Horsetooth Rock

Love going hiking, and within 20 minutes of my house I have many great places. One of them is Horsetooth (Rock).


This quick 5-mile hike starts at about 5,800 feet and peaks at roughly 7,200. I can never remember if the name of the peak is from history or looks, so I had to do some research. Protrails says, in addition to climbing info, that “According to Native American legend, Horsetooth Rock is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock bore a greater resemblance to a horse tooth, hence the modern name.”


When you go to hike the trail you park at a Larimer County site. A smart thing to do is invest in an annual pass. The money goes to the Parks; it doesn’t hurt. Otherwise you pay nine bucks a day. It’s worth it, even if you don’t end up visiting the entire amount of times you need it.

You start out with a bit of an incline on a winding trail. Then after 1/2 mile you’re on a wide multi-use trail. After 0.9 miles (yes, I’m a Garmin user) you can get on the foot-traffic only trail. That’s when it gets fun. You are in the trees, you get good switchbacks (nothing crazy), some stairs here and there. Occasionally, you get a lookout a the city.

After about 2 miles, you hit most difficult park. Less stable surfaces. But that is the true fun! There is one ‘staircase’. I usually avoid it because it’s not that easy. If I do use it, it’s on the way up, not down.


After 2.4 miles you get to the base of the true summit where you get to decide exactly which line you want to take to get to the top. There are several. I’ve hiked this trail many times now and can’t figure out which place is the best at which to start. It’s literally about 50 feet. But, you sort of scramble/use upper body to get there. Then you’re there. You look one way you see Ft. Collins. Another way — Longs Peak, and various other snow-capped peaks, another and another, just miles and miles of gorgeous scenery. You could stay up there for hours.

You might also examine that you are on one side of the horse’s tooth. There is a trench. Unless you had Spiderman abilities you’re not getting over to the other side. I know you can (rock)climb to get there. I still have to figure out if/how you can get to the far side of the tooth/the third one.

Getting off the top of the peak can be a bit tricky. Not hard, just takes maneuvering. Then you return on the part you summited. There are some paths that go off, here and there.

The last time I was at Horsetooth, I saw wildlife, likely because of COVID-19. There were actually deer out there! I also saw a turkey (too far away to take a picture) and then ahh…a snake. Wasn’t a rattler (I say that like it’s a bad thing). Apparently it was a bull snake. That thing was pretty cool, big and long. Was fun to look at. I kept my distance, was glad I did not see a rattle on it.

In the end, a good trail to take if looking for a fun adventure. You can take in the city, feel like you’re miles away, and soak in much of what Larimer County has to offer.

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