Friday, April 3, 2015

Quarry Mesa Open Space

View from the top north towards Castle Rock
Long just another mesa at the south end of Castle Rock, Rhyolite was discovered at Quarry Mesa Open Space in 1872, creating Castle Rock's first Rhyolite Quarry.  Rhyolite was determined to be a great stone for building construction, and it was used to create Colorado's State Capital building, and many other historic buildings in Denver and Cheyenne.  The original Douglas County Courthouse, and many businesses and residences in Castle Rock were also built using it.

Looking back along the old RR grade up the east face of Quarry Mesa
Allocated after 2009 with help from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Open Space of Quarry Mesa offers 133 acres of views and wide-open space with 3.4 miles of native material trails, suitable for both hikers and mountain bikes.
This trail also connects to the Rhyolite Regional Park and the Rhyolite Bike Park just off Crystal Valley Parkway.  A Cyclocross course exists in the Rhyolite Bike Park at the mesa bottom.
The hike to the top up the old RR route was not too steep, and it winds around the north side giving an overview of the Cyclocross course below.  It was windy when we went and we were surprised at how large the area at the top really is.  It is easy to imagine how this looked before mining.  We even saw a bluebird when we returned to our car.

Following the road on top around the east side
Three trails lead to the mesa top, and a trail loops the mesa top along with an old road.  Views of Castle Rock and the front Range of the Rockies are excellent from here.  The trail around the edge is called Madge Trail for the rancher who founded the quarry, and it runs 3.4 miles.
Restrooms are available at Rhyolite Regional Park.
Please beware of rattlesnakes while using this trail.

Pikes peak in the distance to the south, next to a cairn
If you want to read more about how the 36.7 million year old Castle Rock Rhyolite was formed, read HERE.
A Quarry Mesa Trail Map is available HERE.
A link to Rhyolite Regional Park is HERE.

View of the grassland at the top of the mesa, this is huge!
To find these trails and parks, exit I-25 at Plum Creek.  Turn left and go to Wilcox Street, turning right at the light. Wilcox Street becomes Frontage Road, follow for 1.6 miles.  Turn left onto Crystal Valley Parkway and follow for 2.1 miles.  Turn left into the Rhyolite Regional Park and park, follow the paved trail back uphill along the road (a good ways) towards the native-surface trail system. Future plans show a parking area by the old railway grade next to the pedestrian bridge, which is the shortest way up.

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