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Top open-space destinations

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Austin Bluffs Open Space

Details: You know that cool rock formation that looks like a castle east of Interstate 25, near the Nevada exit? That's Pulpit Rock, a great open-space destination that offers single-track and double-track trails.

Getting there: Take Nevada north until it ends (just before I-25). Look for a utilities substation and you'll see parking for the trailhead there.

Blodgett Peak Open Space

Details: With interesting rock formations and portions of ponderosa-Douglas fir forest, this area is home to peregrine falcons.

Getting there: Take I-25 to Woodmen Road; exit and drive west. Turn north when Woodmen Road goes to the right, and drive five miles. Watch for the trailhead on the west side of the road.

Bluestem Prairie Open Space

Details: Birders love this place, and if you've ever looked for that great panoramic shot of Pikes Peak, you'll love it, too.

Getting there: Take I-25 south to Exit 138. Drive east on South Circle Drive and south onto Hancock Avenue. Turn east onto Drennan Road, south onto Grinnell Street, east on Fontaine Boulevard and north on Goldfield Road. Look for the trailhead parking on the east side of Goldfield.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Details: The state's newest park was partially purchased with TOPS funds. It offers miles of hiking through several life zones. (Note: construction continues at this park, so it's only open on weekends.)

Getting there: From I-25, take the South Nevada exit (for Highway 115). Drive south and watch for the entrance to the park, just across from Fort Carson's main gate.

High Chaparral Open Space

Details: It's all about the view. You're on a prominent ridgeline here, where you can see the Front Range, the Wet Mountains and the Spanish Peaks.

Getting there: Take I-25 to the Garden of the Gods Road exit. Drive east to Stetson Hills Boulevard and turn east. Near the top of the hill, turn right on Rose Ridge Drive. Take another right and follow Rose Ridge to the water tank, where you'll find the trailhead.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Details: If you love the red rocks of Garden of the Gods, you'll love this place. Don't forget to stop and meditate at the lake in the center of this tranquil open space.

Getting there: From I-25, head west on U.S. 24. Turn left on Ridge Road into a large parking area.

Stratton Open Space

Details: This area includes one of the more popular mountain bike trails in the area, The Chutes. You can also choose trails here that are just for hikers.

Getting there: There are three places to park: off Ridgeway Avenue, off La Veta Way and just past the Starsmore Discovery Center at the entrance to Cheyenne Cañon Park. From I-25, take U.S. 24 west. Turn south on 21st Street. Turn west on La Veta, south of Cheyenne Mountain High School. Ridgeway takes off north from Cheyenne Boulevard.

Black Forest Regional Park

Details: You'll see how the Black Forest gets its name if you hike here, through the forest of ponderosa and other conifers.

Getting there: Take Colorado 83 north to Shoup Road; turn onto Shoup and drive east 2.5 miles to Milam Road. Watch for the park sign.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Details: It's a fantastical place with a labyrinth of sandstone-capped clay and painted rocks. The paint mines are named for the way that leaching minerals paint the rock gulches here, like a mini Badlands.

Getting there: Take U.S. 24 east to Calhan. Turn right on Yoder Road/Calhan Highway, then left on Paint Mines Road.

Section 16

Details: The main trail, called Palmer-Red Rocks Loop, takes you through scrub oak and conifers with memorable rock formations and a combination of steep and flat.

Getting there: From I-25, take U.S. 24 west to 21st Street. Turn left and drive to Gold Camp Road; turn right and continue through the four-way stop sign. Watch for the trailhead on the west side of the road. The main trail also connects with trails in Red Rock Canyon.

Catamount Ranch Resource Protection Area

Details: A mixed-growth forest gives way to sweeping views of Pikes Peak in this Teller County open space. Watch for elk and mule deer.

Getting there: Drive west on U.S. 24 through Woodland Park. Turn left on Edlowe Road, and follow it to parking on your left.

Coming up:

The Pineries, a 1,040-acre open space in the Black Forest.

Maybe someday:

Cheyenne Mountain, full of mixed-growth forests, stunning views of the city and the plains beyond, and hidden meadows.

CAPSULE

For more information,

including maps, visit:

trailsandopenspaces.org

springsgov.com/sectionindex.asp?sectionid=45

adm.elpasoco.com/parks_and_leisure_services

co.teller.co.us/parks/catamount/catamoun.htm

palmerfoundation.org

Defining open space

U.S. Forest Service: Open space includes areas such as forests, grasslands, working farms and ranches, as well as parks and river and stream corridors.

Colorado Springs Parks: Open space areas are in a natural or primarily natural state; they contain significant natural, aesthetic or cultural features that warrant protection; and they are permanently protected.

El Paso County Parks: Open space is land that has been permanently set aside or otherwise preserved to retain land, water, historic and other aesthetic features in a primarily natural state.

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