The 75-mile-long Cache la Poudre River rises at Poudre Lake on Milner Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park. It rushes 40 miles down Poudre Canyon to Fort Collins and spills onto the plains where it meanders across the flatlands before joining the South Platte River east of Greeley. The river’s name, meaning “hide the powder,” came from French fur trappers who buried a gunpowder cache in a snowstorm on its banks. The Cache la Poudre, the only designated Wild and Scenic River in Colorado, is traced by the Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway and Colorado Highway 14, allowing access to the river corridor for fishermen, hikers, climbers, campers, and rafters.
- To reach the trailhead, drive 8.3 miles up CO 14 from U.S. 287, and park in a lot on the left or south side of the highway. Descend stairs and carefully cross the highway to a foot bridge over the Cache la Poudre River. A kiosk on the north side of the bridge marks the start of the Greyrock Trail. The 7.3-mile round-trip hike gains 2,515 feet total.
- From the trailhead kiosk, hike west along the river for 0.6 miles to the junction of Greyrock Trail (#946) and Greyrock Meadows Trail (#947). While you can take either one, go right on Greyrock Trail, which steeply climbs for 1.47 miles to Greyrock Meadows, a broad open grassland below Greyrock’s granite peak, and a junction with the challenging Summit Trail. Go right to climb the peak. Hike around the east side of Greyrock, and then scramble up a rocky ridge to the 7,513-foot summit. Enjoy the spacious views and check out a small lake below the top. Then reverse the trail back to the junction in the meadow. Bear right and descend the Greyrock Meadows Trail for 2.6 miles back to the river junction and finish with the last 0.6 miles to the trailhead.
- Greyrock is an excellent rock climbing area with over 125 routes from one to four pitches long on its south and east faces. The cliffs offer many beginner and moderate climbs, making it a great off-the-beaten track climbing venue. It’s a traditional climbing area with only a few bolted sport routes. Recommended routes are Slab Happy (5.7), Theodore (5.6), and Greatest Route at Greyrock (5.8).
- The Cache la Poudre is a fine trout fishery with a population of self-sustaining trout, mostly browns and rainbows and some native greenback cutthroat trout. Much of the river is catch and release only and requires flies and lures. The river has varied conditions and habitats from pools to whitewater that test every fly fisherman.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
–Stewart M. Green