If you’re visiting family in Northern Colorado or you’ve finally got some time to explore your own city, consider this a guide on where to go. We asked city officials and those from visitor centers where they’d send out-of-towners who want to have an easy, fun adventure or do something they couldn’t experience back home.
Stephanie Horvath, community outreach specialist for the Town of Berthoud, selected the Skate Park at Waggener Farm Park and Berthoud Bike Park for places to visit while you’re in Berthoud.
The 20-acre bike park features two extensive jump lines, a quarter-mile dual slalom track, a mile of cross-country mountain bike trails, a bicycle playground and a 20,000-square-foot Velosolutions asphalt pump track.
The bike park is Berthoud’s pride and joy, and with good reason: There aren’t many other courses like it in Northern Colorado. But it is also more weather-dependent than most other kinds of parks in the region and may close when it rains or snows. You can search Berthoud Bike Park on Facebook for the latest conditions.
The skate park follows a trend of Northern Colorado cities revamping their skate parks into concrete jungles full of fun obstacles instead of the small metal ramps offered in the past. The 12,000-square-foot park features a medium-sized flow bowl with common trick-inducing obstacles, such as a spine, boulder and tombstone, a long drop that can be as ominous as it sounds.
“There is a little street section with a few ledges, some stairs, a handrail, pole jam and more,” Horvath says.
The Poudre River Trail isn’t a place that most people can get to easily without driving at least a few minutes. But it’s also a path that leads to some of the prettiest spots in the Greeley/Evans area.
In fact, one of the better spots on the trail seems wilder than the concrete path that leads to it: The so-called Red Barn area off 71st Avenue and F Street. The area features two soft trails that make you feel as if you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle without straying too far from it, says John Gates, Greeley’s mayor.
“It’s a very scenic area with the likelihood of seeing wildlife and lots of folks enjoying the trail,” Gates says.
One of the trails is barely a half mile, which you can enter from the parking lot. The other requires a short and pleasant stroll east until you see the turnoff on your right.
If you want to walk more of the trail, you can continue west from the parking lot to the Poudre Learning Center, where it circles around the lake.
Gates also recommends the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Downtown Greeley. This 5,500-square-foot masterpiece isn’t outside, but you might feel as if you are due to the incredibly detailed landscape surrounding the model trains. Dripping with nostalgia, the museum allows you to check out vintage cars the size of your thumb, look through a forest or hunt down dinosaurs.
“Voted as the best [train museum] anywhere, it is very unique and interesting, whether you are a train enthusiast or not,” Gates says.
Fort Collins has an outdoor obsession, in the same vernacular people use when they have a “shoe obsession” or a “dog obsession,” and they don’t consider it a bad thing.
Still, it doesn’t make it easy to recommend a favorite place to get away if you’re someone who works for Visit Fort Collins and whose job, you could argue, is to do exactly that.
“If you know Fort Collins,” says Katy Schneider, vice president of marketing at Visit Fort Collins, “you know we have many outdoor attractions, so it’s very difficult to narrow it down to one or two.”
Regardless, she tried, starting with the Poudre River Trail. Many of the other attractions require commitments of at least half a day, but the trail is a good place for a simple walk and, if you’re up for more, it intersects with many natural areas and other paths to explore.
“It also swings by the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and the Lee Martinez Farm,” Schneider says.
A more seasonal attraction Schneider recommends is The Gardens on Spring Creek, an 18-acre community botanic garden along the Spring Creek corridor. This area is best viewed in the spring and summer and features a butterfly house. The Gardens also produce off-season events, such as Pumpkins on Parade and Garden of Lights, in addition to summer concerts.
Loveland also offers many outdoor attractions. Cindy Mackin, director of Visit Loveland, chose the city’s two sculpture parks, mainly because they are some of the most unique sculpture parks in the country.
The 26-acre Chapungu Sculpture Park features 82 African stone sculptures carved by artists from Zimbabwe. The artwork stands proud among water features, a 1.5-mile walking trail, benches and community gathering areas.
“Whether you are an art enthusiast, passionate about native plants and flowers or enjoy a leisurely stroll in a natural, open environment, this serenity spot is worth a visit year-round,” Mackin says.
