Hike to "The A" via the Foothills Trail

Rate this Adventure Colorado Maxwell Natural Area

Added by Grant Whitty

The A is an iconic landmark of Fort Collins and popular hike for locals and visitors alike. The hike is only 4.1 miles round-trip and includes views of Horsetooth Reservoir, the Colorado State University Campus, and the town of Fort Collins. 

Why is there an A on the side of the mountain? 

The "A" stands for Aggies. When Colorado State University was first founded in 1870, it was originally called Colorado Agricultural College. The mascot at the time was The Aggies. Though the college has now become Colorado State and its mascot, The Rams; "The A" reflects the university's history and is repainted every August by the incoming freshman class. 

To get to the trailhead, drive directly west of Fort Collins, to Overland Trail Road. Follow Overland Trail near Hughes Stadium. Get to the south side of Hughes Stadium and look for Dixon Canyon Road, to the West. Take this road west for under a mile and look for the sign on the right saying Maxwell Natural Area. Turn right into the parking area. 

Once you enter the parking area, park your car and double check your gear. Lace up your hiking boots or tighten your chacos and hit the trail; The Foothills Trail is the only trail from this trailhead and parking lot. The trail will start out wider than most trails as it is also used for mountain bikers, be cautious of bikers in front of and behind you. The trail will continue straight  north and behind of Hughes Stadium. You will see the A on the ridge above, to your left. 

The trail will wind to the left and cross a gravel road. Continue on the trail as it continues north and west towards the ridge. There will be a few easy switchbacks to get you up to the ridge. Once you get up on the ridge there will be a fork in the road, stay left and follow the signage. 

Soon there will be another fork, continue to the left. This is now the last leg of the hike. You will have then wrapped around the back of the first ridge, and will now crest the ridge from the back (west) side. Once you crest the ridge, continue to your right and up the ridge.

After a few hundred feet you will reach the A. Since you will be above the A you will be looking down at it, it won't look like much of a letter due to its size. You will know its the A when you see many shrubs and rocks covered in white paint below you. (See photos)

Take a moment to sit down and enjoy the view on both sides of the ridge. The town of Fort Collins will be to your east and Horsetooth Reservoir will be to your west. This is also a great hike for sunrise. 

After some time at the top, make your way back down the way you came. Please do not cut corners and do not use non-designated trails. Keep the trail nice for everyone. 

Be aware of rattle snakes, as they call this place their home.  

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Hiking Shoes/Sandals
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Sun/Rain Protection
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Hiking

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

4.1 Miles

Elev. Gain:

565 Feet

Features:

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Grant Whitty

Iowa Raised, Colorado Living // Instagram: @grantwhitty

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