Spring hiking in Boulder is a great way to relax and clear your head from the stresses of school, but if you're not sure where to go it can also be a slippery, muddy experience.
Here are five trails that will cut out the mess and stress from your hike -- as recommended by Gabe Wilson, trail specialist with Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks.
1. Wonderland Lake
1.5 miles (loop)
Trailhead: 4201 Broadway, west side
"One of the nicer things about Wonderland Lake is that it's easily accessible right here in town," Wilson says. This short, easy hike around Wonderland Lake is great "if you've got friends or family that have different fitness levels or levels of ability. It gives everyone an opportunity to get out and recreate together."
There's plenty of opportunity to see wildlife near the water, such as deer, waterfowl, bald eagles and ospreys. And since parts of it are paved, it's a safe bet in the spring.
Although dogs must be on a hand-held leash, it is a short walk (0.4 miles, one way) to Foothills Community Dog Park, where you can let them run around and get some play time. Just head north on Foothills Trail at the northwest corner of the lake.
2.4 miles (out and back)
Trailhead: South side of Independence Road, 0.2 miles east of Diagonal Highway
Passing through agricultural grazing lands and over Fourmile Creek, Cottonwood dries out quickly after spring showers and is a great short walk before or after class.
"Cottonwood is a great place to go, I think, all year round" said Wilson.
Dogs are allowed off-leash if they wear a voice and sight tag and are under voice and sight control. However, if your pup is a bit too rambunctious you'll want to keep them on a leash -- there are protected prairie dogs in the area.
3. Mesa Trail -- south side
3 miles, or as far as you like (out and back)
Trailhead: 1.7 miles west of CO 93 on Eldorado Springs Drive
With the Mesa Trail's changes in elevation and length -- it runs 6.9 miles below the Flatirons -- it can be hard to completely avoid spring mud. It's is best to stick to the south-facing southern section, the first 1.5 miles, if you want to keep clean, Wilson says.
This is a great place to see wildflowers when they're in bloom. You can also get cultured by downloading an audio tour from the OSMP website and listening to the narrative as you hike past the remains of historic cabins and homesteads that date back to the 1800's.
Dogs are allowed off-leash if they adhere to the voice and sight control regulations. However, if you're connecting to different trails, keep an eye out for dog regulation signs at intersections.
4. South Boulder Creek
1.5 miles between Baseline and South Boulder roads, 2 miles between South Boulder and Marshall roads
Trailhead: Bobolink -- southeast corner of Baseline and Cherryvale
This trail meanders along South Boulder Creek and through delicate grassland ecosystems.
"One of the nicest things about South Boulder Creek ... is that you get such great views of the foothills," Wilson said.
Dogs aren't allowed on the trail between South Boulder and Marshall roads, but between South Boulder and Baseline roads they are allowed off-leash if they adhere to the voice and sight regulations.
5. Teller Farms
4.8 miles (out and back)
Trailheads: North: 2 miles east of 75th on Valmont Road (south side of Valmont). South: 1 mile east of 75th on Arapahoe Road (north end of White Rocks Trail)
This is a little-known gem in Boulder. Passing by two lakes, it is a great place to relax and fish -- the ponds are a short walk off the main trail. Or: "It makes for a pretty big run or walk and its got phenomenal views of the Front Range," Wilson said.
Dogs are not allowed at Teller Lake No. 5 (north) and must be on a leash within 100 yards of Teller Lake No. 1 (south). On the trail they are allowed off leash if they adhere to the voice and sight control standards.