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Natural Areas

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Natural Areas FAQ's

How many natural areas are there?

The City of Fort Collins has conserved 44 natural area sites, over 41,000 acres and over 110 miles of trail. A map(see sidebar) shows the locations of the City's natural areas. Each natural area has its own webpage.

What hours are the natural areas open?

Those City of Fort Collins natural areas that are open to the public are open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. except Gateway Natural Area, Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, Fossil Creek Reservior Regional Open Space, Reservoir Ridge Natural Area and Soapstone Prairie Natural Area which are open from dawn to dusk. If circumstances require being in a natural area between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., a permit is required.

Why can't parking lots be expanded?

The trailhead parking lot sizes are carefully planned for the natural areas' environmental carrying capacity and for your visitor experience. Without this, natural areas would be "loved to death," and would feel crowded. Some of trailhead parking lots have limitations on the number of spaces that can be provided, set by the county's development review process. Parking in non-designated areas blocks emergency access, destroys roadside vegetation, and violates these parking limits. Parking on the roads near parking lots is unsafe and often creates conflict with natural area neighbors.

If you arrive at your favorite natural area and the parking lot is full, please come back on another day. There are many natural areas to enjoy, and it is a chance to try a new trail.

Is fishing allowed on natural areas?

Yes, check the natural areas finder (click on the fishing icon to limit the list to sites where fishing is allowed). Check the Natural Areas' fishing page as well. Fishing is allowed on most of the City of Fort Collins natural areas containing ponds. Fishing is NOT allowed at some sites, primarily because of on-trail-only recreation management. Fishing on the City's natural areas is regulated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife; a valid fishing license is required. ContactColorado Parks and Wildlife, or call (970)472-4300 for license and limit information.

Is boating allowed on ponds and lakes in natural areas?

Yes, check the natural areas finder (click on the boating icon to limit the list to sites where boating is allowed). Only non-motorized boats (canoe, kayak) or electric trolling motor boats are permitted on the ponds where fishing is allowed. All Colorado State and U.S. Coast Guard rules apply.

Why must dogs be on a leash in natural areas?

Off-leash dogs disturb wildlife by preventing them from hunting, foraging, resting, traveling, or other activities necessary for survival. Off-leash dogs disturb people visiting natural areas by running up to them, jumping on them, biting them, and running in front of cyclists causing accidents. Six natural areas do not allow dogs: Bobcat Ridge, Cottonwood Hollow, Coyote Ridge, Fossil Creek Reservoir, Running Deer and Soapstone Prairie.

Where can dogs run off leash?

In addition to your own fenced yard, dogs can run off leash at the City's dog parks:
(1) Part of Fossil Creek Park (on Lemay ¾ of a mile south of Harmony);
(2) The Southwest Dog Park (at the west end of Horsetooth Rd.); and
(3) Part of Soft Gold Park (west end of Hickory off of North College).

Will the City eradicate rattlesnakes to make recreation safer in natural areas?

No. Rattlesnakes are a part of nature. They are an important part of the predator/prey web of life in our natural areas. Cathy Fromme Prairie, Coyote Ridge, Soapstone Prairie and Pineridge are some of the most likely natural areas on which to encounter rattlesnakes, but they are present on other sites as well. Watch along and beside trails as you walk through a site, particularly in tall grass beside trails. If you see a rattlesnake, remain calm. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive. Step away from the snake and wait for it to move away. Be patient. It doesn't know you want to pass, and it may be unable to move quickly (particularly on a cool day). Learn more in our rattlesnake bookmark.

How long is _____ trail?

Trail lengths can be found on the Natural Areas Map (see sidebar). Check the map for elevation profiles for the Blue Sky Trail, Bobcat Ridge Ginny/ DR Trail, Poudre River Trail, Foothills Trail, Fossil Creek Trail, Coyote Ridge/ Rimrock Trail, Spring Creek Trail, Gateway's Black Powder Trail, Cheyenne Rim Trail, Towhee Loop and Mahogany Loop.

Why is a permit necessary for group events in natural areas

The purpose is to make the natural area visit pleasant for your group and for other visitors. Permits allow the City to advise you if another group is scheduled for the same spot you want to use. We can then suggest another date/time or another location. One time, a group with an approved permit was conducting an education event at a natural area when another group (without a permit) showed up to use the same location. The group without a permit had to turn around and go back to the school. That is the kind of bad experience we want to avoid. "Group" events are any activity involving 15 or more people.

I know natural areas are purchased with a dedicated tax that was voted in, but where does the money come from to restore and maintain natural areas?

All the funding for the Natural Areas comes from voter approved natural areas taxes. General fund monies are not used to acquire, restore, or maintain natural areas. More detail about our finances can be found in our Annual Reports.

Is camping allowed on natural areas?

No, camping is not allowed in City of Fort Collins Natural Areas.

Can I hunt or carry a weapon in natural areas?

Hunting and the discharge of any weapon whatsoever are not allowed in natural areas.

Guns may only be carried if you have a valid concealed carry permit, and must remain concealed during your natural area visit. A hunting license is not a valid permit.

There is one exception at Gateway Natural Area where state-licensed hunters may transport unloaded, open chambered weapons through Gateway, September 1 through May 15 (hunting season).

City of Fort Collins municipal code prohibits the possession or discharge in a natural area of any gun, pistol, crossbow, bow and arrow, slingshot or other firearm or weapon whatsoever including bb guns, pellet or paintball guns, except as permitted by a City-issued or other lawfully issued permit.

Can I swim in or ice-skate on ponds in natural areas?

Swimming and ice-skating are not allowed in any natural areas, with one exception. Ice-skating is allowed on the southwest corner of Merganser Pond in Prospect Ponds Natural Area.

Is there a lost and found?

If you have lost an item or found an item in a natural area or on a paved trail, contact Fort Collins Police Services, (970) 221-6540. You are welcome to check with a ranger. The ranger office does not have a Lost and Found but rangers are happy to keep an eye open for a lost item.

Can I smoke marijuana in a natural area?

No, The City of Fort Collins prohibits any consumption of marijuana that is conducted openly and publicly. It is prohibited to transfer and display marijuana including at office buildings, public parks, natural areas, city streets and sidewalks. This also applies to those with medical cards as the City of Fort Collins prohibits the consumption, transfer and display of all marijuana on all city owned properties.