West Branch Trailhead, COLORADO – We set out in search of adventure, and the West Branch Trail gave us everything we could have asked for, and more.
Located about two-and-a-half hours west of Fort Collins, Colorado, via the Poudre Canyon and Laramie River roads, the West Branch Trail proved full of surprises – in beauty, and in obstacles. It looked innocent enough when we started, but about half a mile in, after the initial creek crossing, we hit knee-deep mud and tricky deadfall. Billy and Hobbes rose to the challenge and took us to solid ground.
From then on, we climbed steadily through lush forest, flowers, greenery and lots of gurgling water obstacles. West Branch Falls were beautiful. As the trail climbed, dirt gave way to rocks and switchbacks. I would not recommend this trail for a barefoot or skittish horse. About an hour up the grade, we spoke with hikers and another pair of riders, who warned us that the toughest water obstacles were ahead. The pair of riders was about to turn back due to the difficulty of the trail.
Their warnings proved true. The puddles grew larger, some of them completely blocking the trail and requiring detours on a steep grade. Even though summer was well under way, this year’s tremendous snowfall left a huge spring melt, and ultimately we hit a deadfall-infested water obstacle for which there was no detour, and the bottom of which we could not see. We turned back, and lunched at the trailhead, which features chemical-toilet restrooms, and ample trailer parking. Total ride time: About 2.5 hours at a walk.