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…..you 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….
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.