Marshall Mesa Loop, Marshall Mesa Trailhead, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Marshall Mesa Loop - 3.3 miles

Marshall Mesa Trailhead

Open space with views of Eldorado Canyon from the Marshall Valley Trail

Open space with views of Eldorado Canyon from the Marshall Valley Trail

Round-Trip Length: 3.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,585' - 5,585' (5,748' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +163' net elevation gain (+238' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Marshall Mesa Loop - 3.3 Miles Round-Trip

The Marshall Valley, Community Ditch and Coal Seam trails form a 3.3 mile multi-use loop through the Marshall Mesa area in southeast Boulder. Runners, cyclists and families will enjoy mild grades, good trail conditions and rangy views across Eldorado Canyon, the Flatirons and Boulder foothills.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Marshall Mesa Loop touches the Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area, which protects the largest remaining parcel of intact grassland habitat in the Boulder area.

This tallgrass ecosystem once stretched eastward 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. Mule deer, coyote and prairie dogs are common in these prairies, which also support badger, ferret, burrowing owl and rattlesnakes.

A restored section of Coal Creek cuts across the HCA, where bald eagles and ground-nesting birds return each year to breed.

The following description begins at the Marshall Mesa Trailhead and travels clockwise on the loop:

Head south from the parking lot to the Marshall Valley Trail and bear left (east). The trail rises gently up the open north flank of Marshall Mesa past a large prairie dog village to the Community Ditch - Marshall Mesa Trail split (.9 miles : 5,575').

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

The Community Ditch Trail turns sharply back west and levels on a wide, groomed path atop the mesa with long views across the western plains, mouth of Eldorado Canyon, foothills and Flatirons.

It passes connections for Marshall Reservoir (1.4 miles : 5,725'), the second Marshall Mesa Trail access point (2.2 miles : 5,730') and Greenbelt Plateau Trail (2.3 miles : 5,732') on this mild stretch. The Community Ditch Trail dips to the Coal Seam Trail junction (2.7 miles : 5,737') and turns north on a winding descent through open space back to the Marshall Mesa Trailhead (3.3 miles).

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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 — 1.23 miles : Community Ditch - Cowdrey Draw Trail split
  • N39 57.184 W105 12.916 — 1.4 miles : Spur to Marshall Reservoir
  • N39 56.917 W105 13.668 — 2.2 miles : Marshall Mesa Trail connection #2
  • N39 56.885 W105 13.799 — 2.3 miles : Greenbelt Plateau Trail split
  • N39 56.770 W105 14.176 — 2.7 miles : Coal Seam Trail split
  • N39 57.157 W105 13.874 — 3.3 miles : Marshall Mesa Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Extend your hike with connections to Marshall Reservoir, the Marshall Mesa, Cowdrey Draw or Greenbelt Plateau trails. Be mindful of HCA boundaries, use restrictions and dog leash regulations on each trail.

  • 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, an occasionally badger and burrowing owls. A restored section of Coal Creek cuts across the HCA. Bald eagles return each year to nest in the cottonwood trees along its banks, and many ground-nesting birds such as meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows breed here each spring.

  • 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 Mesa Loop, with seasonal and trail-specific regulations. All 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 the Southern Grasslands Habitat Conservation Area.

  • Bikes and Horses are permitted on the Marshall Mesa Loop.

  • Portions of the Marshall Mesa Loop 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.


"The junction between Coal Seam Trail, Community ditch trail and CO 93 is closed for construction of an underpass until July 2014. Only "Up and Back" access is allowed, heed the signs."
BigE  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: July 22, 2013


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