Bluestem Prairie Open Space has recently had more than 4 miles of trail added to its existing 2-mile (one way) out-and-back trail. The extension of the trail has turned what had been a rather unremarkable hike into a more scenic trek.
Located south of the Colorado Springs Airport, and bounded on two sides by Powers Boulevard, the 650 acres open space that encircles much of the privately owned — and currently dry — Big Johnson Reservoir, isn’t necessarily the quietest place to hike. But, the opportunity to see wildlife — birds, antelope, prairie dogs, and yes, rattlesnakes — along with historical farm buildings, great views of the mountains, and summer wildflowers now make this a very desirable place to visit. The new extension of the trail is a large 4-plus-mile loop that starts near the end of what was the original trail. The first couple of miles of the trail, until near the start of the new loop, are a two-track old ranch road, and after that it becomes freshly made single-track trail. The hike is a fairly easy one, with any elevation changes being gentle.
- Bob Falcone
- The informational kiosk at the trailhead is outdated and does not show the new trail additions.
The trail starts at the lone parking lot for the open space on Goldfield Road. There is also a trailhead at Bradley Road and Goldfield Road, but there is no parking available there. Navigating the trail is pretty easy, as there is only one trail and the only choice you need to make is whether to go clockwise or counter-clockwise when the trail meets the new loop, a little under 2.25 miles from the parking lot.
On my recent hike there, I went counter-clockwise. The view, and the experience, will pretty much be the same no matter which way you go. There were plenty of prairie dogs to see, along with a herd of pronghorn, and a variety of birds, including a harrier. Because those prairie dogs are known to carry the plague, dogs are not allowed in the open space at all. And really, between those and the rattlesnakes that are known to inhabit the area, taking your pup there would be risky, anyway.
In the summer, the open space is home to plenty of wildflowers, and when the reservoir is filled, it’s a great place to get photos of reflected skies at sunrise and sunset. The loop part of the trail passes a couple of old farm buildings and the remnants of a windmill.
How to get there: From Powers Boulevard, turn south on Grinnell Boulevard and then left (east) onto Bradley Road. At the end of Bradley Road, turn right onto Goldfield Road and follow it to the signed trailhead and parking lot.
Things You Need To Know: While the trail is easy, there is no shade, and the complete hike is 8.5 miles. It can be a long, hot hike during summer months. The reservoir is privately owned and off-limits to the public. The open space is open to all but motorized use, however there is no room at the rather small parking lot for horse trailers. Rattlesnakes are known to inhabit the area, so stay on the established trail to reduce the chance of an unfortunate encounter. There is no water or restroom at the trailhead. Dogs are prohibited in the open space due to plague carried by the prairie dogs. Additional information, including the Open Space Management Plan can be found here.
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Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob’s Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: email@example.com.