Gems of our Regional Trails

When we decide to go for a hike, it often takes preparation. We research the trails, find directions to the trailhead, gather our gear, and finally head off in a car to our destination. Luckily, in Boulder County, we can opt to skip out on much of this prep work by taking a hike on our regional trails system. For many of us, the regional trails are just steps from home and have much to offer.

We often think of these trail systems as a commuter resource, allowing people to bike between towns without fighting traffic. Of course, this is a great benefit of the regional trails, but they have much more to offer. Coal Creek, Rock Creek, LoBo (Longmont-Boulder), and Niwot trails are homes to wildlife, provide scenic views, and offer a drier trail option during the muddy spring season. Here are a few of the many gems waiting to be discovered on our regional trails:

Flagg Park

Coal Creek TrailLocated just off Flagg Drive in the city of Lafayette, Flagg Park offers easy access to Coal Creek, as well as a quick connection to both Coal and Rock Creek trails. In spring and summer, the picnic table next to Coal Creek provides a shady spot for an afternoon break. Just a short walk down the trail brings into view a great blue heron rookery (seen from where the two trails intersect). Walking just a bit further down the trail brings you to an overlook of the confluence of Rock Creek and Coal Creek. The western views from this part of the trail are impressive in all seasons. Dragonflies are abundant in the area and other wildlife, including raptors and coyotes, call this area home as well.

Railroad Trestle at Commerce Court

If you have any railroad enthusiasts in your family, then a visit to the Coal Creek Trail is in order. Simply head east from the South Public Road trailhead. Just before you reach 120th, the trail goes under an active railroad trestle. If you are lucky, one of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) trains may even be on top!  It is a fantastic way to get an up-close glimpse of a train while maintaining a safe distance for even the smallest fans of locomotives. The BNSF trains now service Universal Forest Products (UFP Industries) by bringing in lumber for truss construction. Historically, this line serviced the coal mines in the area and even brought passengers to Lafayette until 1958.


Turtleback formation along the Niwot TrailThe Niwot Trail holds another regional gem. This trail is of special interest to folks who are interested in a history that dates back much further than the railroads and coal mines. In fact, the sandstone formations found here date back 67 million years to a time when this area was the beach of a huge inland sea. Trace fossils of burrowing sea creatures, as well as small sharks’ teeth, are located in these rocks. From the trail, you can observe turtlebacks—areas of polygonal (many‐sided) joints or cracks in the sandstone, as well as domes and depressions—left as the clay that makes up this sandstone contracted as it dried. Those less interested in geology will still enjoy the incredible views from this trail just south of the Somerset housing development.

Wherever you decide to ramble on our regional trails system, you are bound to come across gems of your own. Enjoy your exploration!