A Feast for the Senses: Connecting with Nature in Stratton Open Space

text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather

Part of the Family

If you’ve ever visited North Cheyenne Cañon, you’ve been very close to Stratton Open Space. Think of this open space as the little brother to the cañon, and It’s time to give the little guy a chance.

Just The Facts

Trail: Ridge Loop/Ponderosa Trail/Arroyo Grande Trail/Chamberlain Trail/The Chutes
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 535 ft
Distance: 3.3 mi. (loop)
Trail Use: Hiking, Trail Running, Mountain Hiking
Trail Condition: Maintained, and clearly marked
Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
Access: All year long
Trail Map: www.cograilway.com
Entrance fee: Free!

Meadow Earth

A trek in Stratton Open Space starts through a rolling meadow. There are multiple trail options and directions to take, so the choice is really up to you. I picked a path right in the middle, and made my way up Ridge Loop.

Rain and snow, over that past few days, have left the trails good and muddy. But muddy boots are fun...sometimes. The trails in the meadow area are mostly dirt, so rain and snow plus dirt...you get the idea. But as I gained in elevation, and stepped onto Ponderosa Trail, the path dried out, and the mud disappeared.

Chutes and Ladders

As I continued on, I had this feeling of gliding through the forest. Mountain biking is very popular, in the open space, and this has carved the trails into big, sweeping corners with smooth transitions around rocks and trees. While a lot of trails stick to a fairly straight direction, Ponderosa and Arroyo Grande felt more like bobbing and weaving around trees, and slipping up, and over small hills. It’s fun, and a nice change of pace.

The elevation gradually increased as I traveled further into the pine forest. The rain and snow have left the bark, and fallen autumn leaves saturated, and enhanced all the textures and smells. Some snow still hides in the shadows, and adds even more textures for my senses to latch onto.

After I made my way through the forest, I merged with Chamberlain Trail and worked my way back down towards the parking lot.

The End is the Beginning

Chamberlain Trail passes between two separate reservoirs (Gold Camp Reservoir, and South Suburban Reservoir) before joining up with The Chutes. This section of The Chutes is an access road, and very similar the access road through Blodgett Peak Open Space. The road leads to the parking lot, where you can hop on another trail, or pack it up for the day.

Stratton Open Space welcomes any and all outdoor lovers. Hit the trails on your mountain bike, and glide through the forest, or take your dog for a relaxing walk through the meadow. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blue-bird day, or overcast and cool...the time will be worth it.