Hike to "The A" via the Foothills Trail

Details

Distance

4.1 miles

Elevation Gain

565 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

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.  

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For Easier Access, Try This

Alternatively, you can access the “A” Southward from Rotary Park using the A-Hill trail or the Overlook trail. Both trails are bi-directional and are good for hiking, mountain biking, or trail running. This is an easier method of accessing the historic “A”. To access Rotary Park drive past the Maxwell Natural Area as described in the original post and up 42C. The road will wind past Dixon Reservoir and turned into Centennial Drive. Continue on the road over the dam, then up the hill as Centennial Drive becomes N. Co Rd 23. After parking at Rotary Park, cross the road to the East and descend the top portion of the Foothills Access trail then turn right and head South toward the A-Hill and Overlook trails. I have added a few additional pictures for further clarity. Enjoy the great views of Fort Collins!

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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