There’s no shortage of places to visit to experience the beauty and grandeur of Colorado’s great outdoors but oftentimes, it’s easy to stick close to home and explore the same spots for a quick nature fix. For those looking for a new adventure, State Forest State Park near Walden offers idyllic, Colorado mountainscapes without the crowds of some of the more visited outdoor destinations.
We’ve compiled a list of our top four reasons to visit State Forest State Park.
1.The terrain is similar to Rocky Mountain National Park, without the crowds.
When brainstorming a weekend getaway in Colorado, it’s easy to immediately leap to Rocky Mountain National Park as the best place to go. Boasting diverse wildlife, hundreds of alpine lakes, and snow-capped mountains, it remains one of the most visited national parks. But for those of us not up to braving the hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, there’s another option.
Located approximately two hours west of Fort Collins, State Forest State Park is the ultimate in rugged Colorado. 71,000 acres of forest, back-country trails, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife comprise State Forest, a park as scenic as Colorado’s very own Rocky Mountain National Park.
State Forest State Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are separated at State Forest’s southeast border by Thunder Pass, which can be traversed on foot. The park also stretches along the west side of the Medicine Bow mountains.
2. Lake Agnes
Plenty of lakes exist within State Forest’s boundaries, but our favorite may just be Lake Agnes. While this gem lies at approximately 10,600 feet, it requires less than a mile long hike to reach its waters in the summer months. Visitors will be astounded at the mammoth peaks that surround the lake as well as the rocky, tree adorned island in the middle.
The Nokhu Crags dominate the northwest view above Lake Agnes. These spectacular formations were created by a combination of sedimentary deposit millions of years ago in an ancient ocean basin as well as cooling magma. Nokhu, meaning “Eagle’s Nest,” is derived from the Arapahoe language. True to its name, bald eagles can be spotted in the area.
Pack some food, grab your fishing equipment, and spend a few hours exploring the shores of this unique lake.
Moose are State Forest’s claim to fame. In the 1970’s, state wildlife experts transplanted a handful of moose from Wyoming and Utah into North Park, Colorado to create a breeding population. Today, the number of moose in the state totals more than two thousand. Approximately six hundred of that number can be found in and around State Forest State Park. These animals are even the theme of the park’s educational visitor center.
Visitors can drive, mountain bike, or walk through the park in search of moose. Just remember to stay a safe distance from the animals.
4. There are a plethora of drive-in and back-country hiking options.
With its diverse terrain, State Forest has a variety of hiking trails. For those looking for a leisurely hike or two, the park delivers. For instance, Lumberjack trail is an easy, 2.5 mile out-and-back trail. This path takes you over three streams, through several meadows, and beside plenty of aspen groves. Great for families, a handful of short, educational nature trails are scattered throughout the park as well.
Visitors in the mood for longer, back-country hikes are in luck too. Backpackers in search of a good route for the weekend can traverse a difficult 6.5 miles one way to Kelly Lake or seven miles one way to Clear Lake. Pitch a tent for the night and be prepared for a spectacular show of stars in the sky above.
Don’t waste any time. Get to State Forest State Park to experience the rugged beauty.