Cache la Poudre River

The Cache la Poudre River has carved a canyon over time that is truly a hidden treasure, with majestic cliffs and intriguing rock formations enveloped in ponderosa and lodgepole pines, sage brush, mountain mahogany and aspen. The Cache la Poudre River–the place where French-Canadian trappers hid their gunpowder during a raging blizzard in the early 1800s, hence the name – begins high in the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, along the Continental Divide. Flowing north and east through Roosevelt National Forest, it tumbles down the slopes of the Front Range and meanders through the city of Fort Collins. From its headwaters to the confluence with the South Platte River east of Greeley, the Cache la Poudre River drops 7,000 feet.

The Poudre (pronounced pooh-der) is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River. The Poudre has gained recognition of late because 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Systems. The Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area was established in 1983. There are three national Heritage Areas in Colorado, including the Cache La Poudre River Natural Heritage Area. There are a number of ways to explore the area, including walking and biking tours near parks, lakes, the Poudre River Trail and numerous historical sites.

Colorado Highway 14, which follows much of the river, is a designated Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway between Fort Collins and the town of Walden. The Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway is recognized as one of the state’s premier scenic highways. This route features stunning scenery in Poudre Canyon and along the Poudre River, as well as vast forests and high peaks. Stop at the Home Moraine Geological site, an area carved by glaciers, and keep an eye out for Bighorn Sheep.  About 50 miles up the canyon, the road drops over 10,000 foot Cameron Pass in the vast North Park Valley. Visitors will want to stop a moment and take in the view of Nokhu Crags.

Take in all the views as you drive west into the Poudre Canyon. There are plenty of places to stop for a picnic or watch the river tumble past. This area is especially popular with rafters and kayakers. If you like to fish, this is one of the west’s finest trout routes and streams. Hiking and mountain biking trails along the way, including Grey Rock and Young Gulch Trail, offer pleasant trips into the distinctive ecosystems of the foothills.

Continue up the canyon to Stove Prairie and on to Buckhorn Mountain, where a sweeping panorama of the high plains to the east and Rocky Mountains to the west captivates locals and visitors. Make your way back to Fort Collins through Rist Canyon.

In 2019, the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways will celebrated its 30th anniversary. The statewide program is directed by the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission. The Northern Colorado Loop Tour takes you across 360 stunning miles; the driving loop connects three central scenic byways in the area with the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area. The Cache la Poudre — North Park Scenic & Historic Byway portion of the tour is 101 miles packed full of scenery and wildlife. This byway meanders from the plains and hogbacks into the magnificent Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass and into North Park and then Walden. This exceptionally scenic drive provides visitors a glimpse into the past while offering a bounty of recreational activities.

The Cache la Poudre River Canyon hosts a myriad of recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. From whitewater rafting (class I-V rapids), hikingbikingcampingkayaking, and fishing, to winter sports like snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling, the canyon is the perfect place to get away, all year round.

For more information, please contact the Visit Fort Collins Information Center or the Colorado Welcome Center.

Guided Tours

Majestic Mountain Scenic Rides will take you up the Cache La Poudre Tour, through the route that settlers of Fort Collins took to travel to the upper reaches of the Poudre Canyon. This tour is filled with historical facts about the settlement and construction of the roads to North Park. This tour will pass overlooks of Horsetooth Reservoir on the way to Bellevue and Pleasant Valley, continue through Livermore on its way up to Red Feather Lakes, and ride to Rustic and Highway 14 where you will continue up to the canyon to the Arrowhead Lodge. 

Local Favorites

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Visitor Resources

Larimer County Natural Resources

Manages recreation at Carter Lake; Flatiron, Horsetooth, and Pinewood reservoirs; Big Thompson parks; Devil’s Backbone, Eagle’s Nest, Hermit Park, Horsetooth Mountain, Red Mountain, River Bluffs, and...

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U.S. Forest Service Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

Manages recreation such as camping in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests (including the Poudre Canyon), and the Pawnee National Grasslands. Call or visit the website for information.

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Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northeast Region

Information on hunting, fishing, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.

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Fort Collins Spotlight