Santa Fe Open Space: A Shrubland Treasure on the Palmer Divide

May 19, 2022

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Santa Fe Open Space

A Shrubland Treasure on the Palmer Divide

In the 1870s, General William J. Palmer acquired a beautiful 60-acre property north of Colorado Springs. Since that time, this treasured piece of land passed through a series of landowners, eventually ending up in the hands of the generous and forward-thinking McGuire-Close Family, who kept it in the family for over 100 years. They saw the potential for this landscape and wanted to protect it from the pressures of an expanding El Paso County. With the help of Palmer Land Conservancy, the family permanently protected the property in 2007.

hiking with a view
Public Access

The family’s full vision was realized ten years later when they sold it to the county in 2017 with the intention of it becoming an open space for the public to enjoy. After a robust planning effort and trail construction process, the open space finally opened to the public in April 2022.

Its roughly 1.75 miles of trails take visitors gradually through its varying landscapes of grassy meadows, gambrel shrub oak woodlands, and old stands of ponderosa pine trees. The single-track trails are open to hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian uses. If you take the Far View trail (there is excellent signage at each trail intersection), you can see a ranch artifact display, which showcases old relics from a rancher who leased the property in the 1940s and 50s.

old rusted car display

You can access the open space through the New Santa Fe Regional Trail that runs along the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad tracks. Park at the Palmer Lake Regional Recreation Area and then follow the regional trail for about half a mile; you will see the entrance to this new open space on your left (to the east).

Scenic Views & Wildlife

Nestled below the rocks of Ben Lomand Mountain, Santa Fe Open Space boasts views of Elephant Rock, Mount Herman, and Chautauqua Mountain. It is also host to a wide array of foothills species, like black bears, Abert’s squirrels, deer, turkeys, fox, elk, mountain lion, and a variety of birds, small mammals, and a few reptiles. On the far east side of the property, beyond the trails and public access, there are grassy meadows that may even play host to threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse. 

To download Palmer’s completed guide to our permanently protected 20 public parks and open spaces, including the Santa Fe Open Space, click here.