Location: Boulder, CO
Distance from Denver: ~29mi (~40min) ♡ ♡ ♡
Hike: ~2.5 miles ♡ ♡ ♡
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Large lot (you park in the NCAR parking lot) ♡ ♡ ♡
Parking Fee: N/A
This is such a cute little hike! One of B's family members (who lives in Boulder) suggested it to us as a quick and fun trail after a relatively heavy brunch. The drive to the hike is pretty and winds its way up high over the city. You have to park in the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) parking lot, which is pretty large and can accommodate quite a few cars. There were at least 40 cars there when we went at 2 in the afternoon, but we still had a spot relatively close to the start of the trail (because nothing ruins moods more than trekking across a large parking lot in the hot sun).
The trailhead starts out super informational and explains the different flora and fauna that call this area home. Straight from the get-go, you have sweeping views of Boulder peak that, frankly, we could not get enough of! While it is a relatively straight trail to Mallory Cave (we took the Mesa Trail for most of the way), we do recommend checking the trail maps as they are posted on the trail because there are many off-shooting intersections so it can get confusing. (PSST: not much past the start of the trail, we saw a garden snake slither by that scared the both of us!)
For the most part, the trail is relatively easy to follow. You go through Bear Canyon (pictured above) and then start ascending up the mountain. The incline itself isn't that bad (at least compared to others that we have done), but there is hardly any shade for the first half of the hike so that makes it challenging. I will admit the direct sun drained a lot of energy out of me to where I was dragging my feet (super unlike me!) and was hoping for reprieve.
However, take the time to look around you! The views are sweeping over the city!! We found this secluded ledge (just past the second set of fencing, I believe) where we stopped to marvel at how far we had hiked. I'm not sure if you can see the building in the picture above, but that is where we parked! Even though it was a little over a mile away, it seemed like it was much more distant!
Just past this ledge, its like a completely different ecosystem - you are completely in the forest which was fabulous because it was a good 10 degrees cooler! This area is a rock climber's paradise - we saw quite a few groups attempting the climb up the steep mountainside.
At this point, there is one (or two depending on your POV) more rock scrambles to get up to Mallory Cave. Be aware, though, that (1) the scramble is literally along a sheer rock face and (2) as of the date of this post, entering the cave itself is prohibited to allow the bats to nest (the area is closed off by netting).
It was an anti-climatic finish, but we still had sweeping views of the city at the top which we loved! This hike was beautiful (albeit crowded) for the perch above Boulder and the gorgeous beginning through the Canyon ♡
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