It’s always been a pretty good bet that college towns have good bars and, in recent years, that bet has been natural to extend to bike rides and breweries. So, when we speculated to each other that Fort Collins, Colorado, the “college town” home to Colorado State University, would have great bike rides and breweries – in abundance – we felt our bet was a safe one.
It was. Of course, we don’t live under a rock, so we knew that Fort Collins was home to New Belgium Brewing Company, creator of the eponymous craft beer Fat Tire, as well as several other buzzworthy microbreweries. (Not to mention gummy shops, but that’s not appropriate for this blog.)
What we weren’t quite so sure about was the bike ride part. But on a clear and cool Sunday morning in August 2021, we discovered a trail that was perfect for a bit of Sunday morning Rocky Mountain foothill worship.
It’s called the Poudre Trail and its numbers are straightforward – 10 feet wide and 12 miles long. Fort Collins city fathers (and mothers) broke ground on the trail in 1994 and completed it in 2008. (This is not to be confused with the Poudre River Trail, which is almost 22 miles long and is in Greely, Colorado.)
There are few bells and whistles to the trail, though it is a bit tricky finding the trailhead. It’s about a ½ mile down a dirt road off a paved cul-de-sac at the end of road-to-nowhere, about five miles east of downtown.
Once the trail is located, it starts off in what looks like a light industrial setting, but instead is an “environmental facility.”
The early stretch is also mostly concrete, perhaps not environmentally friendly, but biker friendly to those who are just getting their morning sea legs. Also, not bad for quick u-turns, this one being necessary because Kellie forgot her ear covers, helpful on cool mornings, even in August.
Early on, the Poudre does not appear to be a powerful river, presenting itself more like a shallow stream. Interestingly, it appears to be flowing toward the Rocky Mountains, one would think it would be the opposite, but we are bike rides and brewery people, not geographers.
Soon, the trail approaches downtown Fort Collins, much quieter than the night before, when it was filled with a mix of students, townies and out-of-town visitors, enjoying the ambience and devouring their fair share of beverages and beef.
Soon, we head around a large pond. It turns out that is the town reservoir, and the reason why the Poudre River flow is so gentle. From the reservoir west, the view is outstanding, much more dramatic than the prairies east of town.
And just beyond the edge of the official trail, the road starts its climb toward the Rockies. After less than a mile in a steady uphill, it’s time to turn around. Later that day, a special “bucket list” item is beckoning – Mount Rushmore, about a five-hour drive to the north.
On the ride back, we pass four seemingly rookie bikers who each yell forcefully, in turn, “Stopping!” as they approached an intersection – including the last person in line (who had no one behind him). While we respect other bikers, we have a great deal of cynicism about them – some take themselves far too seriously, whether in NYC or Colorado.
Back near the trailhead, on the outskirts of town, we see cattle grazing. I yell repeatedly “this is a good shot,” signaling to Kellie that she should stop pedaling, remove her iPhone from her bike bag and snap a photo of me in front of said cows and the distant mountain range. (At least that’s how Kellie interpreted my suggestion, or so I learned on that long drive to Mount Rushmore.)
PS: The night before, we stopped at New Belgium brewery, a welcoming wooden building with an enormous operation behind it – located not far from the center of town. Shockingly, Kellie was not in the mood for beer, so Jim picked up a six-pack of 1584, which looked suspiciously like a stout, but had a crisp and smooth finish. I nominate for it a tagline “Stout for a Summer Night.”