Horsetooth Falls – Hiking with Kids, Dogs – Fort Collins, Colorado

The Horsetooth Mountain Open Space parking lot for hiking to Horsetooth Falls is located about 20 minutes west of Fort Collins, CO. Horsetooth Falls is an ideal hike for family and pet owners. Horsetooth Mountain Park requires a $6 day pass or $65 Larimer county resident year pass. The year pass starts and ends on January 1st so you want to buy it at the beginning of each year to maximize your investment. In addition, the year pass gives you access to other parks and open spaces in Larimer County. The subsequent Google map shows the beginnings of both the hiking and mountain bike trails along with how they diverge, converge, and overlap. The trailhead parking has restrooms, water, and pet waste bags. Cell phone service is available in most of the park. Check out Horsetooth Rock Trail for a more rigorous hike to the summit of Horsetooth Rock and Blue Sky Mountain Bike Trail for mountain biking from this park.

Hiking to Horsetooth Falls

Horsetooth Falls trail is 1.2 miles long with a change in elevation of less than 200 feet. The trail is primarily smooth with only a few rocky spots. It starts with a descent that heads towards a small ravine. We have hiked Horsetooth Falls twice: once in March after a very dry winter and once in July after a very wet spring.

The differences in vegetation growth between the two visits are stark.

The second half of the trail includes a mild ascent that climbs into the ravine. The trail provides interesting flora (e.g., True Mountain Mahogany, Great Plains Yucca) and rock formations for hikers of all ages.

For the most part, the trail rolls up and down at regular intervals so kids are not burdened with any prolonged climbs.

The trail ends at Horsetooth Falls which was only a trickle on our March visit. The end of the trail includes plenty of space for several hiking groups to have a picnic at the same time. Assuming that the water is flowing strong, the falls are accessible for getting your hands and head wet on a hot summer day.

The following picture and video were taken during our summer visit to Horsetooth Falls.
The next picture shows a panoramic view of the ravine if the trail is hiked back to the parking lot instead of hiking on Spring Creek trail.
Spring Creek Trail

Next we hiked on Spring Creek trail instead of hiking back to the trailhead on Horsetooth Falls trail. Spring Creek trail connects to the Horsetooth Falls trail several hundred feet before reaching the waterfall.

Spring Creek trail does not receive as much traffic as does the Horsetooth Falls trail or the Horsetooth Rock trail and, thus, it is a peaceful trail. Reaching Soderberg trail requires a steady but mild ascent of 0.5 miles.

Soderberg Trail

From Spring Creek trail, we connected to Soderberg Trail for a 0.5 mile hike that ascended up an open ridge. Soderberg trail is used by mountain bikers to connect between the Horsetooth Rock and Spring Creek trails.

Soderberg trail does not offer any shade but in exchange it does provide views to the east.

Horsetooth Rock Trail

Soderberg trail intersects with Horsetooth Rock trail on stretch that is wide enough for park ranger trucks. This section experiences a lot of activity since it is a main artery that links several trails.

Hiking down Horsetooth Rock trail is easy because it is wide and smooth. What’s more, it offers clear views to the south and east.

In sum, all three trails (Horsetooth Falls, Spring Creek, and Soderberg) are family friendly and dog friendly because they are short, include mild changes in elevation, and offer varied terrain and landscapes. Related blog posts include:


One thought on “Horsetooth Falls – Hiking with Kids, Dogs – Fort Collins, Colorado”

  1. Will be taking a group (22) special needs teens on a hike to H. Falls middle of June. Will leave more when we return. Thanks for this site. Don the bus driver

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