By Suzanne Webel
Ready for another foray to the North Country? Any time is a good time to explore this part of Larimer County, but “off-season” offers solitude and a sheltered foothills environment. Best of all, it’s an amazingly horsey environment. I rode this lovely park recently and there were more equestrians on that random day than all other visitors combined. It has been more than ten years since my first trail log for Lory, and in view of the many new trails and improvements that have been made since then, it’s high time for an update.
Lory State Park was established by the State of Colorado in 1967 and encompasses 2,492 acres. It was named after Charles A. Lory, president of Colorado State University from 1909-1940 (imagine that — 31 years!). Lory shares many similarities with Eldorado Canyon State Park in Boulder County: both are very scenic, ranging from hogbacks and meadows to deep red rock canyons to densely forested granite mountains. Both are also relatively small but offer a wide range of recreational opportunities. Finally, both parks dovetail with a variety of other public lands on all sides. Lory’s many neighbors include Larimer County Parks and Open Lands’ Horsetooth Mountain Park to the south, the Bureau of Reclamation/Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Horsetooth Reservoir to the east (which is in turn managed by Larimer County Parks), Arapaoh Roosevelt National Forest to the west,and the City of Fort Collins’ Reservoir Ridge and Campeau Open Space Parks to the northeast. But all these agencies cooperate in Larimer County to allow trails to flow seamlessly from one jurisdiction to the next.
Although the livery stable appears to have bitten the dust, Lory’s expansive cross-country jumping course at the south end of the park is still very much there and has recently been upgraded. There are new visitors’ centers and plenty of horse trailer parking.
To get to the park from the north, follow Highway 287 through Fort Collins to LaPorte. Continue west on the old road to the quaint village of Bellevue; turn south on County Road 23N, then west on County Road 25G to the entrance. From the south, take Harmony Rd / 38E (west) to 23, north to a T intersection, left (west) on CR42C to CR25G, then left 1.6 mi. to the park entrance. Better yet, park at the new Horsetooth Mountain Park Soderberg Trailhead (Harmony Rd west/CR 38E) and RIDE in! No matter how you do it, the admission fee at the time of this writing is $6.00 per vehicle.
The trail system has been thoughtfully designed to offer multiple stacked loops for all visitors. The valley trails alone consist of three easy loops for equestrians, with spurs over to bays along Horsetooth Reservoir. The new Kimmons Trail connects to the Timber Trail for a moderate loop, while the very long Howard Trail and parts of Timber are considerably more difficult. Other trails, such as West Gulch, Overlook, Arthur’s Rock, and Westridge, are open to pedestrians only.
If you want to go up into Horsetooth Mountain Park from Lory, be sure you have allocated enough time. Just the Soderberg and South Valley Loop trails took a full day, and they are merely a tiny corner of this wonderful park system.
Total Distance: Approximately 35 miles, many loops
Total Time: Variable
Difficulty: Easy – moderate — difficult
Dogs: On leash only
Jurisdiction: Colorado State Parks, Larimer County Parks and Open Lands
Topo Maps: Horsetooth Reservoir; use park brochure — or this one!