Soapstone Prairie – Red Mountain – Big Hole, Northern Colorado

Soapstone Prairie – Red Mountain – Big Hole Loop, Northern Colorado

The Soapstone Prairie, Red Mountain, and Big Hole open spaces are located just north of Fort Collins on the Wyoming border. Soapstone is a Fort Collins City Natural Area, Red Mountain is part of the Larimer County Open Spaces, and Big Hole is a Wyoming Open Space. The three areas combined offer over 50 miles of new trails.

Soapstone Natural Area information is available online here.

Red Mountain Open Space information is online here.

Click here to download a PDF trail map.

The trail system is combination of very nice, smooth dirt single track, several sand/gravel washes, and jeep road. The more scenic areas with a variety of terrain include the Red Mountain and Big Hole open spaces with red rock formations and the winding, rolling hills on the western half and northern section of the Soapstone Prairie natural area. The eastern end of the Soapstone Prairie area around the Pronghorn loop, Sand Wash, and Plover trail are fairly flat.

Late fall seems to be the ideal time to run in this area. During the summer, the lack of water or shade would make running longer loops challenging. And there are a lot of rattlesnakes in the area. Evidently the Red Mountain trailhead is built on top of a cave where the local snakes hibernate for the winter. The trailhead was closed for a couple weeks in October while the local rattlesnakes made their way to their den. Early spring might not be a bad time to visit the area if there hasn’t been much rain or snow melt. Otherwise, many of the trails could be fairly muddy. The entire area is closed for the winter from December 1st through March 1st.

Here’s a map of a 27.75 mile loop around the majority of the area.

From the Soapstone entrance trailhead we ran clockwise up the Cheyenne Rim trail, across Big Hole Wash, north on Ruby Wash, around Cheyenne Rim, east across Canyon, south on Sand Wash, and then around the Pronghorn loop back to the trailhead.

(Click here for a larger map.)

Route: 27.75 Miles

Approximately 2,420ft ascent
High point: 7,300ft, Low point: 6,100ft

The majority of the climbing was in the first half of the loop. It was about 1,000ft up to the Overlook on Cheyenne Rim and then another 1,000ft climb from the bottom of Big Hole Wash to the top of Cheyenne Rim.

Directions from Fort Collins: Head north on College and turn right onto Terry Lake Rd. Make a left onto 15 where the main road turns 90 degrees East towards Wellington. Continue north on 15 until you can’t go any further. There are signs for both Soapstone and Red Mountain along the way.

The trailhead has plenty of parking space and bathrooms but no water. Dogs aren’t allowed in either Red Mountain or Soapstone. Soapstone doesn’t even allow dogs in cars or at the trailhead.

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