As you drive Interstate 25 between the Park Meadows Shopping Center and Castle Rock, have you ever noticed an open space park on the east side of the highway between Ridgegate and Castle Pines? That’s Glendale Farms Open Space. It’s typically packed with cars because there’s a popular, 17-acre off-leash dog park there. There’s also a 1.8-mile hiking trail.
The park is 1.5-3 miles off the highway, depending on which exit you take (directions below). As you pull into the parking lot, you’ll likely see lots of people going to the dog park on your right, but drive straight ahead. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot.
At the trailhead, you’ll find port-a-potties and a trail sign explaining the history of the area. Glendale Farms was home to a ranch and an orchard. While the sign says none of the farm buildings are still standing, you may get a glimpse of an old home and possibly an outhouse as you walk the trail here.
The Douglas County website said the first rancher here was Austrian immigrant Joseph Kroll. He settled in the area in 1885 after working the coal mines in Leadville. To make ends meet, he kept mining in the winter, leaving his wife and children on the farm. In 1918, the Krolls sold the ranch and moved to Castle Rock.
After reading about some of the characters who have lived in this area (don’t miss the legend of “Happy Canyon”), it’s time to hit the trail. Take just a few steps and you’ll see a rocky bluff to the north. You’ll be up there in a short time. At the trail split, I decided to start my hike by going up, so I went left. The trail climbs about 120 feet in the first third of a mile as it passes through “forests” of shrubs. There are few to no trees here, just areas of shrubs.
About 0.3 miles from the trailhead, hikers come to a spur trail going left. I highly recommend this spur trail – it takes hikers to the top of the rocky bluff seen at the trailhead. There are two spots along the bluff with a bench and a hitching rack. You can stop here and enjoy the views or you can walk all the way out to the bluff’s end with a 100+ mile view of the Rocky Mountains to the west. There are some good drop-offs in this area, so watch your step and don’t let kids run off.
When you’re done exploring on this spur trail, return to the main trail and the loop.
The trail goes up a bit more, then crosses a wide, dirt mesa. From here, you’ll likely see fields for miles. You may see cows in the distance and you may hear the “chirp” of the prairie dogs that live in the area. The views are expansive in this area, mainly because there are no trees. You do not want to be up here on a hot, summer day.
After walking about a half mile on this wide, flat area, the trail makes a turn and begins heading downhill through several oak stands. As you walk through this area, you may notice what looks like an old farmhouse and an outhouse on a hill, in the distance. Signs for Glendale Farms say all the old buildings from the farm are gone, so I’m not sure what these buildings in the distance are.
The trail winds its way down to the creek area. While the creek is dry most of the year, there’s more vegetation and shrubs in this area. You may also begin to hear a few barks – that’s because the dog park is on the other side of the creek. Continue hiking north to finish the loop and return to the parking lot.
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Details: The loop with the spur trail is about 1.8 miles with 150 feet of elevation gain.
Note: While dogs are allowed off-leash in the dog park, park rules say they must be on leash when hiking in the park.
Directions: From SB Interstate 25, take exit 192/Ridgegate and go east to the I-25 Frontage Road. Drive south about 2.4 miles to the park entrance road. From NB I-25, take exit 188/Castle Pines and go east to the Frontage Road. Turn north and drive about 1.3 mile to the park entrance road.