Horsetooth Mountain is less than a half an hour drive outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. The preserve provides multiple options for hiking as well as the best view of the plains of northeastern Colorado.
At around 5 miles long, the standard hike to Horsetooth Rock is ideal for a vacation day, not too short and not too extreme. There is a fair amount of elevation change, but it is gradual and scenic. And the uphill portion is on the way up, so you’re not met with a grueling last sprint to get back to your starting point.
However, there are also multiple other trails and routes you can take if you are looking for something different or more strenuous.
Parking is limited, so it’s a good idea to get to the lot early—definitely before 11 AM on weekends, and even earlier on holidays or summer days. There is also a fee for parking—I believe it was $6 or so. (To my knowledge, there’s no street parking close by.) The lot is along on the other side of road from this location on Google Maps. “Horsetooth Mountain” on Google takes you to the actual mountain peak, which you can’t drive to.
The hike to Horsetooth Mountain is marked well and the maps at the entrance explain how to get there. You might have some confusion later on when you’re approaching the peak, but just stay to the right and look out for the Horsetooth Rock in view and you can’t miss it. By this time, you’ll probably be getting tired from the elevation and the long uphill stint, but it’s worth it to make it all the way up to the summit—and to hike on top of the rock. The way back is all downhill….