September 6th, 2015
I had just begun my college education at Colorado State University. It was 4:30 am when I crawled out of bed on a Saturday (yes, I know!) and got ready for my day. I grabbed a sweatshirt, water bottle, granola, and headed out the door.
Horsetooth Falls, not only a popular hike for my fellow Rams, but for Fort Collins in its entirety. There are plenty of people and dogs on the trial at any time of day-even at 6 that morning. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon when I pulled up to the trailhead.
You have the option of two trails on the hike, both leading to the falls, creating a general loop. The hike begins off easy, slow with steady switchbacks in open fields. This lasts for only about the first twenty minutes. Eventually, you leave the dirt trail behind you and get into a more rocky terrain. The forest seems to come out of nowhere and soon enough, you’re embedded in the green and brown of the trees. The trail itself has a lot of rocks and obstacles, so be sure to watch your step. Then, the hike becomes much steeper, with a lot of elevation gain and loss, in a short distance. You have the option of taking a few different trails, being able to explore as you go and deciding whether to be above the falls or below them. No worries, they all seem to lead back to the main trail.
The hike finally feels like its going to beat you-but that just means you made it! Going for the sunrise was the best decision I had made, with the hike taking only an hour or so. Right as you climb above the falls (which were nonexistent in September except for a little trickle and pool of water) you can see specks on the sun peeking out over the valley. You are now above the falls, looking from the top at the vast of Colorado before you. Its breathtaking. I stayed for the next hour, waiting and watching as the sun rises over the peaks of the mountains, shining onto me, and lighting up the whole valley.
(If you want the water to be flowing going in the springtime, beginning in March and after, there is a good chance there will be rushing water.)
Getting back to the trailhead is even faster, with an overall elevation drop and quick paced walk. You can make it back in a half hour even.
This hike requires a moderate amount of physicality, but anyone can do it if they choose to take it easy. Being an Illinois-native I was not used to the altitude. To say the least, there is no oxygen in the mountains. To those who are not used to the change, I suggest going slow, resting often, and letting yourself catch your breath. It will make it a lot easier in the long run. All you need is a water bottle and sturdy shoes. That morning I did grab a sweatshirt but once the sun came up it was perfectly warm.
Best of luck and happy hiking!