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PAVED PATHS & OFF-ROAD TRAILS: BOULDER’S BEST RUNNING SPOTS

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ABBIE MOOD

JUL 2, 2019

It seems like just about everybody in Boulder is a runner. And for good reason — the winters (usually) aren’t that bad, the scenery is gorgeous, and we’ve got more than 200 miles of trails near downtown. With so many awesome run routes… maybe it’s time to finally try them.

The sheer number of trails in the area made it difficult to narrow down to a short list, but these local favorites will have you covered for everything from a quick jog to a weekend training run.

Looking to knock out a few easy miles? Head on over to the Res. The trail loop is about 5.3 miles, and it's super flat. Like most places in Boulder, there’s an amazing view of the mountains in the distance. And on a hot day, you can take a dip after your run.

If you really just want to hit the pavement and go, the new US 36 Bikeway runs 16 miles from Table Mesa in South Boulder to 80th Ave. in Westminster — though fair warning, you may get shunned from Boulder if you choose this option instead of one of the trails. It’s a bikeway though, right? Don’t sweat it; the bike path is 12 feet wide, so there’s plenty of room for cyclists and runners to share the road. And if 36 miles round-trip isn’t enough for you, connect with the Big Dry Creek Trail in Westminster to tack on more mileage.

If you want to get up to the famous Flatirons, Chautauqua Park is the way to do it. The trails are on the shorter side (around three miles roundtrip) but are steep, so you will definitely get in a good workout. The views of Boulder and the Rocky Mountains that you get at the top aren’t too shabby, either. If you’ve already run to the Flatirons, check out the Royal Arch Trail. Fitt Tip: parking at Chautauqua is now restricted. Try taking the shuttle.

Flatirons Vista has two options — a 1.9-mile loop and a 3.3-mile loop. Both are relatively easy and wide open, with meadows and a bit of forest, making them great options for winter running (running here can get pretty hot in the summer). Winter is also when you’re most likely to spot a golden or bald eagle. And yes, as the name implies, this is a great place to get photos of the Flatirons.

This small park is easily accessible, but also easy to miss. It’s in North Boulder, back near a neighborhood, but it is so worth the trip. A loop around the area’s scenic lake is just about 1.5 miles, but connects to Four Mile Creek Trailhead and to the Old Kiln Trail (0.8 miles). Look for birds, prairie dogs, mule deer, fox, and rattlesnakes along the trail (though you might want to keep your distance!).

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Sitting at over 8,000 feet above sea level, Mags is not for the faint of heart. Park about four to five miles up the road at the end of the pavement—which also happens to be the steepest paved and maintained road in the country—and head up (and up) on the dirt/gravel path until you get to the turnaround point at the Peak-to-Peak highway in Nederland. You’ll be surrounded by peaceful forests, and may even get passed by an elite runner or the CU Cross Country team. You’re really in for a treat — the whole thing is about 15 miles up and back down, and is quite possibly one of the most notorious training runs in the United States.

Remember earlier when we said that Meyers Homestead Trail was for beginners? Well, when you are ready to test your skills, head to Mount Sanitas. There are a couple shorter, one- to two-mile(ish) loops, but jump on the full, 3.2-mile loop to the top for a real challenge (hope you like hills!). You’ll gain approximately 1,300 feet of elevation on the way up, and Sanitas can take even strong runners an hour or more to complete.

If you want to stay near town, this popular 5.5-mile path, also known as the Boulder Bike Path, is your best bet. You can start anywhere along the trail, but the whole thing follows its namesake creek from Boulder Canyon, through town, and almost all the way to Valmont Reservoir. Most of it is paved, but the western section is dirt and gravel — so maybe save the fresh-out-of-the-box pair for another day. Near the Valmont end, you can jump on the South Boulder Creek Path to connect with the South Mesa trail system and add a few trail miles onto your run.

The Mesa Trail is great because you can access it from Chautauqua in the north or Eldorado Springs in the south — and, major bonus, it connects with just about every trail in Boulder in between. The entire thing is about a little over seven miles out-and-back, and goes through all kinds of terrain—prairie, pine forests, meadows, up hills, down hills—all with wonderful views of the Flatirons, the plains, and the Devil’s Thumb formation.

Clocking 2.5 miles, take this scenic out-and-back trail for a run past wildflowers, pines, and through wooded forests. Just make sure you save some energy for the last leg; it gets gradually increases in difficulty, and you’ll have some rocky stairs to climb. But it’s all worth it once you reach the part of the route with spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Stop for a photo mid-run — you deserve the break!

Meyers Homestead Trail, also called Meyer Gulch, is sometimes overlooked for its sister trail, the difficult eight-mile Walker Ranch Loop. But if you’re new to trail running, Meyers' wide and smooth path makes this a good place to start. There is a gradual hill through the forest to the top (with some great views of Boulder Canyon!). If it starts to feel hard, just remind yourself that it’s an out-and-back, and you will get to come back down the hill eventually. The trip is just over five miles, and whether you run it in the spring, summer, or fall, you’ll find an abundance of color along the trail.

Teaming up to help your community thrive
Kaiser Permanente

Teaming up to help your community thrive

Discover high-quality care and coverage in one place

Teaming up to help your community thrive
Kaiser Permanente

Teaming up to help your community thrive

Discover high-quality care and coverage in one place