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Combine segments of the North and South Fork Shanahan trails while avoiding the crowded trailheads at Boulder’s popular Chautauqua Park. This 2.3 mile lollipop loop on the city’s south side begins at an unmarked trailhead for a perfect trail-run or after-work length hike.
Start from the Lehigh Street trailhead—there is plenty of space to park on the street between Hardscrabble Drive and Cragmoor Road—and ascend a small ribbon of red singletrack through a tree- and shrub-scattered field. Veer left at the 3-way junction and begin the 2-mile loop portion of this route with a gradual ascent toward the Flatirons.
The famous Boulder foothills are a highlight on this hike and as the trail passes through an open meadow and turns west into a thin pine forest, you’ll get peak-a-boo views of nearby peaks. At mile 1.2, you’ll turn north on a well-maintained fire road that offers wide-open views of the most impressive: Bear Peak (8,461 ft.) and South Boulder Peak (8,549 ft.) to the west. From this junction, it’s very easy to extend your hike or trail-run on the extensive Shanahan trail network. Turning downhill back towards the trailhead at mile 1.6, the trail descends gradually towards town, completing the loop a few hundred feet from the trailhead at Lehigh.
-Mapped by Tim Shisler
- Distance: 3.8
Location: 39.9673029, -105.2585667
There is a small, green electrical box near the unmarked trailhead. From Lehigh Street the trail travels west and uphill along a thin ribbon of rock step singletrack.
Location: 39.9668918, -105.2601385
Turn left at this unmarked 3-way junction less than 200 yards from the trailhead. You’ll continue uphill through a thin pine forest. Just ahead, the trail merges with a gravel road for a short downhill run to the next trail junction.
Location: 39.9645811, -105.2602243
Turn right at this 5-way junction onto a wide trail that weaves through pine stands and ascends gradually over over rocks and ruts.
Location: 39.962674, -105.264647
Veer left at this unmarked 3-way junction. Look for a large, green water tank on your left in 0.25 miles.
Location: 39.960874, -105.266649
Turn right at 3-way junction and continue ascending under pine toward the Boulder’s iconic Flatirons.
Location: 39.961754, -105.271593
Turn right at this T-junction onto a wide, dirt fire road. Look west for impressive views of Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak.
Location: 39.966281, -105.270417
Continue along the fire road as it begins descending toward town. After an open northbound stretch, the trail enters the pine forest again and offers peak-a-boo views of the Flatirons behind you.
Location: 39.9666204, -105.2637702
Continue straight at this subtle 4-way junction.
Location: 39.966419, -105.2611792
Veer left at this Y-junction to complete the loop and continue straight through the 3-way junction 100 yards ahead. The trailhead is just a few hundred yards east of here.
Shanahan Ridge Trail
Location: 39.9670891, -105.2586365
The rocky Shanahan Ridge Trail is intermittently open and encased by pine. © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9669575, -105.2591193
Looking back towards the Flatirons as the sky explodes with color. © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9644907, -105.2605677
Hikers on this easy-access Boulder trail. © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9623938, -105.2655673
Dogs and dog-lovers on the trail © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9618921, -105.2717578
This hike skirts beneath the iconic angular faces of Boulder’s Flatirons. © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9633066, -105.2704167
A meadow-cruising stretch of the trail. © Tim Shisler
Location: 39.9655268, -105.2699661
The wide singletrack of this loop is well-suited to casual walking as well as trail running. © Tim Shisler