West Side Loop/Cheyenne Rim Loop
Red Mountain Open Space
12.6 mi (West Side)/10.9 mi (Cheyenne Rim)
1385 ft (West Side)/1438 ft (Cheyenne Rim)
Red Mountain Open Space is about an hour from my home in Fort Collins, and most of the journey is on dirt road, so it's not as heavily used as many other preserved open space units in the region. It's part of a system that includes Soapstone Prairie Natural Area (City of Fort Collins) and the Big Hole Open Space (City of Cheyenne, WY).
Geology isn't my strongest point, but it's effectively a hole in the plains that exposes a bunch of red rock and dirt and looks like some parts of New Mexico to me. It has a high desert feel with lots of yucca and sage and no trees to get in the way of the views.
The two routes shown here cover the entire Red Mountain trail system, and they also traverse into both Soapstone and Wyoming's Big Hole Open Space.
Route #1 - Western Loop (shown in blue)
This route is the most scenic part of Red Mountain Open Space. It goes through a spectacular canyon, climbs the K-Lynn Cameron Trail (my favorite) and traverses both Ruby Wash and Salt Lick Trails. Ruby Wash is mostly in an arroyo, so it's not as much fun to run, but you are very close to rock canyon walls. Salt Lick is not quite as pretty but it's more fun to run.
Elevation Profile - Western Loop
Route #2 - Cheyenne Rim Loop (shown in red)
This trail starts in the canyon and climbs back up to the plains. Views are spectacular once you get up there. I followed the Cheyenne Rim Trail north, briefly into Wyoming, and then looped back from there.
It was a beautiful spring day, 42 degrees when I started. In two hours I met two hikers, one mountain biker, and I surprised a couple horse riders on a blind corner, which luckily ended up with no one getting hurt.
Elevation Profile - Cheyenne Rim Loop
Red Mountain is closed in the winter and I'd worry about snakes in the summer, but just right on a cool spring or fall day.
Photos © Ben O'Connor. All rights reserved.