Oct 2, 2020 | By Kristen Richards | Photo by Bibi Powers

Running along the crimson trails at Red Rock Canyon Open Space in late August, I stumbled upon a map of the trail system in the area. The trail I was on extended all the way to Manitou Springs and back, and after deciphering the pinks and blues and reds lining the map, I saw that the area I was in — Red Rocks Canyon — was labelled as an Open Space. I made a mental note to look up what that meant later and continued my scramble through the burgundy dirt and winding trails bordered by huge red rocks.

I got carried away with exploring new trails, but never completely forgot my interest in learning about Open Space parks. They intrigued me: if they were not National Parks nor National Forests, what were they? While visiting some family friends outside of Boulder, Colo., I learned that Colorado has an extensive network of trails within properties known as Open Space parks.

Red Rocks Canyon Open Space is only one of many Open Space parks in the Colorado Springs area. There is Austin Bluffs Open Space, Stratton Open Space, Cheyenne Mountain State Park backdrop, and Blodgett Peak Open Space. Along with a handful of other parks, this land makes up a total of 4,702.3 acres in Colorado Springs. 4,702.3 acres of land for the sole purpose of exploring.

The Trails and Open Space Coalition, TOSC, is the organization that helps preserve these adored parks and create more networks of trails throughout Colorado Springs. The TOSC is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers who work to build and maintain these trails.

Some of the open space parks also have picnic areas, fishing, and wetlands, all open for the enjoyment of the public. TOSC has a variety of projects. The newest, which is called “Ring the Peak,” focuses on building an eight-mile trail on the south side of Pikes Peak.

For Colorado College students, taking advantage of the freedom and quantity of these parks is relatively easy. Red Rocks Canyon Open Space is only a little over five miles west of campus and easily accessible by bus. Stratton Open Space is also five miles away, but south, and extends into Bear Creek Regional Park, another great system of trails. Iron Horse Open Space Park and High Chaparral Open Space are both about seven-and-a-half miles northeast of campus, and Austin Bluffs is about six-and-a-half miles north.

The Tiger Trail and Pike’s Peak Greenway are convenient and close. However, should you want something a little different, the plethora of Open Space parks provides plenty of opportunity to explore new places. The sheer diversity of all these landscapes is astounding: from rock formations to pine tree forests and shaded mountain trails, these Open Space parks are a great way to discover the different environments of Colorado Springs. I have not yet visited them all, but I hope that with time, I will come to know each park as a link to all the incredible opportunities there are for explorers and adventurers in Colorado Springs.

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