Stratton Open Space is a 318-acre slice of paradise a short distance from downtown Colorado Springs, a sublime example of how this city quickly fades for nature’s great embrace. A popular access point is off Ridgeway Avenue, behind the neighborhood where houses clear for a hilly expanse — a wide-open scene representing vast possibilities.
The maze of trails connects with the higher wilds of North Cheyenne Cañon and Pike National Forest. But many stay put for a quick walk with the dog or a pre- or post-work run or bike ride. For this visit, we indeed kept it simple and discovered a new corner of the open space. We were reminded of the marvelous variety within a relatively small scope.
The hiker-only Stratton Springs Trail tours a tall, thick forest where an intermittent creek runs. To get there, we started on Wildflower Path from the parking lot, going to the right of what’s mapped as Upper Meadow. Here we heard the nearby bells of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun — those nostalgic chimes lending to the serenity.
Wildflower Path leads to impressive, unobstructed views before veering right, turning into a thinner path that enters the trees and meets Stratton Springs Trail. The trail crosses a few bridges and ascends over rocks to meet Ridge Trail.
Going right at the junction, one comes to the popular destination of South Suburban Reservoir, reflecting the hulking, craggy face of Cheyenne Mountain. Going left on Ridge Trail, one switchbacks down to the parking lot, catching views of the downtown skyline and towers of The Broadmoor along the way.
Trip log: 1.8 miles round trip (loop), 276 feet elevation gain
Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24, turn left (south) onto 21st Street and follow to the light for Cheyenne Boulevard. Turn right, then right for Ridgeway Avenue to the trailhead.
FYI: Open 5 a.m.-10 p.m. May-October, 5 a.m.-9 p.m. November-April. Hiking, biking, horseback riding. Dogs on leash. Through spring 2021, South Suburban Reservoir closed for dam inspection.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE