Boulder Trail Runners

Want the fast track to the local trail-running scene? Join sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/BoulderTrailRunners for instant trail-running gratification. The BTR organizes several trail runs a week for all ability levels -- really -- and at all times of the day, including a night run.

Lucky you -- you got here just in time to enjoy a lot of high-country trail running before winter hits (and after the massive spring snows have melted).

But where to start?

Whether you need a quick nearby jog or are psyched to commit hours to a rugged run that'll leave you happily hiding in the pain locker, you're set.

Buzz Burrell, local triathlete and longtime member of Boulder Trail Runners, picked out these five trails for a primo Boulder mix. There's something for everyone to do, or aspire to, he said.

Don't forget that if you've just moved to Boulder (or back to Boulder) from the flatlands, you might be sucking wind for a few weeks while you acclimate. Altitude-related maladies can sneak up on you as low as 8,000 feet.

Also, note on avoiding the itchies: On lower trails, like those from Chautauqua, NCAR and Eldorado Canyon, keep an eye out for poison ivy, especially around drainages -- the P.I. likes it wet.

1 Mesa Trail

6.9 miles (one way)


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The Mesa Trail rolls through meadows and rocky outcrops beneath the Flatirons on the south side of town -- gorgeous.

Burrell said this trail from Chautauqua to just outside of Eldorado Springs was first marked out with cairns in 1924. (You gotta think it's been popular with people who like to run on trails ever since.)

Mega-classic. Do it, love it.

Trailhead: Chautauqua Park, west Baseline Road

2 White Rocks

4 miles (one way)

Hit the trail at White Rocks on a cooler or cloudy day -- it carves a wide-open path through prairie on the east end of town into Gunbarrel.

With the plentiful sun, it could become your favorite place to run this winter.

"This is enjoyable cruiser terrain," Burrell says, adding that it's usually done as an out-and-back with the Teller Farm Trail, on the other side of Valmont Road, for 14 miles total.

Cruise away.

Trailhead: Valmont Road, west of 75th Street

3 Mount Sanitas

3.4 miles (loop)

There's nothing like passing hikers on your way up Sanitas to make you feel fast.

But don't get too big for your britches.

"It's been done in 14 minutes, 28 seconds bottom to top," Burrell says. "But you're a star if you can do it in less than 20 (minutes)."

Welcome to Boulder.

Run it clockwise if you don't like warm-ups. It goes straight up the hill, up and over huge steps at first.

OK it's steep down the other side, too. But oh-so good.

No matter which way you take to the top, hang at the craggy summit to appreciate the views of town and beyond.

Trailhead: Two parking areas on either side of Sunshine Canyon Drive, just west of Fourth Street

4 Sourdough Trail

5.8 miles (one way)

Beat the Boulder heat with a shady cruise through conifers.

Sourdough offers a taste of the high country's cool temps and thin air (it's above 9,000 feet) without the above-treeline exposure, which makes it a favorite during the season of afternoon thunderstorms. Mountain bikers might rip through on occasion, but this route will put you in such good spirits you'll be happy to share the trail.

Trailhead: Rainbow Lakes Road (County Road 116), just west of the Peak to Peak Highway (Colo. 72) north of Nederland

5 High Lonesome Loop

14.8 miles (loop)

Take advantage of summer in the mountains -- it won't last much longer.

Burrell calls the High Lonesome Loop a favorite among Boulder's hardcore trail runners. No wonder -- it climbs 3,000 feet to the Continental Divide for an airy jaunt above treeline.

From the Hessie Trailhead (insanely popular on weekends, so go early), head up the King Lake Trail to the steep climb up to the Divide. Cut north, dipping to the other side of the Divide (Hello, Fraser River valley) before taking the Devil's Thumb Trail past more lakes and back down to Hessie.

Trailhead: Hessie Trailhead, Fourth of July Road (County Road 111), west of the town of Eldora (not the ski area)