With what seems like an endless supply of high-end condos and apartment homes that are making their way across the Front Range, a breath of fresh air has opened up with Douglas County’s newest open space. Douglas County recently added to its long list of public open spaces with the multi-million-dollar purchase of Sandstone Ranch.
What was once planned for development is now protected land that everyone will enjoy for years to come. As one of the biggest purchases made by the county, Sandstone Ranch will remain a part of what Colorado’s Front Range used to be, by helping to preserve and maintain the wild in the Wild West.
Rising from the verdant slopes of the Rampart Range, hillsides covered in Gambel Oak open to expansive green meadows, forested canyon, and riparian land surrounded by the West Plum Creek. Rolling pastures met with meandering creeks and ponds join with the Pike National Forest. But what takes center stage at this sprawling ranch are the towering rock formations.
The ranch’s gigantic crags are the same Fountain Formation that gave rise to the Garden of the Gods, the red rocks of Red Rock Amphitheatre, and the outcroppings at Roxborough State Park.
Spanning 2,083 acres, the rolling green pastures are dotted with the brightly red-colored sandstone rock formations visitors can admire from afar and up close. In addition to its spectacular scenery, visitors are able to explore the open space with 12 miles of trails, a wildlife habitat, and view historic ranching operations from the early days.
Located near the town of Larkspur, the ranch offers a convenient location between Denver and Colorado Springs along the Front Range. Its accessible spot makes it a great day trip from the city to experience a bit of Colorado history and scenic landscapes that are now preserved for all to enjoy.
History of Sandstone Ranch
The ranch has been in operation since the 1870s and still operates today with a cattle herd roaming the pastures. Remnants of the working ranch can be seen throughout including, a number of historic buildings that date back to the original owners.
The initial development plan can be viewed at the information kiosk near the park’s entrance, visually showcasing the development plans for what could have been. With the side by side comparison of what the purchased ranch looks like now as an open space, visitors can appreciate the conservation efforts that took place with the purchase of the ranch.
Activities at Sandstone Ranch
The 12-mile trail system is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. In the winter visitors can explore by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Biking, Hiking and Horseback Riding
The trail system is distinctly divided into two sections, with two main loops.
Juniper Valley Loop – At the parking lot, the trail to the left will lead you to the north end of the ranch. Here, visitors can explore the Juniper Valley Loop, the Red Rock Vista, all within a roughly four-mile walk.
The Juniper Valley loop drops hikers down into a low-lying valley where juniper forests encapsulate the area. The Junipers provide dense nesting sites and food for local wildlife. Be sure to take the off-shoot trail to the Red Rock Vista, where you can take in expansive views of the green pastures below, dotted with red rock formations that are the icon of this open space.
Sandstone Meadow Trail Loop – Back at the parking lot, take the trail to the right to explore the wildlife overlook, the Sandstone Meadow Trail Loop, and the Ranch Overlook. The Sandstone Meadow Trail Loop is 3.7 miles, round trip, with an additional 2.2 miles to the Ranch Overlook.
Gambel Oaks cover most of the hillside, which provides shelter and acorns for deer and Scrub Jays, both hikers will likely frequent as they make their way through the Gambel Oak Loop. The wildlife overlook is anchored by two massive red rock formations and an information kiosk about how both cattle and wildlife at the ranch co-exist.
The open space is very open, with very little shade. So, come prepared with sun protection, and on warm days plan for an early morning or evening hike.
Due to its proximity to the national forest and diverse ecosystems, the ranch is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, bears, and mountain lions. Rattlesnakes are also common in the area, so always be sure to keep your eye out.
- Pets are allowed but must be on a leash
- Open to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers
- Trails are well-marked with signs
- 12 miles of designated trails
- Benches are located throughout the trails
There is a large parking lot with enough room for cars, campers, and horse trailers. Trash receptacles and porta-potties are available as well. An information kiosk with trail information is provided. At the entrance to the two trail systems is a large, covered pavilion equipped with picnic tables and benches.
Hours and operation
The open space is open seven days a week, one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.
From I-25, north or south, take the Larkspur exit 173. Continue on to S Spruce Mountain Rd for nearly one and a half miles. Upon reaching the stop sign in Larkspur, turn right onto Perry Park Avenue. Where Perry Park Avenue dead ends, take a left onto CO-105 E. Sandstone Ranch is approximately 0.6 miles ahead, on the left.
Address: 9268 S Perry Park Rd, Larkspur, CO 80118
Season: Year round