of early residents. Collections include mammoth fossils, as well as Indian and settler artifacts, and a look into the city's future. Three early buildings in the Pioneer Courtyard include an old log cabin which was the home of one of the first area settlers. The Auntie Stone Cabin is the only remaining building from the original army fort. The Boxelder Schoolhouse was brought to the museum from Upper Boxelder Canyon, where it was used as a school from 1884 to 1951.

Outdoors

With the Rockies at their doorstep, Fort Collins residents have a wealth of outdoor experiences to enjoy, and the region is fast becoming a popular recreation area for visitors. The Cache La Poudre River tumbles down the slopes of the Front Range, and flows through Fort Collins before emptying into the South Platte River east of Greeley.

Over its run, the river drops more than 7,000 feet. The magnificent canyon was a home for early Natives, and then a place where gold was sought and timber was cut for railroad ties. Now, 75 miles of the river are protected with the "wild & scenic" designation. Several trails begin in the canyon, and are traveled by foot, horse, and bicycle. Snowy winter trails offer fine cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Hunting is permitted in season.

The Cache La Poudre offers some of the best fishing in the state. 50 miles of the river are stocked with rainbow and brown trout, while the area near the town of Rustic has wild trout waters, perfect for fly and lure anglers. Fishing licenses may be purchased at local sporting goods stores, and at the state Division of Wildlife offices. White water boating is popular from April through August. Commercial outfitters provide guided raft and kayak trips.

Red Feather Lakes is located northwest of Fort Collins, surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest. This is a prime recreation area with great mountain meadows, streams, and high peaks. The National Forest contains four wilderness areas, plus the Arapahoe Wildlife Refuge. A little known route, along Long Draw Road, leads to the remote northwest area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Rustic and not-so-rustic resorts in the area offer ranch activities, river front access to the Cache La Poudre, rafting, and riding.

Riverbend Ponds Natural Area is an outstanding family learning and recreation area -- accessed from three entrances: off Mulberry Street (north entrance), from Cherly Street (east entrance), and from the south on Prospect Street. The Habitat Walk is a nature study trail with 12 interpretation stations. The preserve contains small ponds which host wildlife, and part of the trail leads along the Cache La Poudre River.

Trails and Open Spaces: Fort Collins has been well planned, with open spaces and parks set aside over the past 25 years, with an emphasis on preserving the foothills areas west of town. 20 miles of recreational trails lead beside Horsetooth Reservoir, and to the open spaces: Campeau/Reservoir Ridge, Cathy Fromme Prairie, Maxwell, and Pineridge. A handy brochure on the trail system is available from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Farm at Lee Martinez Park opened in 1985 and has become a very popular place for families to observe farm animals. Self-guided tours lead visitors around the farm, but guided tours are also available. The Farm Museum offers displays of antique farm implements. Pony rides are available. This was a real farm, operated by the George Wilcox family from 1912. In 1920, the farm was sold to J.A. Nelson, and Nelson's Dairy was established. After 1945, the property changed hands many times, before it was purchased by the city. For more information, call The Farm at (970) 221-6665.

Scenic Drives

There are three great scenic drives from the Fort Collins area, all leading into the Rockies. To drive through the foothills to Rocky Mountain National Park, drive south of town along either State Route 287 (College Street) until you arrive in the small town of Loveland. Turn west onto Route 34 for the 40-minute drive to the resort town of Estes Park, where you''ll find the east entrance to the national park. This road continues through the park as Trail Ridge Drive -- a route that takes you high above the tree line to tundra country, and then down beside the Colorado River.

Highway 14 offers a thrilling drive through the Front Range, between Fort Collins and the town of Walden, in the beautiful valley known as North Park. The route follows the path of the Cache La Poudre River, leading to many recreational areas, with the high point at Cameron Pass. Facilities for travelers are found at Ted's Place (at the junction of Highways 287 and 14), and at Poudre Park, Poudre City, and Walden.

County Road 74 E, the route to Red Feather Lakes, is found north of Fort Collins via State Route 287 (at the community of Forks). The Red Feather area offers more rustic resorts and fishing. The town is very small, with a dozen or so quaint shops and cafes.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

Reserve hotel rooms in Colorado

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Guide to Fort Collins

 

Guest Ranches

Sylvan Dale and other guest ranches are famous for their hospitality, and for the mountain and foothills recreation. Here are two of the favorites.

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch
2939 N. County Road 31D, Loveland, CO 80538
(970) 667-3915
Near Fort Collins, Sylvan Dale offers a unique opportunity to stay at a guest ranch in the foothills of the Rockies. It's located southwest of Fort Collins, and ten minutes west of Loveland, just off Highway 34. The ranch has cabin units which are well furnished and decorated. Set beside the Big Thompson River, the ranch offers fine fishing, horse riding, swimming, tennis, cookouts, western dancing, and tours to Rocky Mountain National Park. Most visitors take the 6-night package from Sunday to Saturday. The ranch is noted for its great meals, and unrelenting hospitality.

Glen Echo Resort
31503 Poudre Canyon Road, Bellevue, CO 80512
(970) 881-2208 or 800-348-2208
This rustic cabin resort is set on the Cache La Poudre River, 41 miles west of Fort Collins, on State Route 14 -- the scenic drive to Walden and North Park. Furnished housekeeping cabins are available, as are private family-sized homes. The resort also has a restaurant, and a grocery store with ice, propane, gasoline, fishing licenses, plus a laundry and RV spaces with hookups and concrete patios,.

Fort Collins Camping

Mile Hi KOA Kampground
P.O. Box 600, Laporte, CO 80535
(970) 493-9758
This KOA is located at State Highway 287 and Poudre Canyon, and offers all the standard KOA features.

KOA Fort Collins North
P.O. Box 130, Wellington, CO 80549
(970) 568-7486
This campground is slightly closer to Fort Collins, and is located at Interstate 25 and Owl Canyon Road (Exit 281.

Glen Echo Resort (see above) has RV spaces with hookups and concrete patios, a restaurant, and a grocery store with ice, propane, gasoline, fishing licenses, plus a laundry.

Lory State Park offers backcountry camping but does not have developed camp sites. To get there, drive north from Fort Collins on Highway 287. Turn left onto Road 52-E and turn left onto Road 25-G, and then turn right onto Road 23-N. To reach the park office, travel north from the entrance for 3200 yards, turn right and follow the park road.

Forest Service Campgrounds are located along the Cache La Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, via State Route 14. This route also offers private campgrounds, plus primitive and backcountry sites which can be reached by car on back roads, and others by hiking. For information on Roosevelt and Arapahoe National Forest facilities, visit the U.S. Forest Service office in Fort Collins (1311 S. College Avenue), or (in summer) at the Arrowhead Lodge Visitor Center on Highway 14, milepost 88. The lodge is 32 miles up the Poudre Canyon from the U.S. 287/State Route 14 junction at Ted's Place.

For details on nearby towns and attractions,
Go to
Denver, Aspen, Breckenridge,
Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

 

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