22. Gateway Natural Area

With all this rain the hills are really starting to show their colors.  If you feel like getting out of town but don’t have all day go check out Gateway Natural Area.  It’s located at the confluence of the North Fork Poudre and mainstem of the Poudre, on the north side of the road just about 5 minutes after you enter the canyon.  It’s one of the few places in the lower canyon where the course of the river parts with Hwy 14 so you won’t hear any road noise.  There’s a couple trails that ascend the canyon walls for nice views of Milton Seaman reservoir and the North Fork valley.  Or, if you want to take it easy just walk the gravel path along the North Fork and gaze up at some of the more impressive canyon walls found anywhere on the Poudre.  You’ll probably see a raptor or two gliding along the rock faces. I’ve even seen bald and golden eagles here. 

The river and Milton Seaman reservoir hold plenty of nice trout.  The reservoir is a 1 mile hike from the parking area which is just far enough so that you can usually find solitude up there. The park is also a nice place for a picnic; there’s covered tables and charcoal grills near the river which can be reserved.  There’s also a boat ramp as Gateway is a popular put in for floats down to picnic rock.  My only gripe about this natural area  is that from March 1 to November 30 you have to pay $5 per vehicle to use the area.  A handful of the city’s natural areas charge a fee for vehicle parking while others do not.  I’m not sure why certain areas require the fee, maybe they get heavy use or require extra maintenance.  If anyone has any insight feel free to chime in.  You can avoid the vehicle fee at Gateway if you’re willing to do a little walking.  Just a few feet past the entrance to the park there’s a small gravel parking area that’s free to use but you’ll have a short, semi steep walk down into the park.  Or, you can buy an annual pass which is $30 ($25 if you renew your pass from the previous year) and works as a parking pass for all our city’s natural areas.  Well worth it cause we’ve got some real beauties.

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