Location: Boulder Canyon, Boulder County Parks and Open Space
Nearest town: Boulder
Distance from Denver: 39 mi / 0:55
Trail distance: 7.2 mi figure 8, with two shorter options: 3.3 mi southern loop or 4.0 mi upside-down northern lollipop
Elevation: 6,560 ft at TH
Directions: From Boulder, head west on Canyon Rd into Boulder Canyon. After entering the canyon from downtown, it is 4 miles to the right turn onto Sugarloaf Rd (the turn is well signed); then go right on Betasso Road (again, well signed). Park in the first (east) parking area, or overflow parking is available. I met a hiker who started from Fourmile Canyon Dr, however there isn’t a designated parking area there and Boulder County Parks warns of no parking along the road.
Dates hiked: 3/2012 and 11/2012
Boulder County Parks and Open Space
Boulder On the Web
Trail notes and photos:
This trail is just a few miles from downtown Boulder and provides a smooth, gently rolling trail through ponderosa pine forest with some views of the foothills. I averaged 3 mi/hr today whereas on average I hike around 2 mi/hr at high elevation or with more climbing. Even the switchbacks felt easier than usual with a little flat and down along with the up.
Free parking. Signage with large map and brochure maps. Pit toilets. Great signage along trail and at all trail junctions. Dogs must be on leash, or there is a spot near the eastern parking area with leashes available for borrow (there weren’t any there today, but there were a couple there on my last visit).
I can see why this is a popular biking trail. The trails are smooth with few rocks, so it would be fast and not very technical to ride, other than the threat of steep drop-offs in some spots. Bikes are not allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so hikers will be happy to aim for these days when the trails are quieter. When bikes are allowed, they must travel in the direction signed (it changes monthly), so hikers can travel in the opposite direction in order to better see and be seen.
Both visits I did the whole figure 8, but do prefer the southern loop (Canyon Loop Trail) to the northern loop (Benjamin Loop Trail). Part of the Benjamin Loop Trail provides views of Fourmile Canyon Rd, which means some big homes in the way of your view and pretty regular car noise for a couple miles. The top of the hills across the road have been recently burned, so I wondered how many homes I wasn’t seeing which were there before the fire.
For solitude from roads and homes, I recommend the Canyon Loop Trail. The forest and views are similar on both loops. The trail is mostly forested, with short sections of sun exposure or more dappled sunlight. Trail ranges from single track to wider double track. No water along the trail.