Poudre Park formed from a small cluster of homes in the early 1920s and remains the relaxed retreat of a number of mostly older residents seeking mountain quietude. At an elevation of 5,676 feet, the air is clear and the stars breath-taking. The community is almost entirely residential, consisting of a cluster of small cabins and trailers surrounded by a few larger houses, a church, a community center, a fire station, a campground and a small store. The name 'Cache La Poudre' comes, according to local legend, from the label placed on the map of a French trapper to indicate where he had hidden a stash of gunpowder and is pronounced 'cash la pooder' by locals.
Poudre Park can be reached by taking College Ave./Hwy 287 north from Fort Collins and taking a left onto Poudre Canyon Hwy/Hwy. 14. Gasoline is not available in the Lower Canyon, so start with a full tank. The canyon walls surround one almost immediately and the road itself follows the winding river through high walls of grey rock. Expect sharp curves and drive cautiously, especially after storms, as the road ices easily and heavy rain can wash boulders into the road. Poudre Park will be on your right, between the road and river, and can be noted only by the modest sign and the gradual increase of houses.
A car is necessary for traveling the canyon, though most of the community can be easily reached on foot or bicycle. Be aware that many people tire more easily at higher elevations and plan accordingly. Bicycling in the canyon can be very difficult, due to the steep grades and sharp curves and the relative lack of shoulder between the road and river. Buses routinely transport rafters during high water season, but no public transport exists. Most passerby are very friendly toward hitch-hikers, however, and, in season, a shuttle exists to ferry concert-goers from public parking near the mouth of the canyon to the Mishawaka Amphitheatre.
Poudre Park is surrounded by breath-taking natural views. The hillsides are forested with evergreen pine and craggy rock formations soar high above. The river rushes by over the stones creating a constant noise which rises to a roar in high summer and is reduced to a murmur in the drier months. During the winter, the upper layers of water freeze solid, creating a layer of ice that is strong enough in places to venture out on. Deer, black bear, fox, rabbit and numerous species of birds are frequent visitors and occasionally, mountain lion and bobcat are spotted. Because of the prevalence of bears, which feed on the wild apple trees and chokecherry bushes, caution should be taken when hiking and food and trash should be securely stored or properly disposed of. Elusive columbine flowers grow in places and wild raspberry, plum and currant can be found along the river banks. The night sky is dazzlingly clear of pollution and, during the day, eagles, hawks and turkey vultures soar overhead.
- Camping is available at Poudre Park and includes tent spaces with fire pits and access to a smooth, sandy beach where rafters frequently stop to rest. This beach fronts a calmer, deeper section of the river that is excellent for fly-fishing, swimming and playing with dogs. Be aware that strong currents exist year round and care should be taken when venturing into the deeper areas of water. The private residence to the right of the beach with its unique seawall was built in the early 1920s and was one of the first dwellings in the area. Backing the beach is a grassy field where campers frequently play frisbee, horse-shoes or volleyball. Bonfires are commonly built in the summer evenings and musical jam sessions sometimes take place.
- Fly-fishing is popular up and down the river. The Colorado Division of Wildlife stocks the river annually with brown and rainbow trout and many of these beautiful fish can be seen leaping out of the deeper waters.
- Hiking is available at nearby Greyrock Trail, which heads across the river via a large wooden bridge and leads into open pine forest and grassy meadows. Several loops are available at several difficulty levels.
- Mishawaka Amphitheatre is located a few miles up the road fronting the river. Originally opened in 1916 as a dance hall, this lively local bar offers good drinks and live music year round, attracting many notable acts and a devoted clientele.
- Whitewater rafting is available through several companies in Fort Collins.
- Mountain Whitewater Descents, 1329 N. Hwy. 287; Ft. Collins, CO 80524, toll-free: . A popular choice for rafting trips
- A1 Wildwater, 2801 N. Shields St (NW corner of Sheilds and Hwy 287, about 3 miles N of old town Fort Collins), toll-free: , ✉ fun@A1wildwater.com. 8AM-7PM. A popular choice for rafting trips
- Rocky Mountain Adventures, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers whitewater raft trips, fly-fishing clinics and kayaking lessons in season, and during the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trips are available.
- Some choose to raft or tube sections of the river without a guide, but this should be done with caution, as many areas of the river are very swift and rocky. Consult a local for directions to one of the safe spots.
- The Columbine Lodge. Poudre Park's local store. Charmingly rustic, it sells a variety of snacks, drinks, knick-knacks and camping supplies, as well as a good selection of local beer. The porch out front is a local gathering place for this section of the canyon and most summer evenings will find a small group of friendly residents and a few campers sitting around with a beer and some good conversation. Camping and summer cabins are available through the Lodge and, seasonally, a shuttle ferries concert-goers to nearby Mishawaka Amphitheatre.