You can easily imagine the sheriff’s posse shooting it out with the outlaw gang in the towering rocks of Rimrock Open Space in Larimer County. While there were no known gunfights here in the days of the Old West, you could easily envisage an episode of Gunsmoke or a scene from a John Ford western taking place in the stark landscape.
Just a few miles west of Fort Collins and on the southern edge of the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, Rimrock is a distinctive geological formation of red rock outcroppings on the edge of the red cliffs. The 746-acre open space was purchased through a partnership with the city of Fort Collins and is a free area for the public. You can access the park thru the Coyote Ridge Natural Area.
With a total area of just over one square mile, there are four miles of trails looping through the open space. The hiking is rated as moderate with a few steep areas along the hogbacks near the top of the ridge. Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular activities at Rimrock, but because of the small area dogs are not allowed.
Proximity to Fort Collins allows the interior trail to be connected with the Coyote Ridge Natural Area inside the city, bumping up the total length of the trail to a seven-mile roundtrip from the trailhead at Coyote Ridge.
Historically Rimrock was a prime mule deer hunting area for the Arapaho people but was also frequented by the Lakota, Shoshone, Ute, and Cheyenne. In late fall the abundant wild chokecherries growing in the area were harvested by indigenous people for making pemmican and chokecherry gravy. In later years early settlers tried dry-land farming, ranching, fruit orchards and even built a short lived railroad spur to the area.
Observant visitors can still spot mule deer, and their encroaching relative the white-tail along with black bear, elk, prairie dogs, coyotes, rabbits and skunks. Some hikers have reported spotting the elusive mountain lion, and all should be aware that rattlesnakes call some of the area home.
The high escarpments are home to a variety of raptors. Visitors can watch red-tailed and rough-legged hawks with an occasional eagle hunting for prey or floating on the updrafts coming off the rocks during the summer.
Rimrock Open Space starts in the city limits of Ft. Collins and the easiest access point from Interstate 25 is Exit 265. Head west from Exit 265 on Harmony Road. You’ll hit the Taft Road Intersection after seven miles. Turn left on Taft Road, head south, driving past the Larimer County Landfill and in another mile you’ll find the Coyote Ridge Natural Area parking lot that leads to the Rimrock Open Space.
Address: Spring Mesa Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80526
Season: Year round