A spring excursion for everyone (well, almost everyone) at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
Waking from your long winter’s sleep? Want to chase down a taste of spring? Try out Bobcat Ridge, one of Fort Collins’ Natural Areas. With 16 miles of trails this foothills area has something for everyone. And I mean everyone. Almost.
There are the bottoms – a lovely long, broad meadow watered by a gentle stream, dotted with flowers and filled to overflowing with the song of meadowlarks.
The howling hill sides – shaded by tall pines in the north, opened to the sun by fire in the south, all of it steeply climbing 1,400 vertical feet in 3 ½ miles.
And the top — breathless glimpses of mountain glory beyond plus the secluded embrace of a blessed natural sculpture garden.
Out with a wheel chair, stroller or just wanting a easy saunter? An accessible path begins at the parking area, changing to packed fine gravel, gliding over the meadow. To the right is the ragged red cliff of one of the hogbacks, to the left the mighty slopes. The sun is typically bright and warm.
The flowing water draws birds and butterflies. Ranching history is highlighted at the trailhead and at the trail’s end 1 ½ miles along where a cabin with farm implements is open for viewing.
Active hike? The valley offers a loop trail of about 3 ½ miles. Want more? Head into the trees to the garden I was telling you about, Mahoney Park. It’s a steep scramble up the Power Line Trail, 1 ½ miles. Take lunch. (Ah, Omar, you had this garden in mind didn’t you? “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness….” )
Incredible conditioning ascent? The Ginny Trail climbs up and up, 1,400 feet of winding tread without a lick of shade. At the top you’ll see forever. From there follow the ridge to Mahoney Park and descend there or continue to the wildest of the trails, the D.R. which makes a path through the hills and hollows in deep pine shade.
Mountain biker? One half of the valley trails are open for pleasant cross-country travel. If intensity is what you are after put it in high gear and muscle up the ridge at the Power Line, screaming down the Ginny Trail. Some bridges, narrows, jumps and other features have been built for you.
Horseback? Yes, most of the Natural Area is open for my friend Flicka, including the valley trails and the wooded D.R. trail up the hill. Parking is available for trailers.
Dogs? Nope, not for you. Sorry Bowser, you are not welcome. You’ll have to play in the much more crowded, but still fun, Horsetooth Mountain area just to the north. Frankly there are too many predators hidden in these hills for it to be safe for you.
Wildlife cams have captured many shots of mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and bears. Check out www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/wildlife-camera.php to see for yourself. It adds excitement to your hike, knowing that these fearsome creatures are napping nearby.
Want to go? From Cheyenne, WY, take I-25 south to Harmony Road, exit 265. Follow Harmony west to its end, continuing on W. County Road 38E as it climbs around Horsetooth Reservoir. When you reach the old cross-roads of Masonville turn left on N. County Road 27. The park is on the right. Look for signs within a half mile of the turn. It takes a little more than an hour from Cheyenne.
The price? Absolutely free. Restrooms are available in the valley only. Carry water. Have fun. Sorry about your dog.
Other spring or fall hikes? Eagle’s Nest Open Space welcomes dogs, as does Gateway Natural Area and its access to Seaman Reservoir. Look them up at www.AwayFromTheGrind.com under Colorado.