If you're driving into Fort Collins on U.S. 287 from Wyoming, you know you're close to the beer, bikes, bands and CSU Rams of Fort Fun when you see the giant sandstone wedge of the Bellvue Dome. Sloping sharply westward, the hogback, part of the same ridge that forms the eastern flank of Horsetooth Reservoir, ends abruptly at a cliff and drops directly down to the Poudre River hundreds of feet below at Watson Lake. The dome will come into view as you head south at about the same time you pass Highway 14 leading into the mountains and U.S. 287 opens up into four lanes heading into the Fort.
Go ahead, do a Google search. You'll find a gazillion images of the Bellvue Dome from afar, but there aren't many out there taken from its summit.
There are no trails to the top of Bellvue Dome, and in fact, it's difficult to access because it's surrounded by private land. But what's unique about the dome, besides its geology, is that its summit is on a 44 acre parcel of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM land is abundant throughout the West, but it's a true rarity in the northern Front Range region. Most of our federal public land up here is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, or it's part of Rocky Mountain National Park. But BLM land is scattered about here and there, and the summit of Bellvue Dome is one of those places.
There's a hell of a view of the Poudre River from the top, but the the problem, of course, is access. Bordered by private land to the east, city of Fort Collins utility property on the southeast and precipitous cliffs on Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife land to the west, access to the top is almost exclusively on private land.
After work today, however, Jacob and I decided to test how penetrable the private land bordering the dome really is. Fortunately, one of the landowners nearby greeted us as we approached the access road to the city of Fort Collins water tank, and he allowed us to cross his property to reach the summit. Despite my legs being ripped to shreds by thick thickets of mountain mahogany, the reward for the trouble of reaching a rarely-visited parcel of public land was well worth the scratches and scars.
If you're interested what else is on BLM land in eastern Larimer County (much of the Laramie River Valley in western Larimer County is managed by the BLM out of Kremmling), there are some interesting things to find on that land if you can get there. About 80 acres of BLM land just west of Livermore hosts an incredible view of the canyons and foothills west of U.S. 287. Another parcel is atop the hogback overlooking U.S. 287 and what could one day be Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins. All these BLM parcels are managed by the Front Range BLM office way down in Cañon City under a management plan written in 1986. That plan, too ancient and probably too insignificant for BLM officials to digitize, is unavailable online.