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Enchanted Mesa Trail To Mesa Trail Loop (G.2)

Description: There are so many trails that begin from Chautauqua Park it's hard just to decide which one to choose at times.  Most hikers start from the Ranger's Cottage at the base of the famous Chautauqua Trail opting to climb up Chautauqua, Bluebell Rd Trail, or Baseline Trail toward the flatirons.  However, these trails are very crowded during the summer months, and truthfully, are pretty steep for many visiting hikers.  

Enchanted Mesa is a bit of a secret gem that provides a much more gentle, and equally beautiful climb toward the flatirons on a broad, well surfaced trail.  It is 2.5 miles long and the elevation gain is a very reasonable 441' over the first 1.3 miles.  It starts in a small ravine where you can see the incredible forces that played out during the September 2013 flooding, winds up into Enchanted Mesa with great views of the flatirons and the university area, then into a Ponderosa pine forest where it meets the Mesa trail.  Turning back toward Chautauqua on Mesa you start the descent into the lush upper area of the ravine where you cross a small creek and shortly meet up with Bluebell Rd Trail.  Here you will have many great views of downtown and the flatirons as you head down to the Ranger's Cottage.  A big plus of this hike is that the trailhead is hidden on the backside of Chautauqua, behind the auditorium, where you can often find a precious parking space when other hikers are lining Baseline Rd with their cars.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy (G.2), 2.5 Miles, 441' Elevation, 2 Hours.  Linda and I pondered the challenge rating for this hike and decided on a G.2, although some might consider it a G.1.  The tipping point for us was the last 1/2 mile climb on Enchanted Mesa and the crossing of the washout from the 2013 flood.  Not taxing, but you need to take rests as needed and watch your footing a bit as you make your way across the washout area.  

Driving Directions and Parking: 320 12th St, Boulder, CO 80302.  Head south on Broadway from Canyon Rd. to Baseline.  Turn right and climb Baseline until you see 12th St. on the left.  Take 12th to the auditorium.  This will place you in a parking area at the end of 12th St. next to Chautauqua auditorium.  If there is no parking available go a little farther to another parking area at the trailhead or find parking close by along the cabins.  Google Map directions here...

Trailhead: There are two trails that start from this trailhead, Enchanted Mesa which is a broad natural surfaced trail and McClintock Lower Trail, a narrow trail that drops down and follows the creek bed.  Stay on the larger, smooth trail as the flood damage has washed out some of McClintock Lower.  

Click image for Google Maps detail

Click image for Google Maps detail

Trail Guide: Enchanted Mesa is a wide, smooth surface trail all the way to its termination with Mesa Trail, 1.3 miles into your hike.  Simply stay on the wide track as it rises into the Ponderosas.  You will cross a couple of trails along the way, McClintock Lower early and Kohler/Skunk after you enter the pines.  At 1.3 miles Enchanted Mesa terminates at Mesa Trail.  There is a sign post and map board here.  Take a well-deserved rest on one of the large rocks available, then turn right on Mesa, following the post sign direction to Chautauqua (1 mi away).  Mesa drops down some wood steps, crosses the creek washout, then connects with Bluebell Rd Trail at 1.8 miles into your hike.  Head downhill on Bluebell to the Ranger's Cottage.  Take a look inside, you won't be disappointed.  Take a rest on the shady lawn of Chautauqua park in front of the dining hall.  If you were able to park near the trailhead walk uphill to the auditorium from the dining hall to your car.

Map Resources: EveryTrail MapBoulder Open Space Map

Après Hike: There's no better place in Boulder to relax after this hike than right in Chautauqua Park.  Bring a picnic, or better yet reserve a table on the veranda of the Chautauqua Dining Hall and take in the sights over a great lunch/brunch.  

Picknicking:  Several tables at the Ranger Cottage and around the park grounds.

Restrooms: Yes.

Dog Friendly: Yes.

Cell Sevice: Yes.