Summits are always a big draw no matter where they are. The ability to see for miles makes them appealing and they give a feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing you made it to the top on your own. We like the summit hikes in Poudre Canyon because they strike a good balance between not to close to Fort Collins and not to far away. There are even good options for beginners.
- Gateway Natural Area: The Gateway Natural Area has two easy and short trails that will give you some great views up and down the Poudre Canyon. The Overlook Trail begins directly in front of parking area and climbs 200 feet in 0.3 miles one way along a ridge. This is the perfect trail if you want something easy and scenic. The Black Powder Trail begins a short walk away from the parking area across a bridge. It is longer at 0.7 miles one way and it will climb 430 feet to a hill top also overlooking Poudre Canyon at a maximum elevation of 5,800 feet. And while you aren’t taking on these two easy summits you can relax along the river and take advantage of one of the picnic tables inside the Natural Area.
- Greyrock Mountain: The Greyrock Mountain sits on a small ridge just over 7,600 feet high. In addition to the summit there are two other features that make this a place worth visiting. Right after you finish the most difficult part of the trail and make it to the top of the summit ridge, you will enter a very small clearing. It is surprising to see it after scrambling over rocks and my first reaction to it was to pause and admire it. Farther along, you’ll find a small pond at the base of the summit. This small unlikely pool of water survives on rain and melted snow and provides a second surprise for the first time visitor. And not to be forgotten is the scenery up and down the Front Range from the summit. The trail steep and rated as difficult, so you will certainly work for it but the climb doesn’t require any mountaineering skills just good physical fitness or a lot of time.
- Mount McConnell: Reaching the summit of Mount McConnell by the most direct route requires a 1.9 mile one way hike gaining 1,360 feet. This route starts from the trailhead and is the farthest west of the trail options. You will hike up switchbacks, through the trees almost the entire way. (Actually a lot of the trees may be gone now because of the 2012 High Park Fire.) You’ll pass some rock slide areas once or twice and as you approach the summit you’ll start to follow a steep ridge line that will provide you with nice scenic views to the west. Most of the best views from the summit are to the west and south with trees blocking much of the scenery to the east. If you want to make a loop hike out of this trail be aware that the eastern part of the Mount McConnel Trail has some very steep technical sections. You won’t need a rope but you will need to take your time and use your hands.
If you’ve visited any of these summits we’d love to hear about it. Give us a shout in the comment section.