Big Bluestem Loop – Boulder 10/27/12

South Boulder Creek trail > Mesa Trail> Big Bluestem Trail ( Lower)

Starting Elevation:  5460Ft

Highest Elevation:  6400Ft ( just over halfway through the loop)  Total gain 940ft

Trail Length:  Officially 6.8 miles, my fitbit said just over 7 miles.  It took us 3 hours but mostly because of the trail conditions…mud then ice then mud then ice… get the picture.

Degree of difficulty:  Easy/Moderate mostly due to length.

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the beginning.  It is super new and clean ( not sure how long that will last but it was lovely this morning)

Pets: At this time of the year, dogs only on leash unless they have the special “green” tag that means they met the Boulder voice command requirements.  Boulder take this seriously the only dogs off leash had the green tag which meant something to me. I gathered from the signs that until spring passes bears are a big concern and so the need for dogs on leash….

Fees:  None

The trail choice was one I made a few weeks ago but I got sick and couldn’t do it, then my sister was in town.  It has greater meaning though, this is the trail on that fateful day in March that I tried to take my niece on but only made it a mile in before turning around.  I needed to conquer it and after my weird malaise of a week, this was the week to relive what brought me on this journey.

The week brought a nice snow storm for the mountains and couple of inches for us in the front range .  Today was going to be a beautiful beginning to the warm up for next week and it didn’t disappoint.  The hard part about not growing up here is my Illinois roots kick in, snow on the ground with a 30 degree start means COLD!  That is not how it works here, with the sun out 30 is really a warm 50 to my bones but my brain still says “bundle up baby”!!!!  So over-bundled we started off, I am pretty sure those who passed us kinda laughed out loud while trying to be nice….

It was not 15 minutes in before we started pealing off layers, while the beginning of this trail is windy even on a non-windy day we got so warm so fast we had to adjust so lesson 1 of the day, this is NOT Illinois!  We could have done this hike in shorts….seriously shorts even though the temp was just 48 degrees when we got done.

We passed through 4 stockade gates in the first 2 miles, always close them as you pass through, while this a high traveled trail it is also a real grazing ground for cattle, so respect those nice people who let us pass through and close the gate behind you.

At approximately 2.2 miles you reach the Mesa trail, again high traffic:

We were on this trail for 2.4 miles and hit the highest point around 3.5 miles into the total trip, you come across one shortcut back to the starting point which will take this loop down to approx 4.3 miles but if you ask me, taking this shortcut will make you miss the best part of this trail:

Just a shot close to half way

Lesson 2 of hiking in the winter in Colorado a day after a snow fall…..Rain in the sunshine.  This first part of this trail is in the sun and then as we climbed the Mesa trail we started to get some tree cover,unfortunately those trees were covered in snow, which was melting in the sun and randomly dropping its load.  Now I was full-out sweating already, but then I started to get pelted by pine rain so I put away my camera to protect my baby from all that moisture.  It was not 5 minutes later before I got hit with a full branch of snow, then the challenge of extra mud.  Which made an easy trail much harder.  The picture above is my fake smile where I am repeating this mantra ” I love hiking”.  I could tell those runners passing us with mud spatters up to their thighs had the same sort of mantra in their heads.

Because of the odd the conditions I missed a few trail markers,  but one we passed Shadow Canyon trail it was not far to the Lower Bigstem trail and finally through the final paddock to Thomas Lane :

This was a surprisingly beautiful trail, it starts out as nothing special and the further you go in, the better it gets.  When you get around the halfway point the views are stunning, if not for the tree rain and load dumping snow showers, I would have appreciated it more.  I have already decided it must be redone, but no time soon.  Just conquering the trail in the first place was amazingly satisfying, it was just what I needed to jumpstart me out of my malaise.  My plan for next week is 2 trails…one to learn more about photography and one to challenge our stamina.  While this is probably an all year kind of hike, when the weather is bad don’t do it, windy is miserable, post snow muddy and icky, and I am guessing in high summer unless you go early, it is HOT.  As usual, following some favorite pictures I will post the directions:


Take 36  West towards Boulder to Table Mesa road, go west on Table Mesa to Broadway/93 south.  Go south on 93/Broadway for approximately 2 miles to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead.  Make a right turn, then quick left turn into the trailhead parking lot.

Published by hikingtohealthy

an enthusiastic hiker living in Colorado.

17 thoughts on “Big Bluestem Loop – Boulder 10/27/12

  1. Shhh…..don’t let those midwesterners know how beautiful winter in Colorado is…..NOTHING like Illinois. lol….enjoy! FYI – they don’t know how to plow in CO. If they plowed in IL like they do here, Chicago would be shut down for months 🙂

  2. Really great photos! I enjoy the format of your blog when you write about hiking. It’s like reading a guide book, only better…something I enjoy doing.

    1. Thanks! Fortunately my Chicago bones tends to still think the winters just aren’t all that bad here…… although I am often admonished to keep that knowledge to myself so too many people don’t move here.

      1. haha that makes sense. Our winters are not bad at all…and we already get so many people moving to CO. I guess it is just a great state to live in 😀

  3. Oh my goodness this looks so cold! How ever you stay motivated to get out there and walk in it I don’t know. So much respect here Kathy! Stay safe, Kazza

    1. Thanks Kazza! Where I grew up and spent most of my adult life had much more harsh winters then we have here in Colorado. Its the best kept secret of the Western United States. So getting my butt outside to help it get smaller is easier then you think. Take care!

  4. I’m an east-coaster and have never been to CO…however all these years of getting “Backpacker” magazines with pictures of the Colorado Rockies is about got me at my breaking point! Gotta get out there and hike soon! TFS

    1. It is at least worth one trip… and while I love to ski I am starting to think summer is the best time to see all the beauty the mountains have to offer. Hope you make it here soon and thank for stopping by! Love your pictures and blog!!!

      1. Are you going to Snowshoe this winter? I would think that would be great exercise and allow you to hike in the snow.Gotta stay active & find ways not to want to hibernate in the cold winter months! Keep it up! 🙂

      2. We are actually headed out on a hike now! The front range is surprisingly mild all winter. I would like learn but right now I am focused on getting into shape so we probably just get some yak tracks for ice! Have a great weekend!

      3. Nice!!!! Have a good trip today! I’ll be hiking mon-tues-wed of next week with my two sons.

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