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Eagle’s Nest Open Space, CO on November 19, 2006

December 28, 2006

Posted on December 27, 2006

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Last month, November 19, I went to a new Larimer County “open space” area to check out the trails. It’s low elevation (so, usually won’t be snow covered in the winter) and pretty close to Fort Collins (no long drive). According to a friend of mine (yes, I have a couple : ), you eventually end up down on the NFP (North Fork of the Poudre River).

Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. In addition, you can view a topo map here and a Google Earth map here (you may need to adjust the scale bar on the left side of the Google map). All links open a new browser window.

I’m always partial to hikes along streams, so I headed out on a Sunday morning to check it out. Pretty easy to get to the trail-head. I just went north on Hwy 287 to Livermore (Red Feather Lakes turnoff) and headed up towards Red Feather for only a mile or so before seeing the sign on the left hand (south) side of the road for Eagles Nest. Turned out to be a great place for nice day hike. Here is a link to some “official” Larimer County, CO information on the open space area.

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Like most of the “open space” areas, the property is only open during the day. The gate to the trail-head is shut after sundown. In addition, the trail-head parking looks as if it has enough space for around 20 vehicles (it also has a rest room facility). There is not any “overflow” capacity that I could see.

Note that in the warmer half of the year you will need to be on the watch for rattlesnakes, but you can see those in the foothills on the outskirts of Fort Collins also (as we all know : ). Normally a rattlesnake will notice, and warn, you first. But it pays to be cautious.

The day was a little breezy, but sunny. Above freezing, but definitely not summertime weather. I warmed up after the first 20-30 minutes of hiking, and the temperatures for the day rose a little more towards noon time.

Starting out I had a nice view of the country that was going to be covered in my hike. Mostly rolling sage and brush covered hills that ends up in the NFP canyon where it looked like there were quite a few cottonwood trees. The trail down to the NFP actually is set up as a loop. You can stay up in the hills most of the way to the NFP for one half of the loop, then on the way back to the trail-head walk back up through some meadows. According to the sign, that’s around 3 miles round trip. At the river, you can cross a bridge and continue for another mile of trail which is also in the form of a loop.

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I headed down the trail to the left which would keep me up in the hills most of the way to the river. This would give me some good elevation for photos and it looked to be the most interesting. I also came back the same way as the other route just, for some reason, did not appeal to me (maybe it was all the cows : )

The trail was very well maintained. Very close to being a dirt sidewalk. So, a very enjoyable “stroll” down to the river. I did manage to get a few good shots of the surrounding country. Not the most “colorful” at this time of the year. But, it was nice to be out and enjoying some pleasant fall weather.

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The route I took went across a dry canyon and then climbed back up a few hills prior to making the final approach down to the river. It’s possible that the bottom of that canyon could be muddy (or, full of water) depending on the time of year and recent weather activity. But, it was just dry sand today. Note that there are signs along the way which indicate private land where access is not allowed. Please follow their instructions as the land owners are being kind enough to allow access into the public parts of the property.

After coming down through the dry hills, the actual NFP river bottom was a pleasant surprise. Nice meadows, big cottonwoods, a rippling stream of water. Great place for a picnic : ) I even located some greenery!

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After taking way too many photos of the stream I continued over the bridge to complete the trail loop across the river. Part of the “trail” followed a dirt road that paralleled the river. After a while, the road went into private property and a real trail took off up into the hills and looped back to the bridge. I did manage to get some photos of the meadows downstream. The meadows will look very nice in the springtime with all the new grass and leaves. I’ll have to come back for that.

Even thought the day was mild, and it was the weekend, I saw very few people. Around 6 horseback riders and even fewer hikers. So, this gave a nice feeling of having the place all to myself. I would assume that during certain times of the year the number of users would be larger. But, since it is still fairly new, and a few miles out of town, I doubt that it will see heavy activity (at any time of the year) any time soon.

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The shadows were getting longer (and the temperature starting to drop) when I headed back to the trail-head. Again, I stayed up in the hills for the return trip. This did allow me to see some additional views looking in the other direction that had gone unnoticed the first time. Nice shots of Livermore and the surrounding reddish cliffs.

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Anyway, great place for a day hike that is close to Fort Collins. I’m sure I’ll be back in the spring to get some additional color in my photos and enjoy the wildflowers.

– Geoff Weatherford

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