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.
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. Shortly after crossing South Boulder Creek, bear left onto Towhee
trail starts directly adjacent to the historic Dunn House, just to the west of the Mesa Trail
. 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!
Starting from Towhee
, Homestead Trail
heads due west and contours the hillside. At ~.25mi, the trail heads due 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.
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.
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.