Marshall Valley - Cowdrey Draw Trail, Marshall Mesa Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Marshall Valley - Cowdrey Draw Trail - 4.0 miles

Marshall Mesa Trailhead

The Cowdrey Draw Trail

The Cowdrey Draw Trail

Round-Trip Length: 4.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,585' - 5,623' (5,682' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +38' net elevation gain (+305' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Marshall Valley - Cowdrey Draw Trail - 4.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Marshall Valley, Community Ditch and Cowdrey Draw trails form a short out-and-back trip through native grassland habitat of the Marshall Mesa area. 

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Portions of this trail system touch the Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area and Cowdrey Draw Natural Area, which protect the largest remaining parcel of intact grassland habitat in Boulder.

Tall grass prairies once stretched east from the Rockies to Indiana, north to Canada and south through Texas. Today only 2% of its original composition remains, much of it re-purposed by man or overtaken by mixed grass prairie, a blend of bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass, grama and buffalo grass.

Visitors will enjoy mild grades, abundant wildflowers and sweeping views across the eastern plains, Boulder foothills and back range summits:

Head south from the parking lot and bear left on the Marshall Valley Trail. The trail rises up the open north flank of Marshall Mesa, highlighted by exposed rock of the Laramie Formation.

100 million years ago an inland sea covered Colorado's Front Range, leaving behind deep layers of sediment upon its retreat. These sediments were compressed into rock and thrust upward 70 million years ago by the modern Rocky Mountain uplift, exposing the light sandstone we see here today.

The trail moves easily through open space and prairie dog villages to the Community Ditch - Marshall Mesa Trail (.9 miles : 5,575').

Bear left on the Community Ditch Trail, which steepens to the Cowdrey Draw Trail (1.2 miles : 5,680').

The Cowdrey Draw Trail enters the Cowdrey Draw Natural Area and continues east, edging up and down Marshall Mesa to its terminus on 66th street (2.0 miles : 5,623').

Morning travelers will likely fight the sun on the way out, but enjoy well-lit landscapes on the return. Extend your trip by diverting south on the Community Ditch Trail to Marshall Reservoir, or link to the Greenbelt Plateau Trail and pass through the heart of the Southern Grasslands HCA.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 57.157 W105 13.874 — Marshall Mesa Trailhead
  • N39 57.257 W105 13.056 — .9 miles : Marshall Valley - Community Ditch Trail split
  • N39 57.266 W105 12.722 — 1.2 miles : Community Ditch - Cowdrey Draw Trail split
  • N39 57.550 W105 11.985 — 2.0 miles : End Cowdrey Draw Trail on 66th street

Worth Noting

  • The Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area protects a 3,000 acre remnant of grassland habitat in southeast Boulder. Mule deer, coyote and raptors are frequently seen, as well badger and burrowing owls. A restored section of Coal Creek cuts across the HCA, where bald eagles and ground-nesting birds such as meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows return to breed each year.

  • Marshall Mesa earned fame in the late 1800s as one of the most important coal mining locations in Colorado. There were 51 official mines in Marshall, but probably many other undeclared facilities since mines were taxed. The first coal mine was operated by William and Nancy Kitchens in 1859, and sold to Joseph Marshall in 1866. In 1868, President Andrew Johnson presented Marshall with legal rights to all the area's coal.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are permitted on the Marshall Valley and Cowdrey Draw trails. Dogs must be leashed unless they meet voice and sight control standards and display a City of Boulder Voice and Sight Tag. Dogs are not permitted off-leash or off-trail within designated conservation and natural areas.

  • Bikes and Horses are permitted on the Marshall Valley and Cowdrey Draw trails.

  • Portions of these trails run adjacent to the Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area. You must have a permit to venture off-trail in this and any other Habitat Conservation Area (HCA). There is no fee for a permit. Rangers will determine if a permit is required based on intended use and circumstances. Permits are valid only for the one day specified on the permit.

  • Contact Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (303.441.3440) or visit their website ( to apply for an off-trail travel permit.

Directions to Trailhead

The Marshall Mesa Trailhead is located just east of the intersection of Highway 93 and Marshall Road in south Boulder.

Contact Information

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
Phone: 303-441-3440

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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