Tuesday, June 6, 2017

High Plains Vista

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,900 ft - 6,100 ft
Elevation Gain: 224 ft (net), 498 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Leash only
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Fees: Parking fee for non-Boulder County residents
Tags: #Boulder, #hiking, #prairie

"Amber waves of grain" is the view du jour on the High Plains Vista Trail south of Boulder, CO. 
There are some days when a walk across the prairie is just what the doctor ordered. In early spring the prairie is verdant green and the sun is ambrosia to our half-thawed bodies. In fall, the brown grasses wave majestically in the wind and the cloudless blue sky brings out the pioneer in all of us. Rooted, stoic, wind-blown as hell.

Crossing the stream
The High Plains Vista Trail south of Boulder is one such prairie walk. It starts at the Greenbelt Plateau Trailhead off of Hwy 128. The route parallels Hwy 128 but weaves in and out of valleys in such a way that the road rarely seems to intrude.

Example of the narrow, dirt trail
Instead, the route crosses at least one wet drainage filled with croaking frogs, climbs several hills with views of an endless carpet of grass, and wanders by several Prairie Dog colonies. On such a stroll, you can't help but hum "America the Beautiful" or channel Willa Cather. On a recent trip I could have swore I heard the refrain to George Winston's Country. Rooted, stoic.

The views seem to go on and on. 
There are only thing that can destroy this pastoral tableau, mud! The High Plains Vista Trail turns into wallow suitable only for water buffalo after a days rain. Check the Boulder OSMP website for trail closure information before you make the trip.

Closeup of the grasses
Technically, the High Plains Vista Trail ends at a nondescript dirt parking area several miles up Hwy 128 at a elevation of 6,000 ft. For a longer outing, consider continuing along the 3-mile Colton Trail.

Looking west towards the Flatirons on the way back. That is the trailhead in the distance. 

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