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Sharptail Ridge Open Space (What is Open Space Anyway?)

Sharptail Ridge Open Space

Fresh Colorado air and blue skies. Not a car in the parking lot. No one in sight.  Perfect!

The Sharptail Ridge Open Space, located just south of Denver next to Roxborough State Park, was as it should be – serene. I couldn’t wait to lace up my boots and take a quiet stroll through undisturbed seclusion.

Sharptail Ridge Open Space Trailhead
Sharptail Ridge Open Space Trailhead

I fastened my young daughter, Z, on my back, and the two of us took to the trail. Immediately, I ruminated on the concept of “open space.” Whether it’s here on the Front Range in a Jefferson, Douglas, Boulder, Arapahoe, Larimer, El Paso, or Adams County open space or in the mountains in an Eagle, Pitkin, or Summit County open space, how many of us have paused to think about what open space really entails?

Even designated open spaces are actually anything but open. While open space is generally devoid of significant human impacts, such as roads, buildings, mining activity, and houses (like the countless new housing developments cropping up throughout Colorado, including the nearby 3,400-acre Sterling Ranch), it is abundant in wildlife, adventure, pines, freedom, and amber waves of grain. Open spaces are the very reason so many of us stay in or move to Colorado. The state’s lifeblood, economy, quality of life, and soul are rooted deeply in the concept.

Sharptail Ridge Open Space
Sharptail Ridge Open Space

To me, open space is a place to regain my center. It’s a place to escape the daily grind and all of life’s stresses. And as Thoreau wrote:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” — Henry David Thoreau

Open space is that contemplative arena that Thoreau penned about, which enables mental growth and creativity. It is also an endangered setting that is rapidly diminishing across Colorado and across the West.

Even though Z is not quite two years old, I am glad that we were able to share the trail and a long moment together atop Sharptail Ridge. While she is not able to speak yet, Z understands a great deal of what we talk about. And as we peered out from the ridge top looking over Roxborough and Chatfield and all the land that will soon be gobbled up by houses in between the two state parks (aka Sterling Ranch), I sensed that she shared my appreciation for “open space.” I knew she could see all of its value and that it was anything but simply open.

Sharptail Ridge Trail
Sharptail Ridge Trail

More About Douglas County’s Sharptail Ridge Open Space

The 4.6-mile Sharptail Ridge Trail crosses high rolling grasslands, home to a variety of wildlife including elk herds on Douglas County Open Space, as well as through the southeast portion of Roxborough State Park shrublands. Expect seasonal closures in the Sharptail Ridge Open Space trail segment in the fall to allow for hunting as regulated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.  The Sharptail Ridge Trail connects to the Indian Creek Trail, Waterton Canyon, and the 470-mile Colorado Trail. Dogs are not allowed.

Find hiking trail maps and additional info on Douglas County Open Space’s website.

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Josh T

Josh is a native son and big fan of pack burro racing. He thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, loves running and biking, and is passionate about sharing his favorite journeys and experiences with others. You can typically find Josh out exploring the less beaten paths under Colorado's sunny skies.

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