“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” -Willian Shakespeare
Like so many other hikes along the front range near Fort Collins, this one combines wide open fields with tall grasses, red cliffs and some thin forest in the foothills to the west. Owned by the city of Fort Collins, this preserve is conveniently located 30 minutes southwest of Fort Collins and 20 minutes west of Loveland. Although lacking the grandeur of the high Rockies an hour away, these open space areas located close to the cities of the front range provide great recreation opportunities and are highly valued by local residents.
There are 4 or 5 different trails located in the preserve, giving hikers and cyclists a few different options. We opted for the 4.5 Valley Loop Trail in conjunction with the 2.6 out and back Eden Valley Trail for a total of 7.1 miles. The combination of the two provided a nice little local morning hike that features a cabin dating from 1917 and plenty of barking prairie dogs keeping watch.
Although cloudy, the weather was a warm 45 degrees and the dim, gloomy light provided great atmosphere for taking photos and really pulled out the muted colors this time of year. The yellow and russet colored tall grasses, the spot of green pine here and there and the vibrant red cliffs really give the area an ‘old west’ feel.
Towards the end of the Eden Valley Trail spur, the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal crosses the edge of the property. This canal is a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson water reclamation project, which delivers water from the western slope of the Rockies to this more arid side of the range.
GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD: Drive 16 miles from Fort Collins on County Road 38E to Masonville and turn left on Buckhorn Road, continuing for approximately 0.5 mile, taking the first left.
STATISTICS: The Valley Loop Trail is 4.5 miles. The Eden Valley Spur is a 1.3 miles out and back connecting to the main trail.