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School Bus Loop

Intermediate
 3.3 (8) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

An intermediate/difficult, quiet hike (save a few mountain bikers) that features an abandoned 1950s-era school bus.


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Map Key

12.6

Miles

20.2

KM

Loop

9,575' 2,918 m

High

8,612' 2,625 m

Low

1,451' 442 m

Up

1,451' 442 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (3°)

20%

Max Grade (11°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

School Bus Loop is an intermediate/difficult 12.6 mile hike with stunning mountain vistas, quiet wooded sections, and subalpine meadows rife with wildflowers. This hike functions as a great alternative to those found closer to Boulder. Although slightly challenging, one is rewarded with a great view of the Indian Peaks around 1.2 miles into the hike (a good lunch or snack spot), and a spectacular meadow at mile 4. The hike derives its name from the abandoned school bus that can be found between miles 6.5 and 7.

This hike also sees relatively low traffic, so it is likely you'll have it to yourself, although you may encounter a few mountain bikers. It is quite easy to get turned around on this loop, so it is wise to have a trail description or the Hiking Project mobile app handy.

Need to Know

A spooky, abandoned 1950s era school bus is located between 6.5 and 7 miles, lending the hike its name. The Sundance Cafe is a great spot to grab a bite to eat following the hike, or a quick coffee to fuel up beforehand!

Description

Note: There are numerous spurs and side trails not shown on the map or covered in this description, which can make navigating difficult if you are new to the area. The trail map in the photo (from the trailhead) doesn't have all the trails of this hike shown between the YMCA gate and the school bus (during the biggest ascent). Here the National Forest Service road 355 refers to 355C during the early part of the hike through the campsites.

Parking is available on CR 132 West, directly across from Magnolia Road.

Follow CR 132 West for approximately 1/2 mile, and look for an electrical box on your left. 10 yards past the electrical box, the hike begins on a trail named Re-Root #927. It is smooth and mellow with a few roots thrown in as you hike through the trees. After about 5-10 minutes of hiking, you'll descend to a small creek rife with aspen trees, and with a slightly loose wooden crossing. Immediately after the crossing, the terrain becomes rooted and rocky for the next 50 yards.

After this slightly more technical portion, the trail becomes refreshingly smooth singletrack that emerges in a meadow with spectacular views of the Indian Peaks. This is a great spot to take a snack or water break, either on the way in or out (you'll pass this point twice). Continue on this trail, and it will appear to end on a 355 just south of CR 132 West.

Follow this smaller road for approximately 1/2 mile, and turn left to remain on it. This road is largely open with great views of the surrounding mountains. Continue straight for another 1/2 mile until the road ends at an intersection (near the YMCA Camp Ora-Penn). The trail is immediately to your left, across the road. This next section is Lost Meadow #355.

From this point, the trail becomes loose and rocky for about 300 yards. After the rocky section, the trail opens up at the top of the hill. Stay left to remain on the trail. Follow for approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile, and stay right at the fork to continue climbing. Follow this trail for the next 1 1/2 miles.

After the first mile of this stretch, the trail opens up to a gorgeous meadow that is filled with wildflowers in early to mid-summer, and patches of aspen. Following the meadow, the climb becomes steep and features an abundance of roots. Exercise caution as the roots may be wet and slippery.

Once the climb tops out, you'll descend and meet 503. Stay left and follow the road for approximately 1/4 mile. The trail continues just down the hill to your right in the form of the School Bus Cut-off. This can be difficult to see and easy to miss. Head left and then follow this section until a wooden barricade blocks your passage, and turn left to climb up through a tight aspen grove.

After about another mile crossing a dirt road and many private property signs telling to to stay on the trail, the reason for the run's name becomes apparent (if you look for it). A small shoot-off trail leads to an abandoned 1950s-era school bus. Be careful when exploring this area, as there may be broken glass and other sharp objects. (If you have trouble finding the bus, watch for a rock outcropping just off the trail where there is a sharp right switchback and steep descent. There are several little trails to the bus/ old cabin, all on the right hand side when heading in this direction.)

Follow this trail for another 3/4 mile, and the trail intersects with the dirt road 355. To your right, the trail leads to a sign detailing the routes in the area. Follow the trails named Hobbit 1 #927 and Hobbit 2 #927, although you start on Hobbit 2 #927. Both Hobbit trails are relatively loose and rocky, so mind your ankles.

Stay on the trail as you cross two Forest Service roads, and meet the first trail of the run: Re-Root #927. Follow Re-Root #927 the way you came to arrive back at the parking area.

Flora & Fauna

Lodgepole and ponderosa pine are abundant, with touches of blue spruce and aspen lining portions of the trail. Indian Paintbrush can be seen in the summer/fall. Keep an eye out for deer and plenty of Abert's squirrels. Occasional mountain lion sightings, so check signage for notices.

Contacts

Shared By:

Joe Holvey with improvements by Jordan G

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 8 votes

#4093

Overall
  3.3 from 8 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#457

in Colorado

#4,093

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Photos

Aspen grove and snow-capped peaks along the Hobbit 1 Trail.
Jun 8, 2017 near Nederland, CO
The intersection of Lost Meadows and Hobbit 3.
Jun 9, 2017 near Nederland, CO
Area map showing only part of the trail network
Jun 28, 2018 near Nederland, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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Check-Ins

May 10, 2020
eilin ni laoire
Quality only downgraded as we had to navigate some large snow fields, post holed at times - always a pain. If dry this trail would be wonderful. 12.7mi — 5h 19m
Sep 5, 2018
Colin Scott
Jul 14, 2018
Max Swearingen
Jun 28, 2018
JP Jones
Way more complex area than described, suggest looking at the REI mtbproject.com for better area detail. Loop is actually part of 10-12 shorter trails. 8.5mi — 4h 15m
Oct 28, 2017
Matt Stoub
cool loop. camping abounds. would be great trail run. 12.6mi