Busy trails with lots of people make for frustrating runs. Here in Fort Collins proper we see a lot of trash on the trail, hikers blasting music with their phones, and large groups blocking the trail ahead; all of which can really can take the enjoyment out of a run. There's something really special about running on trails and actually feeling like you're in the wilderness. If you're anything like me, THIS is why you trail run.
Runners tend to be creatures of habit, returning to familiar runs that are convenient to get to; for those of you that fall into this category, I encourage you to try something new. I've listed below some local trail outings that offer uncrowded trails, in unfamiliar mountains, and silent wilderness serenity.
Trails Within Fort Collins
Pineridge - Lookout Trail
Pineridge Natural Area is mostly crowded, but there's one trail that I never see anyone on. Short and sweet, this .75 mile out-and-back trail ends at a bench overlooking Fort Collins. If you find yourself running your habitual route around Pineridge, add this one on for a 200' climb with a great view.
Foothills Trail and Reservoir Ridge
If you're familiar with the Foothills Trail, you probably think this is a joke, but it's not! The trail that connects the areas between the A-trail (Rotary Park area) and Reservoir Ridge are actually relatively unfrequented in comparison. Reservoir Ridge itself is also not quite as popular as some of the other natural areas within town.
Lory State Park
Lory State Park gets a lot of traffic but there are definitely still a few trails that get you far away from the crowds. Howard and Timber trails tend to have very few people on them after about a mile up the trail. A great loop is to take Timber trail to Westridge, then come down Howard trail, totaling around 10 miles.
Within a 30 Minute Drive
The Wintersteen Trail to Greyrock
This trail can be run as a loop from Gateway Natural Area which totals around 13 miles, most of which is pretty rugged, and a few short miles being on road to connect the loop. This trail is un-maintained, un-signed, and requires a lot of tree-hopping. I definitely recommend having a GPS with you and following the .gpx file below.
Eagles Nest Open Space
This is a great nearby natural area that is often overlooked. This beautiful river valley is a great place for a short run. It may only offer about 3-5 miles of rolling terrain, but is definitely worth the short drive to run on new trails. More info.
Within a 1 Hour Drive
Signal Mountain via Bulwark Ridge, option to add Lookout Mt. to make a loop
Starting from Drake, CO in the Big Thompson Canyon, you start this trail with a continuous climb up and wooded ridge line, ultimately popping out above treeline. The trail continues over the rounded summit of Signal Mountain with amazing views to the Mummy Range and other peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. More info here.
Round Mountain (Sheep Mountain)
Located just a few miles up the Big Thompson Canyon, this trail is frequented by trail runners looking for a "grind". This trail boasts over 3,000ft of ascent during the 4.5 mile climb to a rounded and wooded summit. It doesn't offer many views, but gives you a killer workout. Add on nearby Stone Mountain for bonus points. More info.
Soapstone Prarie and Red MOuntain Open Space
These open spaces offer dozens of miles of trails combined and amazingly unique geographical features. Don't be surprised if you run into more bison than people.
More than 1 HouR Drive
Medicine Bow Peak
Southwest of Laramie, Wyoming is the beautiful Snowy Range with Medicine Bow Peak being the tallest mountain in the range. You can bag this 12,000ft peak in a 7 mile loop with beautiful lakes and wildflowers all around. You can find more information here.
Comanche Peak Wilderness
Located near the CSU Mountain Campus, this area has many beautiful trails that lead to Comanche Peak, the Stormy Peaks, and Mummy Pass. Very few people are seen on these remote but beautiful trails that offer an amazing alpine experience. More info.
North Lone Pine and Killpecker Trails
These seldom-traveled trails are in the Red Feather area and offer an add-on option of tagging Bald Mountain as well in a 12 mile loop. For more information about these trails see this website.
State Forest State Park
Since the inaugural year of the Never Summer 100k in 2015, these trails have become increasingly popular for trail runners. With that said, this state park offers a plethora of trails to amazing lakes and mountain tops. The chances that you'll see many people on these trails is slim.