An Island in the Midst of a Bustling City: Wandering Through Sondermann Park

text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather

Out of Sight

Being completely surprised by a hike isn’t uncommon, but when it’s located just off the Interstate...that’s something wholly unexpected. Sondermann Park sits in plain sight, but often overlooked; except by those who are in the know. It’s a perfect little spot for a quick walk, or stroll in nature, and you’ll still be within a short distance from downtown.

Just The Facts

Trail: South Park Loop, Western Loop Trail
Difficulty: Super Easy
Elevation Gain: 194 ft
Distance: 1.43 mi. (loop)
Trail Use: Hiking, Trail Running, Dog walking
Trail Condition: Maintained, and mostly well marked
Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
Access: All year long
Trail Map: https://trails.colorado.gov/@break_trail
Entrance fee: Free!

A Common Thread

The easiest parking will be at the Catamount Institute. Maybe you’ve heard me mention the Catamount Center before from my Elder-Fehn, or the Crags hikes. The Catamount Center is a sister organization of the Catamount Institute

The parking is limited, so if you show up later in the day...you might be out of luck. The parking lot does close early—depending on the season, or other activities at the institute. So time of day could mean you’ll have to look elsewhere.

After you park, head across the footbridge—which crosses over Mesa Creek—and you’ll be on your way. There are a few options to choose from, but I stuck with the loop trails in the main section of the park, and began on South Park Loop.

Gentle Stroll

While you might not be alone in the park, you’re not going to be dodging large groups, or heavy foot traffic at all. It’ll be busiest on the weekends, or holidays, but mostly locals out walking their dogs during the weekdays.

South Park Loop heads south (shocking, I know), and then sweeps back to the north. You’ll catch some views of Pikes Peak, but mostly you’re trekking through tall grass rising over easy-going hills.

Deer are a common sight; silently walking along the hillsides, and dry gullies. The hillsides are also dappled with wild flowers of fiery-red, buttery-yellow, and vibrant purple.

Is it Right, or Left

The well-worn trail is easy to follow, but also easy to lose. It’s marked, but not at every junction. I wanted to follow Western Loop Trail to Blue Stem Trail, but ended up staying on Western Loop. The junction isn’t marked for these trails, so be on the lookout. You won’t get lost in the woods, but you might end up taking a route that you didn’t plan on, like I did.

Sondermann Park is a unique mix of an Open Space and a Neighborhood Park. Your senses will be delighted by the calm of the natural surroundings (both flora and fauna) all while being just a stone's throw from a major interstate.

Lay of the Land

Sondermann Park is named after Fred Sondermann who was, among other things, a WWII veteran, Colorado College Professor, and Colorado Springs City Councilman. Sadly, Fred passed away in 1978, after a battle with cancer. He was just 54. His lasting impact at Colorado College and his role as a Colorado City Councilman led to the park being renamed in his honor.

Marion Sondermann, Fred’s wife, spoke at that dedication in 1979.

"Fred's concern was to ensure that qualities and amenities which attracted us to this beautiful city in the first place and which make it such a desirable place to live are maintained and enhanced. This park, at the center of a rapidly developing urban area, will be a most important contribution toward this goal. The decision to maintain this area in its natural state is fully in keeping with what I am sure would have been Fred's wishes, an island in the midst of a bustling city; a place for quiet retreat; and a reminder of the true value of the land."

More information about Fred Sondermann, and the future of Sondermann Park can be found at these links:

Centennial Boulevard Extension
From the Colorado College history of the Political Science Department
Article about the Sondermann's

COLORADO SPRINGS WEATHER
Purple wild flowers soaking up the sun along Western Loop Trail in Sondermann Park