Why we love it: Sweeping foothills vistas along an easy-to-follow loop with an abundance of wildlife.

When to go: Late spring through early winter, after the weather has been dry for a couple of weeks.

Nestled at the transition between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, Boulder County’s Rabbit Mountain Open Space occupies a niche environment where prickly pear and mountain mahogany thrive alongside Rocky Mountain juniper and stately ponderosa pines.

From the trailhead, the four-mile-long Eagle Wind Loop immediately ascends the mountain. If the trails are icy or wet, it’s best to begin and end the “lollipop loop” using the wide gravel road instead of following the often-muddy trail from the north end of the parking lot.

After this moderate climb, head south on the Eagle Wind Trail through rich mixed-grass prairie. This route follows the edge of the mesa to the signed loop, along which you’re treated to stunning views of high peaks to the west and prairie stretching to the eastern horizon.

In addition to the eastern cottontails for which the mountain is named, you may see rock squirrels, elk, black-tailed prairie dogs, mule deer, and coyotes. Black bears and bobcats have also been spotted here. The mesa edges are great locations to search for the many birds, including golden eagles, western meadowlarks, downy woodpeckers, and mountain bluebirds known to nest on or visit the area.

About 65 million years ago the rock layers here were warped upward, along with the rest of the Rocky Mountains, creating a large fold whose top slowly eroded away. These events left behind layers bending downward towards both the east and the west, creating today’s prominent mountain, which the Arapaho Indians—taking advantage of the abundance of game and the presence of edible plants and natural springs—used for their winter home until the mid-1800s.

Getting there: From Denver take I-25 North to US 36 West, then follow this highway to the junction with SR 66 near Lyons. Turn east on SR 66 for 1.1 miles to North 53rd Street. Turn left here and follow this good dirt road for 3.1 miles to the large trailhead parking lot on the east side of the road.

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Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.