The “pool” and the bridge across Bear Creek make a good turn-around point. (Ruth Carol Cushman, Courtesy photo)

Views of the Flatirons highlight this easy connector trail that parallels Bear Creek below the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

After crossing Bear Creek at the trailhead on Bear Mountain Drive, the trail follows a flagstone path leading through a brushy area and then joins a road (closed to traffic except for work vehicles) that begins on Table Mesa Drive.

Turn left on this road and head uphill for about a mile to the junction with the Mesa Trail. Shortly before reaching this junction, shale outcrops support Easter daisies that occasionally start blooming in November. In adjacent fields, both silver sage and pasture sage are now sprouting aromatic gray-green leaves that are often burned in Winter Solstice celebrations.

The joined trails climb a bit more steeply and eventually reach a stone bridge across Bear Creek that was built after the 2013 flood devastated the area. Although the creek is mostly dry now, a pool still holds some water upstream from the bridge. This pool is a magnet for bats during the summer when they emerge from their daytime sleep.

Soon after the bridge, the two trails diverge with Mesa Trail heading south and Bear Canyon Trail heading west. The bridge is a good turn-around point for a round-trip hike of a little less than three miles. If you’re feeling lazy, you can do a shorter segment. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, you can extend the hike.

A chipmunk munches weed seeds near the bridge. (Ruth Carol Cushman, Courtesy photo)

On one of our first dates in 1968, we hiked the Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon, then up to Green Bear Ridge, and circled back down from Green Mountain. You can also climb Bear Peak from here or do a loop hike connecting NCAR to the Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon and back. Check an online map for other ideas.

Magpies, jays, juncos, and a chipmunk busily harvesting grass seeds were the only wildlife we saw on a recent hike. Nary a bear in spite of the many place names bearing the name. In spring, cedar waxwings, lazuli buntings, western tanagers, orioles, catbirds, chats, and black-headed grosbeaks forage and sing in the brushy area near the trailhead.

Because the trail is, essentially, a road, it’s wide enough to keep a safe distance from other hikers, and it’s not as crowded as most Open Space trails. It’s become one of our “go-to during Covid” hikes.

To reach the trail, take Table Mesa Drive west to Lehigh Street and turn left. Turn right in about a block onto Bear Mountain Drive. The trailhead is on your right a short distance past the intersection with Wildwood Road. You can also start near the intersection of Table Mesa Drive and Vassar Drive and take the trail that heads southwest skirting the bottom of Table Mesa. This trail passes a residential area on your left where a few feeders attract birds and soon joins the Bear Canyon Trail.

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

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