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South Mesa Loop

  3.9 ( 14 ) Favorite


3.1 mile 5.0 kilometer loop


Ascent: 508' 155 m
Descent: -507' -154 m
High: 6,123' 1,866 m
Low: 5,623' 1,714 m


Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 13% (8°)


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Trail shared by Tom Robson

Stunning scenery and a little history...

Tom Robson

Features Views · Wildflowers


The South Mesa area offers a wide variety of resources that reflect the history of Boulder County. A fun day hike here will take you to see everything from historic ranches to stone walls to summer retreats.

Note that on the return, taking the Towhee trail is roughly the same distance, not very different, and thus a fine alternative.

Need to Know

There's one theme that keeps popping up in all the oral histories for this area - the people who lived here all remember rattlesnakes!


From the South Mesa trailhead, hike northwest on Mesa Trail. This section is wide and very easy. Continue after crossing South Boulder Creek, looking for Homestead Trail on your left. From the get-go, you'll have wide-open, sweeping views of the South Mesa area.

If you're hiking this trail during Spring, you'll most likely be treated with wildflower views as well as the usual mountain vistas. At the first intersection you encounter, turn left onto Homestead Trail.

Homestead, named for the historic homesteads surrounding this trail, doesn't actually directly encounter any of the historic sites. Although it does allow you access to other trails that do!

Homestead Trail heads due west and contours the hillside. At ~0.65mi, the trail heads directly north and switchbacks four times to gain the ridge. Once on the ridge, Homestead Trail is very straightforward. The last semi-technical aspect of this trail is a drop into and out of Shadow Canyon proper. From here the trail contours north, eventually connecting with Mesa Trail.

Turn right onto Mesa Trail, which eventually takes you back to the South Mesa trailhead. Mesa descends into Eldorado Canyon and proves to be one of the most heavily crowded sections of trail in Boulder. This portion of trail is also very sun-exposed, so using it during summer can prove a scorcher.

Flora & Fauna

Black bears and mountain lions inhabit this area. The area is rich with wildlife including Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, songbirds, mule deer, and coyotes.

History & Background

Historic Dunn House. McGillvray Cabin on Towhee Trail at Shadow Canyon. Old Schoolmarm Cabin on Mesa Trail. Stockton Cabin on Shadow Canyon Trail at South Boulder Peak.

Be sure to check out the South Mesa Historic Route provided by Boulder County Open Space.

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Aug 28, 2019
Lori Gomez
Jul 4, 2019
Travis Arnold
Jun 30, 2019
Nick Barendregt
Nice, low-key hike. Not too exciting, but not as busy as some of the other trails in the area. 3.1mi — 0h 54m
Jun 7, 2019
Mary-Frances Main
May 11, 2019
Mason LeGrange
Apr 21, 2019
Alexandra Whitehead
Mar 7, 2019
Nicole Shaw
Muddy, but enjoyable. Lovely views.
Jan 5, 2019
Ellen Jardine

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 14 votes


in Doudy Draw


  3.9 from 14 votes
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