Spring has sprung in the city of Boulder! The tulips are blooming on Pearl Street Mall, the Farmer’s Market just opened for the season, and Boulder Creek is rising with snowmelt. Rooftop patios are filling up downtown and we’re finally wearing our flip-flops more than our boots (though we know better than to put our boots away completely).
As the new season brings welcome changes to the city, it also brings a whirlwind of activity to our open space. Local wildlife is entering its busy season as bears become active again, birds sing for their prospective mates, and a more colorful flora begins to emerge high and low. Longer days and warmer temps awaken everything that breathes and grows, including us.
Right on cue, the local trailheads have gone from sleepy to bustling. Bring on the joys of hiking without traction! Hats and gloves be gone! Leave that puffy coat at home! And no need for a headlamp – we now have more than 13 hours of daylight at our disposal!
Yes, spring is an exhilarating time to have 145 miles of trails in your backyard. But if you head over to Chautauqua or Sanitas for your spring trail fix, you’ll have to enjoy it with a thousand other people. Fortunately, our open space abounds with options that are far from the crowds. This selection of “off the beaten path” hikes in Boulder will have you savoring some serious springtime vibes without sacrificing your peace of mind.
The Chapman – Tenderfoot Loop (2.5 miles round trip): This loop out of Realization Point takes you through forest and meadow to show you the best that spring has to offer. It also features a picture-perfect overlook that’s ideal for a picnic lunch. While many Flagstaff trails are quite busy, the Chapman and Tenderfoot Trails are slightly set back and less visible from the lot. As a result, they’re less traveled and offer ample opportunity for solitude.
Head north on Chapman Trail (an old fire road) as you descend through a mixed coniferous forest. At 1.4 miles, turn right onto Tenderfoot Trail. Ascend the wildflower-dotted meadow for less than a quarter mile to the sign marked “Continental Divide Overlook.” Turn left to reach the overlook. Lay down a blanket and enjoy a sweeping panorama of the high peaks while you eat lunch.
Once you’ve had your fill (of both lunch and the view), retrace your steps to the overlook sign. Continue straight (south) on Tenderfoot for 0.7 miles back to Realization Point.
Long Canyon Trail (2.6 miles total, out-and-back): This little known trail is accessed from Realization Point. Its obscurity is due to the fact that it has no connections, cannot be made into a loop, and doesn’t have much in the way of views. Complete and total solitude is your reward for overlooking these factors.
Head toward the gate on the south side of Flagstaff Road. Follow the signs for Green Mountain Lodge. You’ll be on Ranger Trail for 0.2 miles until you reach the lodge. Long Canyon begins at the small footbridge just to the right of the lodge.
The 1.1-mile trail takes you along a creek, through a forest, and into a meadow. The area is rich with wildflowers throughout spring and into summer. With little human disturbance, wildlife is comfortable here and makes frequent appearances.
Spring Brook Loop (5.3 miles round trip): This South Boulder hike begins at Doudy Draw Trailhead. Though the trailhead itself is quite popular (it receives overflow from the ever-busy South Mesa Trailhead across the street), as you hike toward Spring Brook you’ll be leaving the crowds behind.
Take Doudy Draw through the valley for 1.2 miles and then bear right toward the Spring Brook Loop. In another 0.3 miles, you’ll reach the start of the loop. This 2.3-mile loop may be taken in either direction. As the trail meanders through a ponderosa pine forest, pay attention to the sights and sounds. A great diversity of birds may be found here, both resident and migratory. When you’ve finished the loop, reconnect to Doudy Draw and return the way you came.
Joder Trail (4 miles total, out-and-back): Located at the former Joder Property just north of town, this newly constructed trail is still evolving. It’s part of the North Trail Study Area Plan. For now, it’s a relatively unknown out-and-back that is accessed from the Interim Joder Trailhead on US-36. In the future, this trail may have additional connections and variations.
Given that it’s the only trail in the vicinity, Joder is very easy to follow. The trail winds through forest and open expanses, offering unique glimpses of the foothills as it goes. It’s surprisingly beautiful and you probably won’t see another soul. Meanwhile, spring is unfolding all around you and you can absorb every drop of it.
Happy trails and happy spring, Boulderites!
Photo credit: Alli Fronzaglia for YourBoulder.com — all rights reserved