A vast spread of rolling meadows spotted with oak and juniper, generational farm buildings and ancient rock outcrops has been preserved. Here on the countryside between Colorado Springs and Denver, this nostalgic, colorful scene framed by the evergreen slopes of Pike National Forest is for all to enjoy.
“What was slated for development is now protected forever,” reads the welcome sign at Sandstone Ranch, which opened at the end of September. “Now, you’re the lucky one to explore magical miles of trails!”
The 12-mile network has been heralded as “the crown jewel” of Douglas County’s open space portfolio. Sandstone Ranch has been anticipated since 2017, when the 2,038 acres were acquired by the program funded by sales tax portions.
Sure enough on the Saturday we visited, cars and horse trailers packed the spacious parking lot — a clear sign of Coloradans’ love for new trails. Along with equestrians, the nontechnical mileage will appeal to runners and cyclists, all of whom must deal with the occasional opening and closing of cattle gates. Perhaps this new option will cut traffic at the super popular Spruce Mountain Open Space down the road.
Of the loops to consider, we went with the one mapped as Sandstone Meadow. From the trailhead, the loop begins to the left. We opted to travel counterclockwise by going right at the next trail marker, toward those rolling summits defining Rampart Range.
We followed handy trail posts throughout, alternating between grassland and brief woods and touring scenic hillsides. It’s worth tacking on another mile to the trip by veering off for Ranch Overlook, which brings you up close to the hulking geology.
Trip log: 4.6 miles round trip, 520 feet elevation gain
Getting there: From Colorado Springs, go north on Interstate 25 and exit for Colorado 105 for Monument/Palmer Lake. Continue on 105 to Palmer Lake, turning left after the lake for Perry Park Road. Drive about 7 miles to parking lot on the left.
FYI: Open one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE