Tag Archives: colorado hikes

Poudre Canyon Hike: Big South

I turned 32 a few weeks ago. Thirty-two is not a milestone, and there’s no way I could “run my age” like I did two years ago, since I’m still fighting injury, but still, it was my birthday. I wanted to celebrate in my favorite way: hanging out in the mountains. We’d loaned our camping gear to some relatives, so camping was out, but we decided to drive up Poudre Canyon and go for a nice day hike. We have a book called The Best Front Range Hikes, so we consulted the Fort Collins section and chose Big South.

We left home a little later than we’d planned, as always tends to happen, and arrived at the trailhead around 9 a.m. The trailhead is farther up the canyon (48.7 miles, according to my book) than some more popular hikes, but as I told Jordan, it was my birthday and I wanted to see some quakie trees. The book claimed that the hike was within an hour of Fort Collins, but it was more like 90 minutes — not helped by road construction in the canyon. No matter, though — the skies were blue and storms weren’t in sight, so our later start didn’t matter.

The Big South trail is just before the Big South campground, which looks like a lovely place to camp, right by the river. The trailhead is on one side of a bridge, and the campground on the other, so when you see the bridge, you’ll know you’re there. We went to the campground first to use the restroom, then started our hike.

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You guys, the Gotta Go skirt from Skirt Sports is the best for hiking. Seriously. Check it out, and if you want it, email me for my ambassador discount. 

The trail is lovely; it goes along and above the Poudre River, which was flowing fast and full when we were there. Since it’s right beside the river, a wide variety of plants grow alongside the trail — shrubs and bushes, wildflowers, and wild raspberries, which made a tasty but not very filling snack.

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Big South is a nice, easy hike, for the most part — gently rolling without any major climbs. Parts would be great for trail running, too, but some places were much too rocky, at least for a trail running novice like me, and would have to be hiked.

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Yeah… that’s the trail. I’m not running that. 

A number of backcountry campsites dotted the trail — I think we saw 10 — so if you’re a backpacker, this might make a fun trip — not too challenging, but with lovely river views.

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We took our sweet time, enjoying the coolness of the woods, the roar of the river, and the beauty of the vegetation around us. Big South seemed like a place we would see lots of wildlife, but we saw only ground squirrels and birds. And butterflies, like this one who perched on my hand for a few minutes.

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We hiked out for about 3.5 miles before turning around. My book said that the trail continues for 7 miles before dead-ending at a washout, but that the best views were in the first three miles, so we turned around and meandered back down, stopping for lunch beside the river. On the way down, we finally saw our first people of the day. We ended with seeing only four people, so the lack of a crowd was definitely a plus!

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Big South made for a lovely little birthday hike. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that it’s one of the “Best Hikes of the Front Range,” but it was pretty, easy, and quiet, which all make it a winning hike. If you’re in Poudre Canyon and want to get away from the crowds at Greyrock and Hewlett Gulch, consider giving Big South a try!

If you were writing a “Best Hikes of Where You Live” book, what would you include?

Tell me your favorite way to spend your birthday!

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Hiking Poudre Canyon: Mount McConnell

Hike stats:
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1327 feet
Time: 3 hours
Fee: $6 to park at the trailhead
Good for: Easy hiking, hiking with dogs

One of the reasons we moved last summer was to be closer to the mountains. We wanted to be able to day hike without spending more time driving than actually hiking. We’d hoped to do some hiking this spring, but our jobs kept our weekends busy right through the end of May. Finally, in early June, we had time to start exploring.

I checked out a book called The Best Front Range Hikes from the library, and we flipped through to find one that wasn’t too far away or too long a hike. We decided on Mount McConnell, up the Poudre Canyon.

I hadn’t been up the canyon since college, and I’d forgotten how lovely the drive is. The Poudre River was full and fast-moving with fresh run-off, and the sparkling water, colorful wildflowers, and green trees made for a nice little drive.
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We hadn’t gotten a very early start (that’s why we moved, remember?); we parked, used the trailhead restrooms, and started hiking a little before 9:00. I was a little worried we’d be hot, but some friendly clouds kept us shaded most of the way up. The trail climbs fairly steadily for the first couple of miles, and it seemed like after every little bend, we just had to stop to take in the next bit of stunning scenery down below.

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There’s a pretty cool rock wall and rock field about halfway up. 
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One of many overlooks. The trailhead is at the campground down there. 

The trail to the summit of Mount McConnell branches off the main trail, but it’s a short jaunt to the top, and the view is incredible.

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Jordan enjoying the summit
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Hi, Mummy Range.

We lingered at the summit for several minutes, enjoying the panorama and the sunshine that had finally decided to reappear. Eventually, we started our walk back down. The trail gives the option of making this a loop hike, and we did, because why see the same scenery when we can see something new? The trail down wasn’t quite as well maintained as the trail up, but it was still easy to follow.  We did take one wrong turn — at a water crossing, the trail we needed was hiding in the shade — but we realized our mistake fairly quickly and were soon back on the right track.

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This stream was a trickster.

Back at the trailhead but not really wanting to leave, we spent several minutes trying to skip rocks and dipping our fingers in the icy river, talking about how glad we were that we’d moved closer to the places we love.

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This was a lovely little hike. Although my new book said this was about a four-hour hike, we did it in almost exactly three hours, including our wrong turn, lots of picture stops, and lingering at the summit. Even starting late, we had plenty of time to hike and dawdle and still had the afternoon free. It’s an easy and uncrowded hike, and the views from the top make you feel like you really accomplished something. If you’re in the Fort Collins area, definitely give this one a try!