Boulder, CO: Mallory Cave

Climb past ponderosa stands, golden meadows, and Boulder's iconic Flatirons to a hidden cave in Chautauqua Park on this 6.8-mile out-and-back.
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Climb past ponderosa stands, golden meadows, and Boulder's iconic Flatirons to a hidden cave in Chautauqua Park on this 6.8-mile out-and-back.

A major roosting site for Townsend's big-eared bats, Mallory Cave is a quiet respite etched into a 7,000-foot, conglomerate sandstone crag. The 3.5-mile route to this hidden bat cave showcases small samples of classic Chautauqua Park scenery: fields of tall grasses with resting deer herds, ponderosa and fir stands, tree-choked ravines, Bear Peak, and the lichen-spotted Flatirons.
The hike itself offers a strenuous workout in a short distance. You'll ascend more than 2,500 feet in 6.8 miles, doing the bulk of the climbing along steep switchbacks near Mallory Cave. After the switchbacks, the trail deadends at the base of a 100-foot rock face. Scramble up a narrow shoot on the right side of the cliff then duck through a tiny tunnel on the left to reach the bottom of the small, dark cave. While the cave itself is not incredibly beautiful by any standard, the view from its mouth lets you see a hundred-mile-long panorama of the eastern Colorado prairie and the Denver skyline.
Editor's Note: Mallory Cave is closed seasonally from April 1 to October 1 due to bat roosting. The trail is open year-round.
-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.9

Waypoints

MAL001

Location: 39.9893362, -105.2561152

Hike west on the use-trail that starts near the northwest corner of Broadway Street and Dartmouth Avenue.

MAL002

Location: 39.989443, -105.2651489

Bear right and follow the use-trail toward an exposed, low ridgeline near the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

MAL003

Location: 39.9901787, -105.2706608

Go straight at the 3-way intersection with another use-trail.

MAL004

Location: 39.9902322, -105.2710873

Turn left and begin climbing a short set of switchbacks.

MAL005

Location: 39.9892417, -105.277302

Bear left @ the Y-junction, merging onto the Kohler Mesa Trail.

MAL006

Location: 39.9868722, -105.2790481

Turn left @ the T-junction, taking the connector trail to Skunk Canyon.

MAL007

Location: 39.9857193, -105.279901

Turn right onto the Skunk Canyon Trail. On the way back, bear right here and hike east on Skunk Canyon.

MAL008

Location: 39.9790562, -105.2838385

Bear right @ the Y-junction onto the Mesa Trail.

MAL009

Location: 39.9780039, -105.2842382

Turn right on the Mallory Cave Trail. The trail will switchback for a little more than a mile, offering a strenuous climb up steep grades. The trail ends at the base of sandstone cliff. From there, scramble up its narrow shoot to access the cave.

MAL010

Location: 39.974113, -105.2897957

Mallory Cave: which showcases the prairie around Denver and Boulder. After exploring the cave, retrace steps back to the trailhead.

Mallory Cave

Location: 39.9741192, -105.2897072

©MacKenzie Ryan

Kohler Mesa Trail

Location: 39.9892375, -105.2771974

©MacKenzie Ryan

Connector Trail

Location: 39.9868537, -105.2789676

©MacKenzie Ryan

Skunk Canyon Trail

Location: 39.9857028, -105.2797723

©MacKenzie Ryan

Sandstone

Location: 39.9808855, -105.2845573

©MacKenzie Ryan

Merging onto Mesa Trail

Location: 39.9792741, -105.2842569

©MacKenzie Ryan

Mesa Trail

Location: 39.9790542, -105.2837983

©MacKenzie Ryan

Mallory Cave Trail

Location: 39.9779998, -105.2841282

©MacKenzie Ryan

Access Chute

Location: 39.9740698, -105.2887845

©MacKenzie Ryan

Prairie Panorama

Location: 39.9741438, -105.289557

©MacKenzie Ryan