Length: 3.3-mile (one-way)
Why we love it: Boulder’s Left Hand Trail isn’t too long, too steep, or too far away. In other words, it is just right for a weekday excursion.
When to go: This year-round trail can be muddy during the shoulder seasons, so its recommended during fall (for the golden hues as well)
Pre-hike buzz: Caffè Sole off South Broadway serves coffee and delicious food. You can’t go wrong with the $5 breakfast sandwich: a fried egg, bacon, and Welsh cheddar on a house-made biscuit.
Dogs: Allowed on a leash
Drive time from Denver: 49 minutes, 36 miles
I have an uncanny ability to overschedule my weeks. This past one was filled with meeting deadlines, painting my home office, putting up my garden’s bounty, and so on. While I crossed plenty of stuff off my to-do list, I didn’t have time to unwind. So, bright and early on Monday morning, I headed for Left Hand Trail near Boulder for a little “me time.”
I know the area well, having passed by it so many times on U.S. 36 en route to Rocky Mountain National Park or Lyons, that I affectionately call it the “dead zone.” (I’ve had one too many phone calls dropped in this area.) I’ve never stopped for a quick hike, which was a mistake because this pretty little 3.3-mile (one-way) trail skirts a private reservoir, and links up to a bounty of Boulder Valley Ranch trails. The short-grass prairie—which, at places, is practically overrun with chirping prairie dogs—is stunning during any season. Right now, though, the golden hues make the changing leaves of the trees surrounding the water look especially stunning. (There is grandfatherly cottonwood about 0.7-miles from the trailhead that is a photographer’s dream.)
The trail’s elevation barely changes—at least for someone used to trekking the Rockies—so the hike was more of a stroll than a workout. That was just fine by me, as I unwound by listening to the prairie cacophony of moving grasses, flocking birds, and burrowing tiny furry things. I had the trail mostly to myself, but it is popular with horseback riders, mountain bikers, and trail runners, so you should expect some traffic. I walked for two miles and then turned back—after all, there are more deadlines to meet—but the morning reverie was just what I needed to recharge.
Getting there: From Denver, take U.S. 36 West through Boulder. At Neva Road, turn right and travel for an additional mile. The trail’s parking lot will be on the right.