Trail Snapshot: Enchanted Mesa Trail – Chautauqua Park
- Hike Distance: 1.8-2 mile RT
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: approx 1.5 hr
- Trail Type: Loop
- Elevation Gain: +437′
- Seasons: All Year
- Dogs: Allowed on Leash
- Hike Trail Map: Click for a Trail Map
- Denver Drive Time: 40 min
- Directions: Click for Google Map
- Town Nearest Hike: Boulder, Colorado
- Beauty: Ponderosa pine forest, views of Boulder’s famous Flatirons
- Activities: Hiking, Running, Picnics
Start your hike at parking lot near the Chautauqua Auditorium Trailhead. There is limited parking at the trailhead picnic shelter, but you can find more space around the auditorium and in side streets. Keep in mind that parking in the Chautauqua park area fills up fast.
There are a few options you can consider before starting the hike.
1# Enchanted Mesa – McClintock Loop – 1.4 mile loop
Your first possibility is to hike the trail clockwise by taking the Enchanted Mesa trail out, then returning on the McClintock trail, making it into a loop. You’ll head out on the wide path of the Enchanted Mesa Trail which leads you gradually uphill, across a stone bridge, and onto the Mesa. Once you get on the Mesa, walk into a pine forest. The trees get thicker and taller as you go until you feel like you have walked into an enchanted forest. My kids, who are six and 3, hiked this early one Saturday in April (you’ll see our muddy shoes at the end of the post), when snow still covered parts of the trail and the city was still asleep. It did feel like stepping, just for a moment, into another world.
About halfway back along the McClintock trail, you’ll encounter an intersection where a rough set of steps lead up to the right, and on your left, you’ll see the path leading back down toward the creek valley. Go left/down (see the photo) to stay on the McClintock trail. On the way down, you will see the flood damage in the ravine caused by the 2013 flood.
2# – McClintock to Enchanted Mesa – Loop – 1.4 mile loop
This is simply hiking the same loop, but counter-clockwise. The benefit to this is that you get better views of the Flatirons hiking West on the McClintock trail. The McClintock Trailhead starts right from the picnic pavilion behind the Chautauqua Amphitheater. It is 0.7 miles long and ascends 335 feet to where it ties in with Enchanted Mesa.
#3 – Enchanted Mesa + Quarry Loop – 1.8 miles
Quarry Loop is beautiful little jaunt off of the top of the Enchanted Mesa trail. If you wish to add 0.4 mile to your hike and enjoy the more of the mesa forest, follow either of the directions above, and look for the Quarry loop near the intersection of the two main trails. This turns your hike into a figure-eight. You will head uphill until you see an old stone cabin. When you get to the cabin, turn right and enter the short and steep stair-step climb to the quarry. When you get on the top you can relax in the hand-crafted chairs and take in the scenery of Chautauqua park.
If you add the Kohler Mesa trail to option #3 you can make your hike close to 2 miles long, giving you the chance to explore even more of the mesa.
This is a great hike any time of year, but is especially great in the Spring. We always find the people of Boulder very friendly, so expect good company. People will be out with their dogs, trail running, and talking with friends. Particularly in the early hours of the morning, it’s idyllic.
Tips & Hiking the Enchanted Mesa Trail:
- It Can Be Muddy: Bring an extra pair of shoes or sandals, so that you’re not getting mud all over the floor of your car. There are bags at the trailhead for disposal of dog poop. Our kids shoes were covered with mud, and we used the bags to keep from getting mud all over the back of the car. An even better solution would be to bring plastic shopping bags with you.
- Dog Restriction: Dogs are not allowed on the Lower & Upper McClintock Trail. So, you’ll have to return on the Enchanted Mesa trail with Fido, or check the map for other options.
- No Bikes: Bicycles are prohibited on the trails in the Chautauqua area.
- Bring a picnic or a snack: There are some great picnic spots along the Enchanted Mesa hike.
- Trail Map for Chautauqua Park: Trail Map Link
- Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
- After the Hike: Lollicup Boulder Coffe&Tea
Map & Driving Directions
Click for Driving Directions