Elevation: 5,520 ft to 5,740 ft
Elevation Gain: 220 ft
Dogs: Off leash with green tag
Marshall Mesa is one of my favorite close-in hikes. The views of the Flatirons are gorgeous and the diverse landscape is appealing in both fall and summer. Marshall Mesa is a broad slopping plateau filled with grasses, Cottonwood Trees, and shrubs. The Community Ditch cuts through it and in spring this ditch is filled with flowing water.
The view from the parking lot. The new trail heads across the open meadow but will eventually ascend up above the trees.
Standing on one of the ancient sandstone formations that form part of the area. Millions of years ago, this area was a beach. You can still see the waves embedded in the sands. It is a 10 foot drop off on the other side of the tree.
The area is owned by Boulder City Open Space, so things have changed the last couple of years. The trail head was moved a mile west and expanded. It now includes bathrooms and a larger parking area. Mountain bikes have become more prevalent as well since Boulder has been converting many of its trails to be bike friendly. The downside of course is that this makes the trails less people friendly. I know that bikes are supposed to yield to humans and all that, but the reality is that they don't. You are lucky not to get tossed in a ditch as the race by. On very rare occasions, have I seen bikes pull over for humans. I always praise them. "Good boy, good girl!"
I was hoping for gorgeous fall color on this trip, but the unseasonable freeze the week before turned all the leave brown. In spring, this meadow and the Cottonwoods that dominate it, are very pretty indeed.
The change in the trail head has also changed the available routes in the area. There are two loops one can do, a 3 mile loop and a 2 mile loop. You can travel farther by doubling back on these loops or by heading off on spur trails that extend from the area. Pick up a map at the trail head to view these options.
Go straight up the hill on the other side of the bridge and you are on the 2-mile loop. Go left and you are on the 3-mile loop.
When the trail reaches it maximum elevation (~200ft elevation gain), a spur trail heads off to the left. This is a dead end trail and dogs must be on a leash. The main trail heads to the right. Straight ahead, as you see in this picture is a lake. It is private.
The photos in this post were taken on the 3 mile loop going counter-clockwise. I prefer this direction because it means facing west on the highest part of the route. The views from there are just lovely.
A small vestige of fall color in some shrubs along the Community Ditch Trail. In spring the ditch would be filled with lazily flowing water.
Parts of this loop traverse the Community Ditch Trail, which is wide and almost road-like and parts traverse the official Marshall Mesa Trail, which is rockier and travels near some interesting geological features. These trails are great for Sunday strolls, trail runs, or doggie walks. Even in January there is something to see and the stark landscape retains its charm under the deep blue skies of winter.
A sandstone bluff near the end of the loop. The Community Ditch Trail continues west across highway 93. That is a pleasant walk in and of itself.
Give this area a try the next time you want a leisurely stroll in a beautiful area that does not take all day to get to.