Pineridge Natural Area (3.75 miles) dirt trails
This is a nice route for trail running in the fort Collins area. The entire eastern half of the loop is a very slight, but flat uphill grade, but as you turn west and north you climb up along the tree line, and climb still further over a series of rolling hills on a path that is rocky in places. Overall, it's pretty easy as trail runs go, and the repeated hills along the west side of the course are good for some easy hill training. The north end of the route, around around Dixon reservoir slips through the deciduous woodlands, on a fun meandering path, and across the earthen dam. If you are looking for short, relatively easy introduction to trail running, The outer loop at Pineridge Natural area is a solid option in the Fort Collins area.
The Bacon Strip (10 miles)
The Bacon Strip (10 miles)
The Bacon Strip is 10 mile route on rural dirt roads over rolling hilly terrain three miles East of I-25, Northeast of Fort Collins. Because of the hills and dirt roads, this is a challenging route. It is said that to be able to run the bacon strip once is to be ready to run any half marathon road race, and to be able to run it twice (a "Double Bacon") is to be ready for any marathon. I've not put that to the test, but others have and say it holds true. If you choose to run the Bacon Strip, you may want to do so early in the morning, and be courteous to drivers whether they return the favor or not. These rural roads serve as access to local residents and farms, and we'd all like to foster good will with them, because each year The Bacon Strip 10 mile and Bacon Bits 4 Mile races are held here and it's important to have the locals on our side, or at least ambivalent!
Horsetooth-Bingham Hill Loop (13.3 miles)
This is a very challenging course on paved roads. The most challenging portion of the course is in the first 8 miles, and start with a steep climb from the Parking lot at Maxwell Natural Area up Centennial drive, down and across a dam, then up another steep hill at the highest point in the route (about 800 ft. above the start). The route continues along the ridge top and takes a steep dive as it passes by the dam on the north end of Horsetooth reservoir. From there things are nice and flat, until you turn on Bingham Hill road and look up ahead to see another hill (the last serious challenge in the run). Once you crest BingHam hill, terrain is either flat or rolling and slightly uphill overall down Overland Trail back to where you started. There is very little shoulder along Centennial drive (N. Co Rd. 23) and Bingham Hill Rd (Co Rd 50E), so be aware of approaching vehicles and run against traffic where you can, so you can keep an eye on them, in case they don't see you. This route is also pretty popular among cyclists, so be sure to say hello when you see them. They're out there for the same reasons you are. Some people use just the first 2-4 miles of this loop as an out and back training route, which is another good option for serious hill training. You can also jump onto a trail that runs along a portion of the ridge top along Centennial Drive, to stay off the road, but it's a single track and you may need to make way now and then for mountain bikers.
This is another one of those routes that is great for preparing you for any half Marathon, including one of the toughest around, the Horsetooth Half Marathon, which shares the first 8.25 miles of this route, before jumping on the River Trail and heading down to the finish at the New Belgium Brewery.