Phantom Canyon Preserve

Site Description   

"It was a mountain valley of the narrowest kind - almost a chasm; and the scenery very wild and beautiful…Below, the green river bottom was a wilderness of flowers, their tall spikes sometimes rising above our heads as we rode among them."

-John Charles Fremont, July 29, 1843

At the time of this journal entry, Fremont found himself within a spectacular region of Colorado known as the Laramie Foothills. Today considered one of the last great Front Range landscapes, this preserve features a spectacular roadless canyon, a rim-to-rim sanctuary encompassing four miles of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.

There is a lot to see here. More than 100 bird species have been spotted in the grassy uplands, along the river's edge and soaring above the canyon walls. And varied topography, slope and soil conditions combine to create habitat for more than 200 plant species.

Early summer visitors or volunteers who participate in guided tours can experience two treats: the colorful, melodious migration of neotropical songbirds and the remarkably colorful display of native wildflowers.  


North-central Colorado, 30 miles northwest of Ft. Collins; about two hours from Denver


1,120 acres 

Why The Conservancy Selected This Site  

The Conservancy protected this preserve in 1987 primarily because this extensive foothills ecosystem supports the Larimer Aletes (Aletes humilis), a rare member of the parsley family. The plant's distribution is limited to Larimer and Boulder counties in Colorado, with the most occurrences here at the preserve. Other native plants include:

  • Bells twinpod
  • Needle-and-thread grass
  • One-sided penstemon

Phantom Canyon is also one of the last remaining roadless canyons along Colorado's Front Range. The preserve provides habitat for many wildlife species, including black bear, mountain lion and bobcat. All three can be found on the Colorado species of special concern list.

Bald eagles use the canyon in the winter months. Golden eagles, prairie falcons and redtail hawks nest high along the canyon walls.

Read about 25 years of conservation at Phantom Canyon.

What The Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Conservancy staff and volunteers are working on the following projects:

  • Reintroducing the natural ecological processes of grazing and fire
  • Restoring the prairie through seed collecting, planting and invasive weed management
  • Creating partnerships and relationships within the local community to promote conservation through conservation easements and best management practices.
Phantom Canyon Volunteers

Phantom Canyon Preserve has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the summer. Visit our Field Trips & Events section to see monthly listings. We look forward to your participation on these rewarding days of fun and giving back to the land… And our deepest thanks for your support! 


Stay Updated

Learn about the places you love and find out how you can help by signing up for Nature eNews.

I'm already on the list Read our privacy policy

Thank you for joining our online community!

We'll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates, and exciting stories.