Santa Fe Open Space

Location: 199 County Line Rd, Palmer Lake, CO 80133. Santa Fe Open Space is adjacent to the New Santa Fe Regional Trail (east of Palmer Lake, and south of Ben Lomand Mountain), half a mile southeast of the Town of Palmer Lake and the Palmer Lake Recreation Area and 2.5 miles from the Town of Monument. No vehicular access to the open space, visitors must travel to the open space in a non-motorized manner. 


Hours: April – October:  5 :00 AM to 9:00 PM,  November – March: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM


Amenities: The 60 acre open space has roughly 2 miles of nonmotorized trail.  Covered in thick stands of scrub oak, mature ponderosa pine trees, and rolling grass meadows, offering users of the adjacent New Santa Fe Regional Trail an opportunity to experience a more natural foothills environment. The terrain is very mild, ranging approximately 150 feet in elevation. It’s a great place for families to go hiking, biking, horseback riding, dog walking, and running. 


Many notable landmarks can be seen from within the open space, including: Ben Lomand Mountain, Elephant Rock, Mount Herman, Monument Rock, Sundance Mountain, Chautauqua Mountain, Blodgett Peak, and Cheyenne Mountain far to the south. Santa Fe Open Space is a high value wildlife habitat. Animal sightings may include: squirrel, black bear, bat, elk, mountain lion, mule and white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox, coyote, bobcat, red-tailed hawks, golden eagle and reptiles. 


Link to Map


2021 Master Plan


This open space is managed by El Paso County Parks (719) 520-7529.

History: The earliest known area inhabitants were native American tribes that date to the Folsom period, 10,000 years ago. More recently the Mountain Ute, Arapahoe, Kiowa, Sioux and Cheyenne and others have been present.


Around 1869, the Bennett family established a homestead near the north end of the lake; their Ben Lomond Ranch spanned northward across the El Paso and Douglas county border. Locals refer to Elephant Rock as “Citadel Rock.”

In 1870, General William Jackson Palmer acquired the property as part of the Monument Farms & Lake Property to start the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The railroad open for business in January 1872. Palmer Lake was critical to the railroad because the steam trains chugged up to the Palmer-Divide summit and had to take on water to head back down. Passenger trains would stop to take on water and passengers could get off for a day of picnicking, fishing, boating or wildflower hikes for a fee of $1.50 roundtrip from Denver. In the late 1890’s Special trains for “wheelmen” (and women) were operated from Denver to Palmer Lake and other popular resort towns as bicycle riding was a fashionable outdoor sport. In 1897, building on the 11-mile Denver-Littleton Cycle Path, the Denver-Palmer Lake Cycle Path Association raised funds and acquired rights-of-way for an extension to Palmer Lake, a 50-mile route. 

In 1920, Thomas H. Close purchases Santa Fe Open Space property, he planted wheat and grazed cattle in the western portions of the open space. The open space was grazed until the late 1970’s. 


In 2003 a Conservation Easement was placed over the property to preserve certain natural, scenic, open space, aesthetic, ecological, recreational, historic, and environmental values. In 2017, El Paso County purchased the from the McGuire/Close family using voter supported TABOR funds. During the master planning process, the goal was to provide limited, passive recreation and preserve the conservation values of the property. Interpretive signs provide users with information on the property’s history. The property has an abandoned corral, ranch artifacts, and old roadbed that was once a service road used by the railroad.

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