Outward Bound

The 5280 field guide to taking your child’s learning outside of the classroom—and into the world. 

August 2015

—Jan Von Holleben / Trunk Archive


The 15 miles of trails on easy-to-reach North Table Mountain in Jefferson County are a ready-made science lesson. Here’s a starter loop for your kids to explore.

The Route: The folks at the Colorado Mountain Club in Golden suggest this 3.3-mile do-it-yourself loop. Hike southeast from the North Table Loop trailhead (two miles north of downtown Golden on State Highway 93) for 0.6 miles until you reach the Tilting Mesa Trail. Continue 0.9 miles before connecting to the 0.9-mile Mesa Top Trail. Then it’s all downhill as you swing back on the North Table Loop Trail for 0.9 miles to the parking lot. 

I Spy...Tectonic Activity
Look west at any point on the hike to spot the Dakota Hogback, an elongated, elevated formation that was created when the ground lifted during the late Cretaceous Period. (It still sits on an active fault line.)


I Spy...Basalt
Four lava flows, created about 63 million years ago, left behind dark igneous rock deposits easily spotted near North Table Mountain’s plateau. Look closely for zeolite crystals, which are sparkly minerals found in air pockets within the rocks.


I Spy...Lichens
Stand on the border of the Tilting Mesa Trail and gaze across a protected lichen habitat. Lichen is a composite organism made up of single-celled algae and fungus that is susceptible to death by trampling. In other words, watch where you step.