Saturday, July 21, 2012

Flatirons Vista

Distance: 3.4 mile loop
Elevation: 5,925 ft -6,105 ft
Elevation Gain: 180 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Off leash with Boulder green tag
Date Hiked: 29 April, 2012
Fees: $5 to park if not a Boulder Co. resident
Tags: #Boulder, #osmp, #hiking

The view of the Flatirons from the Flatirons Vista Trail on an afternoon in spring.  Woe to those who have to live in Colorado! 
Flatirons Vista is a short open space trail on the border of Boulder and Jefferson Counties. It is one of my favorite trail runs, but is also a wonderful afterwork stroll with the dogs.  With expansive views of the Flatirons, open meadows, and perennial blue skies, this is a great all season hike.

The new and improved trailhead
Map of the trail system.  Note the new Prairie Vista Trail that makes a smaller loop within the larger one.
The City of Boulder has improved this area significantly in recent years.  There is a new expanded parking lot, bathroom,  additional trail (Prairie Vista), and most recently a new parking fee.  There was a time when I had this trail all to myself, but no longer.  These improvements have led to an increase in traffic, particularly mountain bikers who can connect to this trail system with Marshall Mesa via the Greenbelt Plateau.

Heading southwest on the initial segment
The trail turns westward with the Flatirons always in view
This is a loop hike, but I have always taken it counter-clockwise, starting off on the right towards the new junction of the Prairie Vista and Flatirons Vista Trails (see map).  You need to read the trail signs or you'll end up on the wrong trail.  There is a short spur that is only marked Prairie Vista heading south, so don't be confused.

The junction with the Doudy Draw Trail (right fork).  Follow this a short ways for nice views and then return to the  junction to continue on Flatirons Vista.
The route heads southwest briefly before turning westward.  The trail in this area is open and wide, as in semi-truck wide.  With minimal elevation gain, this segment is a great, although rocky run, with wonderful views of the Flatirons.

For a short ways, the Flatirons are still in view as the trail heads southwards.
At 1.3 miles is the intersection of the Doudy Draw Trail, which heads down the embankment and eventually meets up with the parking lot for the Mesa Trail off Eldorado Canyon Blvd (6.8 miles one way). There are several view points on the decent of Doudy Draw where you can't see a single sign of civilization.  On a warm summer evening after the sun has set behind the Flatirons,  this area takes on an ethereal glow as the subdued light reflects off the green meadows below.  For a half hour the world is transformed into a peaceful, otherworldly oasis.  I always imaged this is what heaven was supposed to be.

The second half of the route weaves in and out of Ponderosa Pines
After the junction, the trail enters into a broad stand of Ponderosa Pines.  For 1.2 miles the trail weaves northward until reaching a fenced boundary, which it follows closely before turning northwest.  The last 0.8 miles is through open meadow with views of the plains to the east and the rolling hills to the south.  The NREL wind farm is visible and near the trailhead there is a small pond that is perfect for quick doggie swim.

The NREL wind farm 
The trail passes right next to the far end of this small pond.
The trick to enjoying Flatirons Vista is knowing when to go.  It can be scorching hot in the middle of summer day but for most of the rest of the year the trail is delightful.  Try running it some time and you'll boost the calorie burn while still enjoying the incredible scenery.

The final pitch back to the trailhead

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