The park is located east of the Promenade Shops at Centerra. Chapungu puts on the Winter Wonderlights from Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, a holiday light installation with a free, 30-minute choreographed light show.
The Benson Sculpture Garden, established in 1985, features 178 sculptures from world-renowned artists. The Loveland High Plains Arts Council hosts the largest outdoor juried sculpture show in the U.S. there every August. The 10-acre garden includes handicap accessible sidewalks, a public restroom and several picnic areas.
“It has been recognized as one of the 20 must-see contemporary art sites across the U.S.,” Mackin says.
Michelle Vance, director of the Windsor Downtown Development Authority and former executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, picked Windsor Lake. The lake is the heart of Windsor for a number of reasons.
It’s a place to run, walk or ride a bike, as a 2.25-mile paved trail encircles it. It also offers opportunities to explore: You can rent paddleboats and kayaks from the city at the lake.
“The trail is perfect for those seeking a leisurely stroll or an active outdoor adventure,” Vance says.
It’s also a gathering spot for community events and entertainment at the outdoor amphitheater.
“Throughout the year, you can catch live performances, concerts and cultural events in this open-air venue,” Vance says.
The neighboring Boardwalk Community Park comes alive with a sandy beach in the summer. You can take your kids to the playground all year round.
We’re going to assume you’ve heard of Rocky Mountain National Park. But there’s more to the nearby Estes Park than one of the world’s most popular attractions, says Heidi Barfels, marketing director of the Estes Park Visitor Center.
Her first suggestion, Lily Lake, offers the best of both areas. The lake is a good place to hike, snowshoe or saunter along with a frozen or hot coffee, depending on the season. Snowshoes are affordable to rent at the Estes Park Mountain Shop, located at 2050 Big Thompson Ave.
The best part about visiting Lily Lake is that you don’t need to pay the park entrance fee, although you’ll still need to make a reservation if you plan to go between May and October.
Barfels picked the Stanley Hotel for her second destination. Horror fans know it as the place that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” and the hotel has capitalized on its spooky reputation with ghost tours and stays in “haunted” rooms. Barfels recommends checking out Aiden Sinclair’s Underground, a speakeasy beneath the Stanley Hotel’s original carriage house where the greatest magicians in the world perform.
“Shows can range from something a bit more family-friendly to something spine-chilling for adults only,” she says.
We’re including Larimer County in this list to help solve the aforementioned problem of too many outdoor places to pick. Korrie Johnston, communications supervisor with Larimer County Natural Resources, picked two nice areas to go for a walk or stretch your legs on a small hike.
Lions Open Space offers a peaceful walk along the Poudre River, she says, and it connects to the Poudre Trail as well as the Butterfly Woods Natural Area, which once operated as a fruit farm and is currently being restored to a natural forest. It’s home to the two-spotted skipper and smokey-eyed brown butterflies. Their habitat is protected by an on-trail policy for walkers.
The River Bluffs Open Space is another paved trail anchored by the Poudre River, which provides half a mile of pools for ducks and other waterfowl in what can only be described as a bird watcher’s paradise. It’s a great place to take a walk with your binoculars.
5 Other Suggestions
Our sources mentioned many places to go, and we selected a couple ourselves:
Waggener Farm Park Pickleball Courts
Berthoud officials love their recreation amenities, and this one opened in late November with eight pickleball courts, including one accessible for those with disabilities and another designed for tournament play.
Greeley’s most historic park features an island for birds, a walking trail and picnic areas in a beautiful neighborhood by the University of Northern Colorado.
This attraction near Loveland isn’t as foreboding as it sounds, with a hike to the keyhole that is doable for most families. It also features miles of trails for hardier runners and mountain bikers.
One of the best camping spots in Northern Colorado is just west of Fort Collins—and it was voted the top proposal spot in this year’s Best of NOCO contest. The area also has miles of trails for running and hiking in addition to the huge reservoir.
The Eastman Park River Experience
This local river adventure project is unlike anything else in Northern Colorado. The mile-long stretch in Windsor calls for kayaking, canoeing, tubing and fun in the water. There’s a dedicated float launch spot, a science river plaza and plenty of places to hang out and watch the river.