With more breweries than people and more trails than roads, Northern Colorado is the place to be during the summer. Okay, so that might have been a bit of an exaggeration. BUT the area known as Northern Colorado does in fact have tons of breweries (Fort Collins actually accounts for 70% of all craft beer made in Colorado) and some awesome trails, of the hiking and biking variety (in fact, Fort Collins is one of only five towns in the USA deemed a Platinum Level Bike-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists).
Northern Colorado (or NoCo) is home to not only great beer and trails, but also some stunning scenery, good food, and lots of outdoor adventures. Here are a few reasons why you need to visit Northern Colorado this summer.
Get Lost in the Outdoors.
When you think of Colorado as a whole you likely imagine sharp, snow-covered peaks for miles. And that is very true… in some parts of the state. But in Northern Colorado, you actually have a great mix of landscapes and biomes. From the tundra up on Trail Ridge Road in RMNP to the Pawnee Grasslands out at Soapstone Natural Area, there are a lot of different areas to experience and enjoy.
Plus, NoCo is not only home to Rocky Mountain National Park (the third most visited national park in the country) but also countless state parks, regional parks, and recreation and natural areas. Some great places to check out are Lory State Park, State Forest State Park, Pingree Park, and Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Grab Some Grub.
While we might be more famous for beer, Northern Colorado is also a great spot to get some tasty food - often with a nice view thrown in. Some great spots to check out are The Mishawaka, located up along the Poudre Canyon (read more about that in a second), The Dunraven in Estes Park, The Blind Pig in downtown Fort Collins, and Door 222 in Loveland.
Besides offering some great “real” food aka healthy, there are also some standout dessert options. The three best are Walrus Ice Cream in downtown Fort Collins, the Colorado Cherry Company on Highway 34, which offers the BEST cherry pie around, and the Glen Haven General Store near Estes Park, which offers not only great cherry cobbler but also stand out cinnamon rolls (they’re HUGE).
Take a Hike.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but Northern Colorado has a lot of awesome trails. From rolling, shrubland doubletrack in the Foothills, to lush green single track up in the mountains, to even some great routes out in the plains - you can find a trail to suit any fitness level and any distance.
Now, we hike a lot - it is kind of our thing when back home in Northern Colorado. Here are our recommendations for the best hikes around: Chasm Lake in RMNP, Reservoir Ridge near Fort Collins, Hall Ranch near Lyons, American Lakes Trail in State Forest State Park, and the Dunraven Glade Trail near Glen Haven.
Want to learn more about other great hikes in the area? Check out this article.
If you have lived in Colorado, or even visited before, you have likely heard all kinds of marijuana jokes. And while yes pot is legal in Colorado there are other ways to get “high.” The best is to take on a big mountain, get that elevation. And if you want to get really high then why not conquer a 14-er?
Longs Peak is a beacon and emblem of the Front Range and NoCo area. You can see it from practically every town and even from I-25. It is the tallest peak in RMNP and the surrounding area. So if you want to feel like the king of the world for a bit, grab your hiking shoes, some sunscreen and lots of water and attempt to summit.
Learn more about hiking Longs Peak here, especially the dangers that come with being that high in elevation.
Okay so if you haven’t figured it out by now, Northern Colorado takes their beer very, very seriously. On its own, Fort Collins was named the number two Best Beer Scene in the Nation by USA Today, Number 3 on Travelocity’s Beer Tourism Index for Top Small Metro Areas, and the Best Bike to Happy Hour Town by Outside Magazine.
Within the boundaries of Northern Colorado, you can find dozens upon dozens of great breweries. Some of the best are New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins (which offers free tours), Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Lumpy Ridge Brewery in Estes Park, Maxline Brewing in Fort Collins, and Scrumpy’s (an awesome cidery) also in Fort Collins.
Relax By the River.
If you have been to Fort Collins, you have probably seen or heard of the Poudre River. Its full name is Cache la Poudre, which in French translates to something like Powder Cache - or where French fur trappers hid their gunpowder during a blizzard - though many just call it the Poudre. While Colorado is home to some pretty stunning rivers, including the namesake Colorado River, the Poudre is the only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River in the state.
That designation was created in 1968 by Congress in the hopes of preserving certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Poudre definitely lives up to that: today you can partake in a number of activities along its shores or in the midst of its roaring power. Including, white water rafting, tubing, fishing and just hanging out along its lush banks.
And if you want to see a lot of the river, we suggest driving up Highway 14, aka the Poudre Canyon, which follows much of the river and is a designated Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway. It runs between Fort Collins and the town of Walden, up over Cameron Pass.
Northern Colorado is a pretty special place. And though we are (obviously) biased since we both grew up in the area, we can honestly say NoCo is one of the best places to spend nice summer days. Grab a beer, go for a bike ride, and end the day watching the sunset over the Poudre River. The adventures are truly endless.