Mahogany Loop | Soapstone Prairie Natural Area
Wellington, CO | 04/08/21 | 8.59 miles | 704′ gain
After returning from an awesome trip to Texas and New Mexico, I was back to the grind of work and bland winter hiking. I was ready for green grass and colorful flowers, and sick of the endless brown (or the even worse alternate, snow). But alas, I chose a quiet Thursday hike near the Wyoming border in a large natural area I’d never visited before. Soapstone Prairie Natural Area boasts over 28 square miles of grassland including 40+ miles of multi-use trails and a 1,000 acre bison pasture.
I ultimately settled on the Mahogany Loop, a figure-8 loop that encircles a number of hills covered in mountain mahogany. I was one of few cars at the North Parking Lot at 9:30am, and I wouldn’t cross paths with anyone the entire hike. To access the Mahogany Loop from the trailhead, I followed a short spur east (part of the Towhee Loop). The intersections were well marked and assigned letters (A-Z) to correspond with the park map.
I opted to do the full 8.6-mile figure-8 loop, but one could easily shorten this by hiking only the southern half (~5.2 miles) or the outer loop (~5.6 miles). Once I reached the Mahogany Loop, I turned right and hiked east around the base of the hills.
I continued on the Mahogany Loop past rocky bluffs and dry washes as it turned north and slowly climbed further into the hills.
After nearly 2 miles, I turned west onto the center portion of the figure-8. This trail immediately began to climb onto the top of the ridge, maintaining a steady though gradual incline.
While this hike was more for exercise than spectacular scenery, the stretch on top of the ridge was cooler than I expected. One section was pretty narrow (though not scarily so) and it almost felt like a catwalk. Since I was completing a figure-8 shape, this was also the part that I would have to repeat later. Not a bad section to hike twice, in my opinion!
After 1.5 miles, I reached the western boundary of the Mahogany Loop and continued right (north) to complete the north half of the loop. The trail slowly descended from the ridge down to the Sand Creek floodplain, where it paralleled the dry creek briefly before turning south.
Past Sand Creek, the trail continued up and over a low ridge, down into a gulch, and then back up the other side, meeting up once again with the central trail.
Once I climbed up and down and then back up again, I found myself back on the central trail, climbing up the ridge and repeating the narrow ridge walk. But this time when I reached the west side of the loop, I continued left to head back to the car.
I soon met up with the Towhee Loop and followed it left (south). This trail made a very long and gradual descent off the ridge and back to the still nearly empty parking lot. The Mahogany Loop wasn’t such a bad contender for a winter hike, and I look forward to checking out some of the longer trail options in Soapstone Prairie next winter!