Length: 1 mile roundtrip
Why we love it: Bald Mountain makes a perfect excursion for kids, out-of-town guests, picnics, and cold or windy afternoons
When to go: Any time you crave sweeping views and solitude
Pre-hike buzz: Just after you exit US-36, stop by the family-operated Brewing Market in Basemar Plaza for breakfast burritos and freshly brewed coffee
Restrooms: Outhouse at the trailhead during summer months
Dogs: Must be leashed at all times
About seven miles west of Boulder, the county’s Bald Mountain Scenic Area protects more than 100 acres of beautiful foothills terrain. There is only one trail here: the Pines to Peaks Loop, which begins on the south side of the parking lot just past a couple of well-placed picnic tables. After 0.2 miles of hiking beneath tall ponderosas, you’ll reach the start of the Pines to Peaks Loop. You can proceed in either direction; out of habit, I usually veer right first to follow a counter-clockwise circle. Either way climbs a modest 225 vertical feet up to the top of 7,160-foot-high Bald Mountain, which is large enough to be visible from the plains.
While you’re walking, it’s common to see black Abert’s squirrels, as well as frisky chipmunks darting beneath the ponderosa and Rocky Mountain juniper trees while dark ravens and blue Steller’s jays fly overhead. In the late spring and early summer, Bald Mountain is also a good place to spot wildflowers, including bright purple pasqueflowers.
From the mountain top, you’re treated to fabulous, 360-degree views ranging from the snow-capped Continental Divide to the vast, flat Great Plains. Nestled in the transition zone between the grasslands and the Rockies, this area has always been rich in natural resources. Pioneers once logged these forests and grazed livestock here; it wasn’t until 1973, when Boulder County leased this parcel from the state, that this property became part of the open space system. More recently, the devastating 2010 Fourmile Canyon Wildfire, which caused $217 million in damage, passed through this area, leaving behind the charred trees visible on the hillsides to the west.
Once you’ve enjoyed the views (and perhaps a picnic lunch), continue around marvelous loop to its end and then retrace your steps the final 0.2 mile to your car.
Getting there: From Denver, take I-25 north to US-36 west to Baseline Road. Turn left onto Baseline and follow for 0.4 miles to Broadway. Turn right onto Broadway and follow for one mile to University Avenue. Turn left on University and then, in 0.3 miles, turn right onto 9th Street and follow it for 0.7 miles to Mapleton Avenue. Turn left onto Mapleton and follow this road, which turns into Sunshine Canyon Drive, for 4.6 miles to Bald Mountain Scenic Area, which has a large parking lot on the left side of the road.