One Way Length
|Cache La Poudre
1,658/352/+1,306 (one way to summit)
Hikers – Moderate; Stock Prohibited
National Forest & Special Regulations > Wilderness
#101 Cache La Poudre, Big Thompson
Poudre Canyon, 23.5 miles from Ted’s Place, just past mile marker 99. At the turn off for Mountain Park Campground, cross over the bridge spanning the Poudre River and immediately turn right to the day use parking area. Continue to the toilet area, where there are five parking spaces for people hiking this trail. A sign here says it is the trailhead, but the true trailhead is about 100 yards uphill to the southeast, just across the upper road; you'll see a second trailhead sign. (There is an area map posted at the trailhead. If you are using the Trails Illustrated map #101, be cautious, since there are errors in its representation of the Kreutzer Nature Trail.)
West jct of Kreutzer &
Mt McConnel trails
Jct. McConnel and spur
trail to summit
East jct. of Mt. McConnel
& Kreutzer trails
Due to their proximity to Mountain Park Campground, both the Mt. McConnel Trail and the Kreutzer Nature Trail are popular hikes during the summer months. Furthermore, the Kreutzer Nature Trail has at least 23 interpretative signs along its length that provide information about local geology, ecology, plants, and animals.
This trail system was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1936 during the Depression and was named after William Kreutzer, who was the first official forest ranger in the U.S., in the 1890s. Mt. McConnel was named after R.C. McConnel, one of the first rangers in the Poudre District, who served here in the early 1900s.
The trail makes several switchbacks, then turns and climbs gradually westward paralleling the campground. After 0.4 mile, it will make a sharp left (east) turn and climb another 0.4 mile to the high point of the Kreutzer Nature Trail, where the west end of the Mt. McConnel Trail starts. Note that there is a flat rock (about 3 ft in diameter and 1 ft high in the middle of the trail at the junction that you have to step over or around. The wooden trail sign marking this junction faces to the east so, although it is quite visible coming from the east, it is very easy to miss if you are coming up the trail from the west. Just 10 ft east of this junction is an interpretative sign for the Creation of the Poudre River Canyon. To continue your patrol of the Mt. McConnel Trail, turn back sharply to your right (west) and follow the Mt. McConnel Trail uphill. Look for several cleverly constructed rock benches and seats that offer respite and great views. These were built right into the mountain slopes supposedly by the CCC. There is a great view to the north from the trail where it switches back just below an impressive rock escarpment and extensive talus slope about 1.4 mile from the trailhead. From this point, the trail continues climbing steeply and passes several more rock benches and seats built by the CCC. About 0.75 miles above the junction with the Kreutzer Nature Trail, the Mt. McConnel Trail enters the Cache la Poudre Wilderness (1.6 miles from the trailhead). (This is the only official trail in this Wilderness.) After another 0.25 mile, look carefully to the west, along the right side of the trail, for the unmarked 0.14 mile-long spur trail to the summit (approx. 1.9 miles from the trailhead). From the summit there is a great view to the southwest of the canyon carved by the South Fork of the Cache La Poudre River and beyond it, on the horizon, you can see the Mummy Range. To the west you can see a stretch of the Pingree Park Road.
We recommend that you now retrace your route: Take the spur trail back to the main Mt. McConnel Trail, turn left (northwest) and descend to the west junction with the Kreutzer Nature Trail, then turn east (right) onto it, follow it to the east junction with the Mt. McConnel Trail, turn left (northwest — downhill) and follow the Kreutzer Nature Trail to its east end, very near the road bridge across the Poudre River.
If you are feeling ambitious at the summit, and are a strong hiker, you can take the spur trail back to the main Mt. McConnel Trail and turn right, to the southeast. The east arm of the Mt. McConnel Trail is steep, primitive, and not often used. You will eventually rejoin the Kreutzer Nature Trail. At this point you can go either of two routes back to Mountain Park Campground. You can follow the Kreutzer Nature Trail uphill and to the west until you reach its junction with the west arm of the Mt. McConnel trail and then follow it (Kreutzer Nature Trail) downhill, retracing your path down to the trailhead. Alternately, you can follow the Kreutzer Nature Trail downhill and to the north and northwest as it contours around the northeast flank of Mt. McConnel and gently descends toward the Poudre River. This route will take you to the eastern terminus of the Kreutzer Nature Trail near the bridge across the Poudre.