If you go

Highlights: Views of Longs Peak and the Indian Peaks, birds and other wildlife, lakes and a creek, fishing, agrarian surroundings

Distance: 1.8 mile loop (Braly) with spur to Webster Pond; 1.1-mile loop (Marlatt)

Elevation: 5,097 feet with no elevation change

Difficulty: Easy

Access: From North 75th Street turn east into the parking lot about a mile south of Hygiene, or a half mile north of the intersection of 75th and St. Vrain Road

The reclaimed gravel pits at Pella Crossing attract pelicans, kingfishers, ducks, beaver, foxes, fishermen and other wildlife, and peaceful agrarian surroundings include barns, a windmill and farm animals.

Following the 2013 flood, Pella Crossing — part of Boulder County Open Space — was closed for restoration until the spring of 2017, when it re-opened after construction crews moved nearly 36,000 cubic yards of earth to renovate the trails and parking area.

Autumn color peaked in mid-October with golden cottonwoods and crimson ginalla maples and currants. Now, in November, look for a few remnants of color in the wild roses, grasses and sumacs that border the trails.

When the Leonid meteor shower peaks on Friday, you might see shooting stars as city lights are not as bright here as elsewhere in the metro region and the moon will be new.


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Braly Trail begins at the Pella Crossing Trailhead and loops around Sunset Pond and Heron Lake with a spur to Webster Pond and wetlands designed to prevent future flood damage. As the names suggest, great blue herons can be seen here, and views at sunset or sunrise are spectacular. On a windless day at dawn, Longs Peak, bathed in alpenglow, is reflected in the lakes.

Marlatt Trail also begins at the Pella Crossing Trailhead, heads northwest, and crosses 75th Street just south of the railroad tracks. It skirts the north shore of Dragonfly Pond, and circles Poplar Pond, where mountain views reflect in the water if the wind is calm.

At the southwest end of Poplar Pond, a small loop trail crosses an irrigation ditch and leads to a picnic area and to St. Vrain Creek. It then returns along the shore of Clearwater Pond. In summer, cottonwoods, willows and box-elders provide shade and habitat for orioles, warblers and blue jays along this section — our favorite part of the trail system. Continue circling Poplar Pond to complete the main loop.

Early settlers George Webster (for whom one pond is named) and Charles True bought a homestead here in 1859, and Webster planted plum, cherry and apple orchards. In the 1860s, the Overland Trail crossed the St. Vrain River at Upper or Laramie Crossing on the route between Denver, Laramie and Salt Lake City, and soon this community became "one of the busiest towns north of Denver," even boasting a racetrack.

In 1880, the Dunkards, a protestant sect that believed in baptism by immersion, built a church here and are thought to have named their settlement after their hometown of Pella, Iowa. They also built a sanitarium called "Hygiene House" and marketed spring water from the base of Rabbit Mountain.

Eventually, Pella faded away as commerce moved across the railroad tracks to the town of Hygiene. The Dunkard church still exists next to the Hygiene Cemetery.

Ruth Carol and Glenn Cushman are the authors of "Boulder Hiking Trails," published by Graphic Arts Books