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Hiking in Douglas County: Sharptail Ridge Trail and Open Space

Start of the Sharptail Ridge Trail
Start of the Sharptail Ridge Trail
Deb Stanley

Sharptail Ridge Trail may be the least known hiking trail in Douglas County. While equestrians like to ride here, hikers tend to visit the nearby, very scenic Roxborough State Park and skip this lesser-known area. However, if you're looking for a peaceful walk on the prairie, you should visit here.

Sharptail Ridge Trail
Deb Stanley

The Sharptrail Ridge trailhead is about 1.1 miles from the entrance to Roxborough State Park (directions below). At the trailhead, you'll find a large covered picnic area, porta potty, trash cans and a call box.

Walk toward the nearby log cabin-looking building. That's actually the covered picnic area. Next to the building is a sign telling hikers it's 3.7 miles on the Sharptail Ridge Trail to County Road 5, 4.1 miles to the Swallowtail Trail and 4.5 miles to the Ringtail Trail. For this hike, let's just go as far as we're comfortable.

The initial trail appears to be an old farm or ranch road. The dirt road is wide enough for 3 people to walk side-by-side. Looking ahead, you can see how the trail is heading for rolling grasslands in the distance. The Douglas County Outdoors website describes the trail as, "crosses high rolling grasslands, home to a variety of wildlife including elk herds on Douglas County Open Space, as well as through the SE portion of Roxborough State Park shrublands."

Note, there are no trees along this trail, so if you come in the warmer months, you'll want to start early in the day.

As the trail continues south and slightly west, it becomes a split side-by-side trail, as if following the old tires tracks of a road.There are even a few switchbacks over the ridges, as you hike the prairie lands.

About 1.66 miles from the trailhead you may see a small building in the valley below. With binoculars, you'll be able to see this is an old barn -- maybe a place to store hay in the outer fields. A mile later, at 2.66 miles, we came to the state park boundary. The sign says you've hiked 2.5 miles, a little less than my GPS read.

If you're looking for a hike of five miles, this is a good landmark to use as a turn around spot. Otherwise, continue on. As you hike in this next section, you should start seeing a wide open view of the foothills and hogback rock formations to the west. You may even spot some of the red rock formations of the Roxbourgh Valley to the northwest. We also saw a large reservoir to the northwest -- that's Aurora's Rampart Reservoir. Completed in 1966, it's about 820 acres.

About 3.3 miles from the trailhead, one of my hiking buddies spotted some unusual rock colors off to the right. Talking a few steps off trail, we found an area that was an old quarry. Roxborough Park officials say the quarries are believed to be a part of the clay mining activities along the Dakota Hogback which occurred in the area between 1910 and 1940.

Back on the trail, it was about 4 miles (according to my GPS) to County Road 5. (The signs say 3.7 miles.)

A sign at County Road 5 tells visitors, it's about 1.5 miles to the Visitor's Center at Roxborough State Park. From here, you can turn around for a hike of about 8 miles roundtrip, you can hike to the Visitor's Center to add three miles to your hike, or you can also hike the nearby Swallowtail Trail. Lots of options, so enjoy your visit to this area.

Note, Douglas County does not allow bikers or dogs on the Sharptail Ridge Trail. Read more here. Get a map of the trails in the area here. Find more hikes in the area listed below or check out this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign for an email alert at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.

Details: The hike on the Sharptail Ridge Trail from the trailhead to CR 5 in Roxborough State Park is about 8 miles roundtrip with about 600 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.

Directions: Two choices. Douglas County's website says: From Highway 85 (Santa Fe) turn west onto Titan Parkway and drive 2 miles to Roxborough Park Road; turn left and drive south for 3.7 miles on gravel road; Sharptail Ridge Trailhead is on the left at 6500 North Roxborough Park Road, Littleton, CO 80118.

I recommend taking C-470 and exiting at Wadsworth. Take Wadsworth south past Chatfield State Park. Turn left on Waterton Road (just before the entrance to Lockheed Martin.) Continue on Waterton Road until it ends at North Rampart Range Road (1.6 miles). Turn right (south) on Rampart Range Road and drive 2.2 miles to Roxborough Drive. Turn left and take Roxborough Drive about 1.2 miles to the trailhead. 1.1 of those miles are dirt road.