Horsetooth Reservoir in Colorado

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Horsetooth Reservoir is a massive man made lake that spans 7 miles long, 1 mile wide, and 200 feet deep. It's located just outside of Fort Collins, CO, and is almost as long as the city itself. The coastline consists of mostly jagged cliffs and large geometric rocks, but there are still a good amount of sandy shores to serve as put ins.

On a typical Summer day, boat traffic is high, and the water will most likely not be flat, but instead choppy with moderate waves from boat wakes. Because the lake is narrow, boat wakes spread to both sides quickly and don't diffuse very well, so waters will be rough. All boat traffic on this lake is recreational, and government; including park rangers and recreational motor boaters and jet skiers. There is none or little commercial activity here.

To paddle Horsetooth Reservoir, a paddler must be comfortable paddling in rough waters with 1-4' waves. Also, a paddler must be sure to avoid oncoming boat traffic and make themselves highly visible (a bicycle safety flag is recommended). It is best to stay near shore since motorboats tend to go very fast in the middle area of the lake.

Expect to see wildlife here including mountain goats, deer, and various birds. To experience the whole lake in a kayak or canoe including its various inlets, it is best to spread the trip out over two days. It's a good idea to start at the north shore, paddle to the south, camp over in the south shore area, then the next day paddle back. There are no dangers actually in the lake. No risk of low-head dams, nor any other hazards.


Campgrounds located at south shore put-in, with outhouses and dumpsters.

Small convenience store located at south shore.
Outhouses and picnic benches are situated through out on the east side of the lake, but there are steep cliffs separating the shores and the accommodations, making it hard to access them from the lake.


7 dollars per vehicle - including Automobiles, Motorized vessels, and Non-motorized vessels


The roads that go the the lake are Harmony and Prospect which both run east and west from I-25 to the lake entrance.


Fort Collins city department of recreation


Standard Rand-McNally Fort Collins area map

Trip Details

  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water

Trip Location