Gateway Mesa Open Space
- Douglas County
Ownership: None Listed
A pleasant hiking trail to see typical ponderosa/oak/conifer birds of Douglas County.
At the parking lot, two trails diverge although they in fact form a 1.8 mile loop (Difficulty = moderate). The left fork (Chuck’s Loop) goes along a rock rim with scattered scrub oak and ponderosa pines. On the left of the trail, a caprock rim looks over a steep hillside of dense douglas-fir and ponderosa. The trail wings around to the right with a view over the Franktown Basin. It hooks up with a trail or road (Gateway Mesa) that goes through grassland in a straight line back to the parking lot.
Along Chucks Loop, expect the usual ponderosa and scrub oak birds – woodpeckers, Western Scrub-Jays, chickadees, nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Lesser Goldfinches.
An off-trail excursion to the caprock might yield Plumbeous Vireo, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Steller’s Jay. If you listen carefully, in the right place, you might hear an Ovenbird.
Along the return segment, a bluebird trail hosts both species of bluebirds. You might encounter Horned Larks, Vesper and Lark Sparrows. The cliffs south of this trail will produce Prairie Falcons, White-throated Swifts, Common Ravens Violet-green and Tree Swallows, and Canyon Wrens.
Winter birds include the residents mentioned above and Townsend’s Solitaires.
Another trail, Mitchell Gulch (difficult; 1.5 miles), starts in Founders Village and hooks up to Chuck’s Loop; it winds down a narrow gully below the cliffs of Gateway Mesa, then climbs up to join Chuck’s Loop. From here you can see up to the cliffs that attract the canyon birds mentioned above.
Habitat: Ponderosa pine and scrub oak; douglas-fir and ponderosa; grassland; cliffs
Elevation: 6500 feet
Directions: On Colorado 86 between Castle Rock and Franktown, 1/4 to 1/2 mile east of traffic light at Enderud Blvd/High Pt. Rd., just past Mariah Farms. As the highway starts down the hill, turn right into the Gateway Mesa Open Space Parking Lot.
To get to the Mitchell Gulch trailhead, turn south from Colo.86 on Enderud Blvd. and go 0.4 mile to N. Wagonwheel Trail, then in 0.4 mile turn left on Whispered Wind Lane to end. Paved trail drops down to Mitchell Gulch trail.
Restrictions/Hazards: Dogs on leash. No bikes, horses, or motorized vehicles.