Sunday, February 12, 2012

North Table Mountain

Distance: 5.5 mile loop
Elevation: 6,030 ft - 6,485 ft
Elevation Gain: 455 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Leash Only

Ancient lava forms a basaltic cap on top of North Table Mountain
Ever seen a Coors commercial showing majestic Mt. Wilson?  This peak is actually located in the southwest corner of the state but Coors likes to pretend its brewery is near this scenic edifice when in fact, it is sandwiched between North and South Table Mountains in Golden, CO.  These mesas are just as much a part of Colorado topography as Mt. Wilson, but the marketers obviously found their unique rock formations too mundane to sell beer.  Don't fall into the same trap.  A stroll to the top of these eroded monoliths is a pleasant excursion for the whole family.  I have already profiled the Lubahn Trail, which goes to the top of South Table Mountain.  Another unseasonably warm day in January 2012 was an opportunity to visit the area's northern cousin.

Large Parking Lot
Map of the area and our route
Rabbitbrush along the side of the initial ascent
This wide road forms part of the North Table Loop
While the Lubahn Trail, is more of a neighborhood trail (e.g. you have to know it exists), North Table Mountain is an Jefferson County Open Space park with a large parking lot and bathroom.  Getting to the top of the mesa is easy, there is a large, obvious road that heads up from the parking lot.  We passed several families with small children whose little feet could easily navigate the gravel road.  This road is part of the North Table Loop and it is 0.7 miles to the top of the mesa.  Once at the top, the route splits with the North Table Loop continuing to the right while the Tilting Mesa veers off to the left.

Trail junctions are marked with large rock signs.

The distant rock formations along the Tilting Mesa Trail with pockets of ice
The wide open expanse of the Tilting Mesa Trail.  Could you tell that you are on top of a mesa and not out on the eastern plains?
The far end of the Mesa Top Trail, just as it descends to the other side
Having never been to this area, I wanted to explore it as much as possible, so we took the Tilting Mesa Trail which heads off to the northern side of the mesa.  This area is dominated by distant rock formations (they are sequestered behind do not enter signs), flat grasslands, and an open sky that seemed to stretch all the way to Never Never Land.  We could see Mule Deer  wandering across a distant hill while runners and mountain bikers dotted the landscape.

Heading down the other side
Heading north on the North Table Loop
Heading East on the North Table Loop
At the three-way junction of Tilting Mesa, Rim Rock, and  Mesa Top Trails, we decided to head east on the Mesa Top Trail, which ended up taking us down the other side of the mesa.  At the bottom this became the North Table Loop Trail again,  which we followed all the way back around to the parking area.  This part of the route was slow going.  The trail was full of mud and ice.  I fell at least twice in spots where the slightest incline turned the trail into an commercial for high-powered laundry detergent. 

Houses appear, but we are a long way off yet
The icy and muddy trail and occasional inclines made for difficult walking.  There was no one else on the trail.
Several bridges cross drainages coming off the mesa
If I were to go again, I might choose to head out the Rim Rock Trail, which deadends on top of the mesa, and then turn around and return the way I came.  I can see in the spring when the grasses are green and the trails are dryer, this open space would a great spot for a sunset stroll.
At last we return to the parking lot


mtnrunner2 said...

The lower foothills like Green (Lakewood) and the Tables are more interesting than they appear from a distance. I like the prairie terrain, and it can seem worlds away. Cool rocks too.

And many of the trails are wide so bikers and foot traffic can easily pass each other.

The descent trail on the east ("Heading down the other side") also has a rocky gully at the top that has a tiny intermittent waterfall. Probably depends on the melt or rainfall.

Kelly the little black dog said...

I was talking to Julian last week and we both agreed that this blog is a wonderful resource. Thanks for all the hard work.