“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
The Foothills Trail from the Maxwell Open Space starts off on the flat plains just west of Fort Collins near the CSU Rams Stadium, where it continues for the first three quarters of a mile.
Very soon, the trail takes a jag and begins to ascend out of the plains and onto the first ridge that marks the hogback-the same hogback that runs from southern Wyoming all the way through Colorado to northern New Mexico. You can see posts I’ve done on other area hikes on this same hogback-the Devil’s Backbone here and The Blue Sky Trail here.
Once up on top of the ridge, you can very quickly see all of Fort Collins and the surrounding countryside below and the ridge top meadow opens up before you.
There is an interchange with the actual trail leading straight ahead or another trail cutting off to the north (right)-I’m not sure if this is an actual trail, but there was no sign saying to stay out, so I chose that route.
Soon after, I was rewarded by commanding views of the high plains below and then a surprise sighting of a herd of deer grazing. They quickly were put on high alert and watched my every move as I snapped a few photos and went on my way.
Following this trail for about a mile, you quickly come upon and cross the highway, heading towards the Horsetooth Reservoir.
Crossing over the highway, the reservoir comes into sight. The reservoir, created in 1949, is an oblong body of water stretching for 6.5 miles to the west of Fort Collins that provides municipal and irrigation water to the region as well as many recreation opportunities, including swimming, fishing and hiking in the surrounding open space.
Here, this makeshift trail hooks back up with the Foothills Trail, where you can continue north or turn back south to form a loop and head back to Maxwell.
From here, you follow the trail along the reservoir for about another mile to another small parking area, where I usually access the trail for a shorter trail run along the trail.
Following the path above the water, you are rewarded with great views of the reservoir and surrounding hills. Just across the way you can view Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park, which is a Larimer County open space with miles of hiking trails itself.
After once again crossing over the highway heading east, you can complete the hike by heading back down the hill or take a slight detour and recommended Overlook Trail, which heads south alongside the highway for about a half mile, climbing the top of the hogback ridge to an overlook. With views both over the plains and of Fort Collins to the east and the reservoir and the hills to the west, this short spur is well worth it.
With or without taking this spur, return the way you came back down to the lot at Maxwell Open Space, where you can continue on to Pine Ridge Open Space and extend your hike by a few more miles.
In fact, the great thing about this side of Fort Collins is the fact that you can hike an entire string of trails of over 10 miles from Reservoir Ridge Open Space in the north down to the loop at Pine Ridge in the south.