This is the new Natural Area north of Fort Collins. The trails here are brand new right at the time of this posting. Wide plains, pronghorn, and wide sandy trails are what you can expect. Good area for long loops with lots of miles when connected to Redstone Natural Area. It still has a few short loops that can be ridden alone such as a Mahogany. Not all trails are open to bikes, but most are.
Summary: *Note: this review is for Red Mountain Open Space which is connected to Soapstone by the Cheyenne Rim & Canyon Trails.
A friend and I rode Red Mountain last weekend and I have to say it's one of my favorite trails in the area. Soapstone was closed (due to recent flooding I suppose) so we decided to go over to Red Mountain - they are fairly close to each other.
The best feature of this system in my opinion is the variety. There are some amazing views atop the Cheyenne Rim trail, you pass over into Wyoming for a bit and ride in some rolling plains with CO to the south, ride through washes with cliffs jutting up next to you, through bright red clay deposits...there are some really interesting geological features as well. There were a few spots where the trail seems to have been completely washed out, and in a few spots we were really just riding in an extremely loose gravel wash which wasn't the most fun. I really think that was made a lot worse by the flooding, though. There is some decent climbing in this system (I'm not a strong climber) and some really fun sections going down as well. Huge plus for this system is that it's not very rocky - nice and smooth.
Recommended Route: Route we took:
Sinking Sun to Cheyenne Rim to K-Lynn Cameron back to trailhead. Avoid K-Lynn Cameron after the flooding, washed out pretty bad. Cheyenne Rim is worth it.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Curt Gowdy, Lory
Summary: There are lots of reviews on this trail but I thought I would shorten some of them for the advanced rider... this ride is boring! The trail is wide and smooth with little variation besides turning into actual road from time to time. There are some great views at the top of the Cheyenne Rim Trail and lots of fauna including Antelope, Deer, and various small game. This is a great place to get in 20 or 30 miles in the early season if your not afraid to walk through a few snow drifts here and there. I would also recommend this ride for beginners looking to build some confidence before tackling rocks, steep climbs, or steep descents.
Recommended Route: I parked at the North lot and headed out on Mahogany Loop to the Canyon Trail. Headed west on Canyon Trail into the adjoining park then followed the Cheyenne Rim Trail to the South. Headed back on the Pronghorn Loop. In total about 22 miles.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Bobcat Ridge, Lory State Park, Blue Sky, Hewlett Gultch
Summary: I liked it, I liked it, I liked it! Amazing what can be done by a talented trail builder like Tony Boone, when trails are layed out for MTBer by MTBers.
I won't rehash what's below, because after a visit this weekend, I'd say it's accurate on on the $. I would add that the Canyon Trail is mostly a double track rd, so be ready for that (great open views, nice contrast of the old windmills and the high tech windfarms in the distance). This terrain is all FAST and CRUISEY, with only rolling elevation +/- ...the mileage does potentially add up though (try to avoid slogging up the road from the lower trailhead to the upper (ie park lower and ride the road 1st). The Cheyenne Rim Trail (the main event)is mostly downhill from W to E and stellar, ripping thru huge open hillsides - here I'd add you always want to take all the singletrack junctions off the doubletrack that breaks up the downhill (1 or 2 aren't marked, and the singletrack was a little faint). Since this trail is so new, nobody you bump into has much beta. Also, there were 3 cars in the upper parking lot, and the ranger told us it was a record day :) Um, what else, if you come from I-25 the turn north onto Rawhide Rd (sing RAWHIDE!)doesn't have a sign for Soapstone and it's odd cause there is NOTHING around.
Recommended Route: Park at lower parking lot and Pronghorn - Mahogany to Canyon to north on Cheyenne Rim to Ruby Wash to Big Hole to Cheyenne Rim back Lower Parking lot.
The most scenic area is the western (Cheyenne Rim, Ruby, etc) - stellar!
I think early spring when things are just greening up (May) would be ideal. This would be cooking hot in mid summer - 0 shade (Fruita like). Enjoy, great spot to get a novice into riding with minimal tech, or for a seasoned rider to spin out some miles. Do it, you'll come back stoked!!
