Water, as we know, is precious in the West. The discovery of reservoirs thrilled pioneers, and for explorers today, the sight remains a delight. We hike long and hard for alpine lakes. But in Colorado Springs, one doesn’t have to go far for the refreshing experience of water and mountains. Take, for example, the South Suburban Reservoir.
Land managers patrol the drinking water source within Stratton Open Space. Signs remind visitors to respect the source — no fishing, no swimming, except, perhaps oddly, excited dogs are allowed to frolic. The solitude on the beach is more than enough for human beings.
You’ll envy Cheyenne Mountain’s reflection on the water, those coniferous slopes blending with the surrounding, craggy canyon sides. You’ll listen to the soft ripple of the water, mixed with the chimes of the Will Rogers Shrine. And you might be amazed when you remember how quickly you got here.
Stratton Open Space is a quick getaway, though often overlooked, as many opt for the nearby wilds of North Cheyenne Cañon Park. We parked at the main trailhead off Ridgeway Avenue, starting on the path marked for Upper Meadows Loop. We’ll describe our approach, but don’t let Stratton’s trail maze intimidate. Most everything comes together.
At the first ‘Y’, we went left, going slightly uphill for the ridge. At the next split, we continued on the path heading up, following the marker reading “To Reservoir via Ridge Trail.” You’ll crest at another junction, where a path goes left. Take that, but not before taking in the overlook featuring Cheyenne Mountain, The Broadmoor, downtown and the plains stretching far east.
Continue through denser woods, following the flowy trail that makes for an enjoyable downhill ride for mountain bikers, who treasure the nearby trail known as the Chutes.
The trees clear at the head of the Ponderosa Trail. On the wide path, go straight toward the dam, meeting the Lower South Suburban Reservoir Loop. We went right on the loop, quickly coming to the post pointing left for the upper loop. Take this spur and arrive at your prize.
You can extend the adventure from here, but on this trip we returned the way we came, looping around the water to enjoy the classic panorama. It includes Queens Canyon to the north and Garden of the Gods visible above the forest.
Trip report: 2.26 miles (out and back), 223 feet elevation gain, 6,539 feet max
Getting there: Going south on Interstate 25, take exit 140, turning right on Tejon Street and continuing to the stoplight. Go right on Cheyenne Boulevard and continue about 2 miles, turning right on Ridgeway Avenue to the open space parking lot.
FYI: Hikers, bikers, equestrians. Dogs on leash.
Seth Boster, The Gazette