Length: 2.8 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Easy
Why we love it: Boulder’s Left Hand Trail isn’t too long, too steep, or too far away. In other words, it’s just right for a weekday excursion.
When to go: This year-round trail can be muddy during the shoulder seasons, so it’s recommended during early fall (for the golden hues as well)
Pre-hike buzz:  Get your java jolt at Ampersand Coffee Roasters off Odell Place, which serves a cult-favorite chili mocha made with beans sourced from local, women-owned farms.
Post-hike buzz: When you hit the turnaround point on this trail, put yourself on the waitlist at Avery Brewing Company. It gets packed but that’s because the brisket nachos are just that good.
Restrooms: None. But if nature calls, and you’re not one to squat among the scenery, you’ll find some southwest of the trailhead at the nearby picnic pavilion.
Dogs: Allowed on a leash

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 so 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,” for its terrible cell service. Still, I’d never stopped for a quick hike, which was a mistake because this pretty little 2.8-mile (one way) trail skirts a private reservoir and links up to a network of Boulder Valley Ranch trails. The short-grass prairie—which, in places, is overrun with chirping prairie dogs—is stunning during any season. Right now, though, the golden hues make the trees surrounding the water look especially stunning. (There is a 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 tiny furry things burrowing in the dirt. I had the trail mostly to myself, but it’s 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.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.