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South Mesa Loop

Intermediate
 3.9 (14) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Stunning scenery and a little history...


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Map Key

3.1

Miles

5.0

KM

Loop

6,123' 1,866 m

High

5,623' 1,714 m

Low

508' 155 m

Up

507' 154 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (4°)

13%

Max Grade (8°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Views · Wildflowers

Family Friendly Wide trail, gentle slopes.

Overview

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!

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Robson with improvements by Jack Dominey

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 14 votes

#2

in South Mesa

#2451

Overall
  3.9 from 14 votes
5 Star
21%
4 Star
50%
3 Star
29%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in South Mesa

#342

in Colorado

#2,451

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6,316 Since May 5, 2015
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Photos

Square House in Square Format
May 7, 2015 near Superior, CO
A deer near the Homestead Trail. From August 2016.
May 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO
On the Mesa Trail, enjoy awesome views of the Flatirons and Bear Peak.
Apr 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Looking east, from the junction of the Mesa Trail with the South Boulder Creek West trail.
Nov 21, 2017 near Boulder, CO
The view near the intersection of Lower Big Bluestem with Upper Big Bluestem.
May 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO
Sunrise view on the Homestead Trail.
May 3, 2017 near Boulder, CO

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Check-Ins

Jul 6, 2020
Brian Chenault
Jun 14, 2020
Matt Thome
with kids, Jace walked 2.5mi
May 15, 2020
Maren Miller
Mar 6, 2020
Gina G
Dec 7, 2019
Jack Dominey
South Mesa loop is wide and easy enough for small kids. Towee is narrow but none of the trails are very steep.
Aug 28, 2019
Lori Gomez
Jul 4, 2019
Travis A
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