Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Flatiron Vista, Boulder Colorado; large trail system creates short or very long hikes

Views of the Flatiron Mountains
It was a cloudy day in Golden when I decided that I needed to end work for the day and get outside for a little hike.  I grabbed the dogs and my supplies quickly and unfortunately, hastily (I forgot food) then we jumped into the car and drove up Hwy 93 toward Boulder. 
I had a hike in mind, the Flatirons Vista, it's a trailhead that I have been to many times, but not recently.   The trailhead has been re-done with a nicer bathroom, different trail map and gate system, and a larger parking lot which can accommodate trailers for horse trailer parking. 
Several years ago, Josh and I hiked here with Rock, we had planned on a 2-3 hour hike, but somehow it turned into at least double that when we crossed the river on the backside of the trail just below the mountains; but there was no place to re-cross the river and loop around.  We were pretty far out, and just kept assuming the trail would loop back across the river.  We ended up hiking for hours and eventually had to follow the river out the Hwy 93, then walk back along the meadows near the highway.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired and annoyed that we missed the 4:30 closing of Coors that we had planned, but it was an adventure that we still talk about. 

Getting there:  The trailhead is just across the Boulder County line on Hwy 93; it's .3 miles south of Hwy 128 on Hwy 93.  It's about 15 minutes from the North Golden area, and maybe 10 minutes from South Boulder.  It is considered Boulder Open Space, so dogs with green sight and sound command tags can be off-leash. 

Pine trees in the meadows

Specs: The trailhead has pit toilet restrooms, a map, and ample parking space, it can get crowded sometimes on the weekend during the summertime.  Click here for the trail map and here for the Boulder Open Space site.  This is a very large trail system and connects with well over 15 miles of marked trails, at least.  And a great place to do a long day hike that is of moderate difficulty, or an easy mountain bike trail.   The hike I did was the Flatirons Vista North and South loop, which is about 3.3 miles.   

The Hike:  Like many of the Open Space trails near my area, Josh and I over-hiked the Flatirons Vista when we first moved to Colorado 8  years ago now.  I haven't hiked here in probably 2 years, but drive by it frequently to get to other trails and have watched the semi-recent construction to update the trailhead as it gained popularity. 
 It was windy and 47 degrees (so much for the high of 65 today) when I got out of the truck at 1pm and hit the trail.  It was cloudy above me with sun to the north, and the wind was chilly without a hat, and I took the Flatirons Vista Trail South around the small pond and across the meadows, with views of Hwy 93 behind me and the mountains and pine tree forest ahead.  After about 25-35 minutes or so of hiking, the trail goes through another cattle gate and continues straight toward the mountains.  If you want to cut the loop shorter, there is an unmarked trail that is available to hikers only after the gate, the trail heads north and meets up with the Flatirons Vista Trail North.  I decided to take this shortcut trail because I forgot to bring food with me and had a very early lunch and my tummy was rumbling painfully.  The trail follows the power lines in a two track path, and we happened to see two deer along the way, one of them posed nicely for the photo below before hopping away with it's pal. 
The un-named short cut trail intersects very near the named Flatiron and Dowdy Draw trail, and I started walking back toward the parking lot on the Flatiron North Trail.  From the intersection it's just over 1 mile back.  The thick clouds finally passed and the sun was shining, and I was able to get some great shots of the mountains and prairie.  All in all the hike was probably around 3 miles and took me an hour and 15 minutes.

Once I was back at the trailhead, I studied the map a little bit more and realized that I haven't hiked all the way back to the Spring Brook trail loop or the Goshawk Ridge trail, and would like to attempt the long day hike which would be approximately 9 miles.  Have you done this trail or been to Eldorado State Park?  Please post your comments, I'd love to hear them! 

Roxanne <3
Lone tree near the start of the trail
Small pond near the start of the hike

Along the trail....

Thanks for reading, if you have more information on this trail or any questions, please post a comment and click here to be updated with the newest trail adventures. 

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