Spotlight on Parks: Lory State Park

Soldier Canyon Falls. Photo by Jamie Simo.
Soldier Canyon Falls. Photo by Jamie Simo.

In between rain storms, I recently visited Lory State Park. Not far from Fort Collins and overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir, Lory is a spectacular mixture of habitats, from lowland riparian areas to montane conifer forest. The park is named after Dr. Charles Lory, president of Colorado State University from 1909 to 1940, and was ranchland until 1967. Today, it consists of 2,591 acres dedicated to hiking, boating, fishing, biking, and more.

My trip to Lory started past the visitor’s center at the Waterfall Trail. Short and sweet at only 0.1 miles, this is a fantastic area for birding and an easy hike. Without even leaving the picnic area, I saw Bullock’s orioles, yellow warblers, house wrens, and a lazuli bunting. The culmination of the trail is Soldier Canyon Falls, a picturesque waterfall enclosed in a small canyon.

Mouse ear chickweed. Photo by Jamie Simo.
Mouse ear chickweed. Photo by Jamie Simo.

From Soldier Canyon Falls I drove down to the head of the Well Gulch Trail. Though restricted to foot traffic, Well Gulch is a great trail because it takes you through several of the habitats within the park. The trail runs parallel to a stream. In addition to the number of birds that make their home along it (particularly abundant were spotted towhees), Well Gulch is a breath-taking trail this time of year due to its amazing variety of wildflowers. From velvety white pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia) to electric blue Nuttall’s larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) to blazing orange wallflowers (Erysimum capitatum), the trail is an anthophile’s dream.

The blue pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer Californicus) feeds on fungi on aspen and Ponderosa pine. Photo by Jamie Simo.
The blue pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer Californicus) feeds on fungi on aspen and Ponderosa pine. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Butterflies and other insects are also abundant along the trail, including the painted lady (Vanessa cardui), the red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), and the variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia). At one point, I ran across an interesting blue beetle I’d never seen before. Apparently this beetle is known as the pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer californicus), which, as a larva, feeds on fungi mainly on aspen and Ponderosa pine. As adults, they also consume nectar and pollen.

When it warms up and dries out, consider visiting Lory State Park to see what you can see. Like all Colorado state parks, the entry fee is $7 a day or you can pay $70 for an annual park pass that will give you unlimited access. Although there are no full-service camp sites in the park, you can backcountry camp for $10 a night. Information about additional fees such as for group picnic area rentals are available on the park’s website.

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