Poudre Canyon Run

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Need a new training destination? A beautiful place to run and see some fall foliage? Poudre Canyon is your ticket to a training destination away without being so far away!

Stretching 126 miles from its source in the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Cache La Poudre (pronounced: Poo-ter) river provides host to an entire treasure trove of outdoor recreational activities. From Fly Fishing and rafting to camping and photography. 

Carved away by thousands of years of flowing water, Poudre Canyon itself spans 40 miles from end to end (Fort Collins to North Park) and is accessible for its entire length via County Route 14.

I was made aware of this running option when I was asked to come shoot some photos of runners early in the fall (the photo's you see above). I have since gone back having gotten bored with similar running spots near Denver (I live north of Denver) but not wanting to venture too far away,and done long runs in Poudre Canyon. I have yet to be disappointed!

The Run Route:

I would recommend two cars, one to leave at the start and the other at the finish. But you can easily do an out and back as well with one car.

WARNING- the shoulders can get narrow in places so please be safe and aware that some drivers like to race the canyon a bit.

This run is a Point-to-Point run. To run the 26.2 miles drop a car at Picnic Rock Natural Area. Then load up in the other car and drive to Dadd Gulch Rest Area approximately 0.8mi past Mile Post 94, if you are looking for it on Google Maps this address should work: 28961 Poudre Canyon Rd.

Start your run from Dadd Gulch Parking Lot, turn left and run back to Picnic Rock Natural Area, which is exactly 26.2 miles away.

You will wind your way in an out of steep canyon walls, cross over the Poudre River at times, run along it at others. You will got from very hot in the open sunny areas (which depends on the time of day you run), to chilly in the shaded areas of the canyon, be prepared for this.

At approximately 13 miles from Dadd Gulch (Halfway!) you will pass Stove Prairie Landing, which can be a great place to store water refills, drop another car if you'd like to shorten your run, or turn around and head back if you are doing an out and back run.

At Mile Post 107 you will pass under a rock tunnel carved out of the canyon wall. About half a mile after this you will pass the Mishawaka Historic Indoor & Outdoor Concert Space. Be mindful as this is a even tighter section of the road (the tunnel especially), and make a note to go check out an event at Mishawaka!

After the tunnel the road will keep the river on your left hand side until you are closer to Picnic Rock. With less than 1.5 miles left you will pass back over the river again to finish your run at Picnic Rock. Once you finish depending on how you feel, I recommend taking a seat in the river and just enjoy the cool water, or in the right season a downright ice bath!

Throughout the run you will drop 1800ft of elevation as you descend to Picnic Rock.

This is just one of the myriad of options for runs in Poudre Canyon. I encourage you to explore other options as well, including the trail running. I would recommend wearing orange if you run there in the fall as the few times I have travelled there I have also seen plenty of hunters.

If you are not into running there is a variety of places to camp, fish, hike, bike, horseback ride, rock climb, hunt, or just chill. Truthfully in the Fall season, it is worth simply driving the canyon itself. It truly is a nice little gem not to far from Denver and right outside of Fort Collins!

Map with Mile Posts:

Pack List

  • 2 Vehicles, or 1 if you intend to do an out and back
  • Running gear (BRIGHT COLORS!). I recommend being prepared for it to be cool in the shade and warm in the open areas of the canyon.
  • Plan ahead, plant some water bottles on the side of the road or at rest areas, or plan to carry your water with you.
  • A level head when driving the canyon, and a heightened awareness for safety when running in it. Be mindful and be safe!
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Activities:

Photography, Running, Fitness

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Point-to-Point

Distance:

26.2 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1800 Feet

Features:

Easy Parking
Food Nearby
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Jason Leach

An avid adventurer, triathlete in the summers, lover of winter (though I don't ski), photographer, ballroom dancer, and newly relocated to Denver, Colorado for some higher mountains to play in!

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