Type: Trail, Point-to-point
Difficulty: 4 / 10
Altitude: 5,694 ft
Elev. Gain/Loss: 1,509 ft / 1,554 ft
Dog Friendly: Yes
Jog-Stroller Friendly: No
Filed Under: Hiking, Running
Many runners consider this to be one of the best trail runs in the United States. However, don't run the Mesa Trail if you want to get away from people. If the number of people you will meet are any indication of it's popularity, I would have to agree it is one of the top ten. Run it because of the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and perfect trail, and if you look around you will also see some of the world's top runners who make Boulder their home.
There are two places you can start this run, either the Mesa Trailhead at Chautauqua Park or the Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive (Hwy 170). If you choose to run only one way, you can either leave a car at the other end or hitch a ride back. Note: It is easier to hitch a ride from the Eldorado Springs side of the trail. The trail runs north to south (or south to north depending on which direction you run it) along the base of the Flatirons. I will give a description starting from Chautauqua Park.
From the parking lot/rangers station, start running (south) up an abandoned paved road. Towards the top of the hill (.6 miles) take a trail that forks off to the left. Basicly you will continue running on this trail for another 6 miles following all signs for the Mesa Trail. A few landmarks along the way include: Trail to NCAR (2 miles), turn right uphill on gravel road (2.4 miles), turn right back onto singletrack (2.8 miles), trail turns back into gravel road (5.2) and runs downhill all the way to finish.
For a great long run, do the Double Mesa (13.6 miles). Turn around and run back to your car at Chautauqua Park. If you decide to stop here take a few minutes to play in the creek or take a drive up to the swimming pool at Eldorado Springs.
To start from the north, from Broadway (Hwy. 93) take Baseline Road (west) to Chautauqua Park. Find a place to park which can be difficult on the weekends. Locate the ranger station at the southwest end of the parking lot. You will start your run here.
To start from the south, drive south on Broadway (Hwy. 93) out of town. Drive approximately 3 miles to a traffic light at the intersection of Eldorado Springs Drive. Drive towards the mountains for approximately 2 more miles and the Meas Trailhead will be found on the right. Park here and locate the trailhead on the north end of the gravel parking lot.