Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mallory Cave

Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
Elevation: 6,109 ft - 6,817 ft
Elevation Gain: 934 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: Inside NCAR
Dogs: On leash until after the water tank then off leash with Boulder green tag
Date Hiked: 2 August 2014
Tags: #Boulder, #hiking, #NCAR

Looking down on Boulder from the Mallory Cave Trail
The short but steep trail to Mallory Cave behind NCAR in Boulder is a great way to burn a few calories and still get home in time to binge watch Games of Thrones with a bucket of chicken wings.

NCAR's parking lot. These cars are for Saturday hikers. 
Walking up the NCAR mesa
The trail starts at NCAR, the big pink castle on the hill up Table Mesa Drive in south Boulder. Park anywhere in the large lot and head around the back side of the building from the north side.

The first 0.6 miles takes you across the mesa upon which NCAR resides, down a steep embankment and up a hogback to a large water tank. The hogback segment includes 239 ft of elevation gain in less than 100 yards. I used to torture new arrivals by having them tell me their life story on this pitch while I rushed us uphill like we were being chased by IRS auditors.

The steep trail down off the mesa
How green the hills! 2014 has been so rainy that the foothills have stayed green well into September!
After the water tank, the route then walks out onto another ridge with stunning views of the Flatirons. At 0.7 miles is a trail junction. Take a left here and travel down to the Mesa Trail and the junction with the Mallory Cave Trail (at 0.8 miles). A large kiosk marks the spot. To get to the trail, you might have to dodge all the trail runners whizzing past on the Mesa trail, which parallels the Flatirons for 3 miles in either direction.

Past the water tower and heading towards the Mesa Trail
Either route at the junction ahead will take you to the Mesa Trail. I usually go left when going to Mallory Cave.
From this point on, the trail gets progressively rockier as it climbs an additional 280 ft to the base of a 2-story wall of angled rock (at 1.3 miles). Poison Ivy grows in profusion along this segment, so refrain from the urge to "roll in the hay" or you may come home with a itch you can't scratch.

Looking back at the junction of the Mesa Trail and the Mallory Cave Trail. A large sign marks the spot. 
Heading up the Mallory Cave Trail. We will get up close and personal to the flatiron in the distance. 
The trail turns sharply here and heads straight up in a long series of steps that weave in and out of Boulders. Several climbing areas are marked by signs and corresponding splinter social trails, which can easily lead the breathless hiker astray. This is particularly true coming down.

The Mallory Cave trail is one of the wettist ones in Boulder as indicated by these ferns along the route. 
There are trail signs for Mallory Cave AND local climbing spots. Be sure to read them or you'll get off route. 
Just before the top is a large boulder field with stunning views of the surrounding area. A little further on, the trail deadends at a rock wall (at 1.6 miles and 769 ft of elevation gain). A small interpretive sign describes the bats that live in the cave, which is 200 ft rock climb. The cave is now totally closed to protect the bats, so you might as well turn around and either linger at the boulder field or and race back down to the DVR.

Open area near the top of the trail
Up this wall is the entrance to the cave. It is closed off now. I have never had the nerve to climb up there. 
If you hike to Mallory Cave midweek like I used to do, you will probably be alone on the trail. On weekends, there will be hordes of climbers gleefully hanging off of the porous rock until their fingers bleed. On this trip, which was after Colorado legalized marijuana, there was at least one climber who obviously believed that nirvana could be chemically induced. I guess for rock climbers, "stoned" has many definitions.

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