Spending time with family and friends, sharing food and drink, and showing gratitude for our blessings – that’s Thanksgiving. As Boulderites, something we’re all grateful for is our open space and its beautiful trails. These trails are what drew many of us to Boulder in the first place. They provide a space for reflection and connection. They keep us fit and healthy. They are the backdrop to some of our most cherished memories.
This Thanksgiving, let’s pay tribute to our trails by kicking off the holiday with a satisfying hike. On a day known for excessive eating, what could be better than prefacing your feast with some fresh air and a solid workout? Read on for three Thanksgiving hikes that will fit your holiday schedule perfectly. Each hike is less than two hours, which means you can get your legs moving and your heart pumping without missing any of the day’s festivities.
As always, please consult OSMP.org for trail conditions and temporary closures. Please note that trails may be muddy, icy, or snowy in late November. Foot traction (like Yak Trax or IceTrekkers) may be needed if ice is present.
Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop: The Serene Sojourn
(2.5 miles with less than 500 feet of elevation gain)
Looking for a little serenity? Look no further than this loop comprised of the Chapman and Tenderfoot Trails. These two trails are less traveled than most on the Flagstaff summit area, and as such they offer ample opportunity for quiet contemplation and wildlife watching. Although this hike isn’t a lung buster, it will get you moving and provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the holiday.
Begin at Realization Point on Flagstaff Road. Chapman is just to the left of the main parking area. Descend on Chapman for 1.4 miles through a mixed pine forest. Turn right at the junction for Tenderfoot Trail and ascend through the meadow. After 0.2 miles, you’ll reach another junction. Turn left (north) to see the Continental Divide Overlook. This is a fantastic picnic spot with gorgeous views. Then backtrack back to the junction and continue south on Tenderfoot. Be sure to look over your shoulder now and then for additional views of the Divide. After 0.7 miles, you’ll be back at the trailhead.
Shanahan – Big Bluestem Loop: Ramblin’ and Rollin’
(5 miles with 930 feet of elevation gain)
Want a decent workout that won’t wipe you out? This South Boulder hike takes you through forest, meadow, and farmland while serving up some awe-inspiring views of both Bear Peak and the plains. The joy is in the moderate inclines and declines that keep it interesting while you’re working up a sweat. Roll with it and you’ll have earned that extra piece of pie.
Begin at the Shanahan Ridge Access Point on Lehigh Street. Head west on North Fork Shanahan for 1.3 miles to the junction with Mesa Trail. Turn left (south) onto Mesa. Continue on Mesa for 0.9 miles to the junction with Upper Big Bluestem. Head east on Upper Big Bluestem as the ponderosa pine forest gives way to an expansive meadow. After 1.6 miles on Big Bluestem, turn left (north) on the unmarked Bluestem Connector. The connector is 0.7 miles long and returns you to North Fork Shanahan. Head east to return to your starting point.
Hogback Ridge Loop: The Crowd Pleaser
(3 miles and approximately 680 feet of elevation gain)
Got a whole crew with you on Thanksgiving morning? Hogback Ridge is the hike that will please them all. It’s challenging enough to satisfy locals and seasoned hikers, but easy enough that most kids and out-of-towners will find it within their reach. And the 360-degree views from the top are simply unparalleled. Be sure to bring your camera on this one. (Please note that dogs are not permitted on Hogback Ridge.)
Begin at North Foothills Trailhead. From the parking area, head west on Foothills Trail for 0.5 miles to the junction with Hogback Ridge. From here, you can take the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. The latter is a more gradual ascent with a steeper descent. Choose your direction and begin the 1.8-mile loop. As you make your way up the ridge, enjoy the sweeping panoramas of the plains. At the very top, the view opens up to the west as well. It’s a feast for the eyes. You and your crew will be glad you showed up for it. Follow the loop back down and head east on Foothills Trail to return to the trailhead.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Trails, Boulderites!