At 71,000 acres, State Forest State Park is one of Colorado’s larger state parks, and it’s also one of the most scenic.
Oddly, it’s one of the least visited.
“For some reason, we’re not seen as a destination,” says ranger Jessica Weathers, who suspects people read the name “State Forest” and don’t envision a multi-use park with year-round recreation. The park’s distance from the Front Range – almost a two-hour drive from Fort Collins on Cameron Pass – also might be to blame.
But it’s a must-visit for outdoor lovers. State Forest has been rightfully called “the little Rocky Mountain National Park” for its rugged peaks and secluded alpine lakes. In view are the Medicine Bow Mountains, the Never Summer Mountains and the Park Range, along with the majestic Nokhu Crags.
Moose are State Forest’s greatest calling card, with the state’s largest herd roaming around the park. Check out the Moose Visitor Center for most recent sightings during all seasons.
But there’s plenty more to do than watch wildlife:
– Travel to stunning lakes and summits: With 90 miles of hiking trails, 130 miles of mountain biking trails and several groomed and ungroomed loops for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the opportunities are endless.
Lake Agnes is a gem at 10,300 feet, and you can reach it in less than a mile in summer, when the road to the trailhead is open (about 2.5 miles in winter). For a longer excursion, take the multi-use trail to the linked Kelly and Clear lakes. The emerald waters tucked in serene woods are well worth the 6 miles and 2,000-plus feet of elevation gain. The trail is also good for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
In warmer months, roads are open to the multi-use paths to Bull Mountain and Diamond Peaks. The Bull Mountain route is groomed for snowmobiling in the winter, and Diamond Peaks attracts extreme backcountry skiers.
– Set up camp or ‘glamp’: Find peace in your tent, or rent one of the park’s rustic cabins beside the North Michigan Reservoir (call 800-678-2267 or 303-470-1144). Or, if you haven’t experienced a yurt in winter, here’s your chance. Eight can be checked out through Never Summer Nordic at 970-723-4070 or neversummernordic.com.
– Vroom on the dunes: And you thought the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was the only way to experience the Saudi Arabia-like formations in Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management’s North Sand Dunes Recreation Area borders the park. Unlike anywhere in the state, the terrain is accessed via off-highway vehicle, allowing enthusiasts a one-of-a-kind experience in spring, summer or fall.