Natural areas are being visited much more than usual. Remember that all restrooms and gathering spots such as group picnic areas are closed.
Here are some "hidden gems" to explore:Grasslands Secret Back Door- Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area
features beautiful open grasslands, views of the foothills and a wide paved trail that connects to miles of additional trails (such as Long View Trail and Spring Creek Trail). The parking lot on Shields Street is often filled to capacity, so try the entrance off of Fromme Prairie Way which rarely is full (take Harmony to Seneca to Fromme Prairie Way, address is 1999 Fromme Prairie Way, Fort Collins).Ponds & Historic Fire Tower Cab
- Running Deer Natural Area
features flat trails near the Poudre River that pass by several ponds. A nice destination is the White Pine Fire Lookout. The top (or cab) was part of the fire lookout tower located on White Pine Mountain, west of Fort Collins until 1967. It has been stabilized by volunteers and it serves as a wildlife viewing pavilion now. To reach the cab, use the Colorado Welcome Center trailhead (3745 Prospect Rd.) and follow the trail southwest about 1 mile to the cab. No dogs are allowed at Running Deer. Anywhere Before 9 a.m.
- Try visiting trails at off-peak hours and in less than perfect weather conditions. Weekends are busy 9 a.m.- 4 p.m., especially at foothills sites such as Bobcat Ridge, Coyote Ridge, Reservoir Ridge, Pineridge, and Maxwell natural areas so please avoid these. Try weekday mornings or weekends after 5 p.m.
Photo: Running Deer Natural Area by Mark Yoder.