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Cottonwood Hollow Natural Area


This ecologically diverse site sits amid a complex of natural areas. Nearby you’ll find Prospect Ponds Natural Area, CSU’s Environmental Learning Center, Running Deer Natural Area and Riverbend Ponds Natural Area. Cottonwood Hollow is a great place to get away from the urban environment, not far from home.

Cottonwood Hollow provides wet meadow habitat which is lacking within the urban stretch of the Poudre River. Open water ponds are common at Poudre River corridor natural areas; there are 39 ponds and 278 acres of open water but wet meadow habitat is uncommon. After mining operations ceased, Cottonwood Hollow was restored to a wet meadow in the 1990’s. Over the years, an outlet structure failed and water began to fill the site. Not only did this drown out a rare habitat type, it also is not allowed within the water rights held by the City. Cottonwood Hollow is now being managed for wet meadow habitat, not open water.

The boundaries of Cottonwood Hollow have changed as directed in the 2011 update to the Cache la Poudre River Natural Areas Management Plan. The portion of Cottonwood Hollow west of the west side channel of the river is now part of Prospect Ponds Natural Area.

Note: This is one of the few Fort Collins natural areas on which dogs are not allowed and one of only two on which bikes are not permitted (bike parking at the parking lot for those who ride to the site).


There are 0.4 miles of natural surface trail within Cottonwood Hollow Natural Area boundary. Access to this trail segment is from Running Deer Natural Area. Trail map >>>


5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.


Nearest parking is at the Running Deer Natural Area parking lot on Prospect (west of Summitview Drive, approximate address is 3301 East Prospect Road, Fort Collins). Cottonwood Hollow also can be reached via connecting trail from Riverbend Ponds Natural Area through the underpass at Prospect or from the Running Deer Natural Area trailhead at the Colorado Welcome Center.

Events & Activities

  • Free educational activities and events in June-October are listed in the Tracks & Trails booklet guide, available in May.

  • Last minute activity additions, trail recommendations and events offered between November-May are in our free monthly electronic newsletter- sign up in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

  • Customized free educational programs at Cottonwood Hollow Natural Area are available for groups, call the Master Naturalist Program at 970-224-6118 or email .

    Related Information

  • This site has been adopted by Charlie Sturgill, thank you for your litter pick-up efforts!

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