Horsetooth Reservoir: Colorado Camping and Much More

May 26, 2016

One of the greatest things about living in Colorado is the ability to enjoy the outdoors, including the mountains, at such close proximity. For many Coloradoans, camping is a treasured pastime that allows you to enjoy some peace and relaxation along with the beautiful scenery at locations across the state. For residents of Northern Colorado specifically, Horsetooth Reservoir provides a stunning setting for a weekend, or even a weeklong, camping trip at just a short drive away.


Horsetooth Reservoir is open year round and offers 6.5 miles of water surrounded by 1,900 acres of public lands making it a perfect location for fishing, boating, and other water activities, camping, and picnicking. It sits in the foothills just west of Fort Collins along the Dakota Hogback Ridge. The reservoir was first constructed in 1949 as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to provide consistency from the water being provided by the Poudre River. It has since become a favorite recreation spot for many Coloradoans, attracting about 570,000 visitors each year.


Water Recreation

The Reservoir itself is a popular choice for water recreation such as water skiing, wakeboarding, boating, fishing, and swimming. The Reservoir is surrounded by 1,900 acres, providing ample opportunities for Fort Collins residents to make a trip to Horsetooth Reservoir last a few hours or all day. Miles and miles of trails are available for hiking, mountain biking and even horseback riding. Bouldering and road cycling are other popular activities in the area.



Horsetooth Reservoir is also a fantastic location for weddings. South Eltuck picnic area is the smallest of the recommended locations and has a beautiful vista overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir. South Eltuck picnic area can host approximately 50 guests. If your wedding party is a little larger, you might want to consider one of the other two areas: Soldier Canyon or the Timber picnic area. Both Soldier Canyon and Timber picnic area can accommodate up to 100 guests.

Camping at Horsetooth Reservoir

In addition to the wide array of activity options, Horsetooth Reservoir is a perfect scenic location for camping in Colorado. Horsetooth offers plenty of choices to fit whatever style of camping you prefer. Campsites are available with electric and full hook-up for RVs or campers, standard sites for tent camping, and there are even cabins or lodges available. There are three main campgrounds at Horsetooth: South Bay, Inlet Bay (North and South), and Boat-in Campsites. South Bay campground is found at the south end of the Reservoir, Inlet Bay is found at the southwest end, and the Boat-In campsites are on the west side of the Reservoir.


Every campground has a selection of sites at a walking distance to the water and pets are allowed at all campsites. Pull-through and electric hook-up sites are available at Inlet Bay and South Bay campgrounds. Full hook-up sites are only available at the South Bay campground, however.


Camping Permits

Horsetooth Reservoir requires both entrance and camping permits. Daily entrance permits are valid on the date of purchase through noon of the next day. Entrance permits cost $7 per vehicle or $14 per vehicle with a boat trailer.  If you're planning on camping at Horsetooth several times, you may want to consider an annual permit. Entrance permits can be purchased at the Natural Resources Department, at entrance stations, and at self-service stations. Camping permits are in addition to entrances permits and vary in price depending on the date and type of site.


Prices vary from $15 per night to $99 per night. For a complete list of prices, you can visit Larimer County’s website. Reservations are strongly recommended between April and October and must be placed a minimum of 1 day prior to the desired arrival day. You can show up without a reservation, but be warned that available sites are not guaranteed. Any remaining sites after reservations may be available at a first-come-first-served basis. Generally, first-come-first-served sites are not available on the weekends. Reservations for campsites can be made at Walk-in camping and carries an additional fee of $2.50 per site. Purchase of camping permits and reservations can be made at Larimer Camping or Reserve America.


Make sure to make your way to Horsetooth Reservoir this summer for incredible camping with stunning views at just a short drive away.

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