Being our first visit to the park, we decided to tackle the popular "Arthur's Rock Trail", a moderate to difficult out-n-back 3.4 mile round trip hike (1080 feet gain over 1.7 miles). Of course, I mainly just looked at the distance and thought "Oh how hard can this trail be, it's only 3.4 miles", well there is a reason for its difficulty rating as we found out, but it is worth every step!.
|Arthur's Rock Trail|
The trail starts from the most southerly trailhead in the park, and at the intersection of several trails - Arthur's Rock Trail (foot only), East & West Valley Trails (foot, horse & bike), Shoreline Trail (foot, horse & bike), and Mill Creek Link (foot, horse & bike). You start the hike very briefly on a multi use trail before the trail splits and becomes Arthur's Rock Trail.
|Beginning of Arthur's Rock Trail|
For the first 0.3 mile the trail follows a pretty gulch, but soon weaves its way up via switchbacks, a taste of the views that will follow can be seen from the first switchback.
|View to Horsetooth reservoir from the Gulch|
Climbing out of the Gulch you enter a small grassy meadow, and if lucky you may catch a glimpse of mule deer here, we watched one feeding on the grass for a few minutes before she ducked into the trees. One more switch back and stone steps lead to a short wooded section, then a large open meadow at mile marker 0.5, with a sweeping view across to Arthur's rock. The meadow and the whole trail is a wildflower hotspot, although in early August when we visited the flowers were past their prime.
|Arthur's rock as seen from the meadow|
|Wide open meadow under smokey skies|
The trail climbs gently through the wide open meadow and you are soon back into evergreens, the trail drops slowly to a dry creek bed (seen in the photo above in the "V" below Arthur's rock. The dry creek is 0.8 mile from the trailhead, after this point, the real hard work starts. The trail ascends steeply on switch backs for the final 0.9 miles to the summit.
|Beginning of the switch backs|
|Switch backs galore|
At around mile marker 1.0 after a few switch backs and a lot of sweating (in the summer heat), a short detour takes you to a viewpoint, which is a welcome break from the climb, and a perfect spot to view the trail winding below you in the valley.
|View to the south from viewpoint|
The final push takes you diagonally across the mountain side past huge rock outcrops, and into an evergreen area for some welcome shade.
|Nearing the top of the switch backs|
|Final Push to the summit|
After 0.8 miles of hard uphill work, it is a welcome sight seeing a sign pointing to the summit 0.1 mile away. However, there is one final sting left in the tail of this hike, a short but steep scramble up a rocky gully to reach the summit.
|Rocky gully to the summit|
The scramble is well worth the reward, a huge Granite summit welcomes you, with commanding views as far as the eye can see to the North, South and East. On a clear crisp day, you could see for miles beyond Fort Collins onto the plains, unfortunately, the smokey haze restricted our views on this trip.