It’s not easy finding a hike that pleases everyone in the family. It can’t be too hard or the little ones will burn out quickly. It can’t be too easy or the older kids will be bored. It’s got to have stellar views and a variety of wildlife to keep everyone engaged. Historical significance is definitely a plus. Benches for tired legs would be nice. We’ll need some picnic tables for a post-hike lunch, too. And it’s got to be close to home and easy to find. Does this perfect family hike exist? Indeed it does, and fortunately for us it’s right here in Boulder County.
Bald Mountain offers all of the above. Though more of a lump than a mountain, what it lacks in profile it makes up for in amenities: unparalleled views of the Boulder range and Indian Peaks, an array of plants and animals, the remnants of a former homestead, and an assortment of well-placed benches and picnic tables. The summit clocks in at an impressive 7,160 feet but it’s easily accessible by all ages and most fitness levels. And there’s no need to sit in traffic with cranky kids – Bald Mountain is less than 15 minutes from town.
It’s time to gather the family, the young and the elders, and make some timeless trail memories. Bald Mountain is the quintessential “one-size-fits-all” family hike that will have you coming back for years to come.
From Boulder, take Mapleton Avenue west until it turns into Sunshine Canyon Drive. Follow Sunshine Canyon Drive for approximately 4 miles. The trailhead and parking lot is on the left.
There is ample parking and a port-a-potty. Dogs are permitted but must remain on leash.
Please note that this hike is not suitable for jogging strollers.
Before hitting the trail, take a moment to explore some of the area’s history. An old livestock corral and chute lie just west of the parking lot. Across the road to the north, you’ll see remnants of a homestead. Over a hundred years ago, the Jones family owned this homestead and grazed their livestock in the meadow here. Over the years, Bald Mountain was also the site of mining and logging operations. Boulder County Parks and Open Space now manage the Bald Mountain Scenic Area. It was their first park and officially opened to the public in 1973.
Begin hiking toward the picnic tables. This is a great spot for a pre- or post-hike lunch. There’s plenty of room for kids to explore, and the west side of the Boulder range provides a scenic backdrop.
Continue to the sign for the Pines-to-Peaks Loop. This loop encircles the summit. Stay to the left for the shortest route to the top. From here, the trail gently switchbacks up while revealing glimpses of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Before you know it, you’ll arrive at a peaceful bench on the windswept summit. Little hikers will be overjoyed at the relative ease with which they bagged this peak. The elevation gain from the parking lot is a mere 200 feet.
Bald Mountain is a mix of ponderosa pine forest and meadow. Due to the dry and windy conditions, plant and animal life is not exceptionally diverse but there’s still plenty to see. In the spring and summer, a variety of wildflowers and blooming prickly pear cactus line the trail. The trees are full of chattering chickadees and nuthatches. Woodpeckers make their home here, too. Deer and other mammals pass through while grazing or hunting. This is mountain lion country, so stay alert and keep children close by.
Once you’ve soaked up the expansive panorama from east to west, you can simply turn around and return the way you came. This is the best option for small children, as the entire trip is only 0.7 miles. If your crew can handle a little more distance, then continue on the trail as it wraps around the other side of the mountain, winds through the burn area of the Fourmile Canyon fire, and ultimately takes you back to the Pines-to-Peaks junction. This scenic option is 1.5 miles round trip.
The formula is pretty simple. Bald Mountain + your family = the perfect family hike. (Results may vary.) It’s the little mountain with a little something for everyone. Happy trails, Boulderites!
Photo Credit: Alli Fronzaglia for YourBoulder.com — all rights reserved