On the west side of Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir County Park stretches over 1,900 acres from Lory State Park at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills to Horsetooth Mountain. The reservoir gets its name from a Native American legend in which a giant, slain by Chief Maunamoku with a tomahawk from the heavens, turned into a stone formation now known as Horsetooth Rock. The reservoir was created in 1949 by the construction of four earth dams. The park attracts 570,000 visitors annually with 150,000 acre-feet of water for paddling and fishing, 81 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, and amenities that include campgrounds and reservable cabins.
Horsetooth Reservoir is perhaps best known for the hard Dakota sandstone boulders that dot the eastern shore and Horsetooth Mountain. The area around Horsetooth is regarded as a premier bouldering destination, and it sits in alluring proximity to Fort Collins and its 300 days of sunshine. It boasts more than 100 bouldering routes ranging in difficulty from V0 to V8 and a handful of trad routes in the easy to intermediate range.
Much bigger than the adjacent Maxwell and Pineridge natural areas, Horsetooth Reservoir boasts several boat ramps and a marina at Inlet Bay. Motorized boating is allowed on the large reservoir, and being one of the few bodies of water of its size in the Front Range corridor, it is heavily used. For boaters, the reservoir is similarly attractive to stand-up paddlers, kayakers, and fishers—who will find an abundance of species, including walleye, smallmouth bass, trout, white bass, crappie, bluegill, and perch. In past years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has stocked the reservoir with rainbow and cutthroat trout, cuttbow, and splake. Be advised to check in with wildlife authorities, however, as some fish in Horsetooth have been found to have high levels of mercury. Other regulations may apply, as well, including a fishing ban within 100 feet of the dams.
Camping is available at Inlet Bay Campground, which is best for tent campers. South Bay Campground is best for RVs, and it offers some hookups. It also offers cabins reservation. Additionally, Horsetooth Reservoir offers day use areas at Satanka Bay, Sunrise, and South Bay, which features a large, covered pavilion, and a sizable swim beach along the lake shore in addition to the typical picnic tables and fire rings. In addition to traditional campsites, Horsetooth Reservoir also features boat-in campsites on its western shore in Dixon, Quarry, and Orchard coves—ideal spots for scuba diving, as well.
Note: For specific stocking updates, and other fishing rules and regulations call the Natural Areas Ranger at 970.416.2147.