Horsetooth Rock ~7,300 Full Moon
11 August, 2003 Sue Wolber, Bob Proulx
Horsetooth Rock is an easy 20 minute drive from Fort Collins. As part of the Larimer County park system there is a $6/day fee per car at the parking lot. The trails in the park are very well maintained in spite of the incredibly heavy use they get.
Horsetooth is a very popular hike. Most of the trail faces east with little shade, so I generally only climb it in early spring when the hot sun is welcome, on summer afternoons when more of it is in shadow, or more regularly on a full moon evening in the summer. The best night is actually the night before the official full moon, as there are by far less people on the trail, and the moon rises earlier.
We usually hike up the hiking trail (Soderburg) to the right (north) tooth, and hike down the road. On a clear summer evening there is plenty of light. We always bring a flashlight for emergencies but never use it. The trail is easy Class 1, the right and left teeth are Class 2. The middle tooth is too technical for me, which isn't saying much :-) I prefer the right tooth, especially at night - it's more of a hiking trail with a smidge of scree then a short scramble climb; the left tooth is a longer scramble climb and more of it faces west (in shadow at night).
You can start before sunset and enjoy the sunset on top of the rock; we usually start after sunset in full dark to avoid the crowds. The view of Fort Collins, especially at night, is wonderful - for non-pilots this is a wonderful panorama of the city. Bring a light windbreaker - it's almost always a little windy at the top. This trail is short and easy enough that picnics on top of the rock are common - we'll often bring Subway and bottles of pop, other folks bring ice cream or wine and cheese...
Time to climb is usually a sweaty 1:15 or leisurely 1:30, and about an hour to descend. Rabbits, deer, and bats (at night) are common sightings. We've only seen a rattlesnake once in 16 years of hiking this trail. Once we saw dung beetles on the trail around some horse manure -- wow it's just like on the Discovery Channel :-)
For a longer day hike, I start up the hiking trail and take a right to the Horsetooth Falls, then continue north and north to the Wathan (sp?) trail to the top of the teeth. This lengthens the hike up to ~2:30.
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