Summary: Great trail system for something completely different. Felt like I was riding through the badlands in a MadMax movie. Very easy as far as technical obstacles, great place to just ride and ride and ride and .... well ride. I took Farmer Ted's suggested route, good route IMO, although if you want better sight seeing, I would focus more on the west side of the trail system. Maybe head up the Cheyenne Rim Trail (mostly single track with double track connectors), tie in with the Red Mountain Open Space loop, and then back down the Cheyenne. This area is very open, so plan accordingly (water, sunscreen). I would also check weather patterns, this is prarie land with good jaunts up to plateaus, so wind moves rapidly through here bringing storms with it. Great, and I mean GREAT place to take a new rider, I can't wait to take my girlfriend as she's been complaining about the technicality of all the other trails in Northern Colo. Being a long time rider, this place was not challenging at all as far as obstacles, but the buttery smooth singletrack is really flowy and fun, just watch out for the off camber turns as the soil has just enough loose grainy like dirt on top to wash out the bike. Someone mentioned sandy, I use to ride CA, so if you compare it to those trails, it's not sandy at all. Soil consistency is hard pack dirt (very dry) with a loose layer on top, but not enough of a layer to make it obnoxious to ride. There are a few areas with some "sand", but they were minimal when I went yesterday (Sept '09). What else... umm - rattlesnack country so watch where you step if you get off, and they supposively like to stretch across the trail but I didn't see one (thankfully) on the 21 mile loop I did.
Summary: I'm very stoked to have this alternative, very open and spacious, secluded, great place to take a new rider, to clock out miles, or to just escape civilization. Not too much gain or loss, but enough if you do a good 15-20 miles you'll get a great workout in. My Heart rate watch clocked me at right around 3k calories burned, I took my time and took lots of stops for views and pictures, all in all it was a casual 3 hr and 30 min. ride doing the loop farmer ted suggested. ENJOY!
Recommended Route: Any, they all have ups and downs, no one way is best IMO.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Any and all!
Summary: A very extensive trail system that is unique (to my knowledge) on the front range. Most riding in Colorado is either extremely technical, or straight up and then straight down. That's good a lot of the time but sometimes you just want to ride and ride and ride and that's where Soapstone comes in. Most of this is either double track (from ranch trucks) or newly created single track. As others have mentioned, there is not a whole lot of technicality to any of these trails but they can be quite fun.
Some things to look out for: sheep and cattle...this is still active ranch land. the cattle scare the hell out of me because they lay on the trail and I don't like the idea of a 1000 lb cow charging me on my bike. The sheep just get out of the way. Many of the trails are very faint as they are newly cut and lightly traveled...pay attention to where you're going or you may get lost. CARRY A MAP! (available at the entrance). This is really in the middle of nowhere...take lots of water, food, and bike parts. If you have a mechanical out here you will be walking a long time. If you get hurt it will be a long time before someone finds you. The trails have a very fine layer of sandy gravel over them just because that's the composition of the dirt out here...they can be very slippery. Combine that with a lot of off-camber turns and a trail system that hasn't been used much yet and you could be in for a wipe out...be careful.
Recommended Route: I think the best way to ride it is to take the Pronghorn loop counter clockwise from the lower parking lot (either the east or west branch of the loop [ Pronghorn is newly created single track that winds through the prairie and some gulleys... slightly uphill as you ride north] , connect into the Mahogany loop [ nice singletrack that climbs and traverses some small hills ], connect to the canyon trail [ truck track and singletrack that climbs steadily as you go West], and then come down the Cheyenne rim trail which is 9+ miles of mostly downhill with some fun berm carving singletrack, little jumps, and speed bombing truck track.
Other recommended trails in the same area: In Fort Collins/Loveland: Devil's Backbone/Blue Sky system, Lory State Park/ Horsetooth Mtn Park system, Pineridge/ Shorline system, Hwelett Gultch.