Davidson Mesa offers a flat and stunningly running trail near Denver

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s new series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). 

When I returned to my running routine recently after a bout with COVID, I began by limiting myself to flat roads and trails as much as possible. Happily, that brought me back to one of the most beautiful places to run in the Front Range: Davidson Mesa.

Located in Louisville, Davidson Mesa is a 45-minute drive from my home in Golden, so I don’t get there often enough. But whenever I do, I savor every step.

And just because it’s a mesa, don’t think you have to run uphill to get on top. While there are downhill slopes to the north and south, the primary trailhead is located on top of the mesa just west of McCaslin Boulevard. The mesa-top trails extend southwest from there to the famous scenic pullover on U.S. 36 that overlooks Boulder with a mountain backdrop that includes Longs Peak, the Indian Peaks, the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon.

And that’s why running Davidson Mesa is such a joy: The panoramic views up there are incredible.

I like to run there at sunrise, watching the peaks in the distance turn from purple to pink or orange, after which the native grasses on the mesa turn golden as they catch the first rays of sun. It’s simply magical.

Davidson Mesa is an open space administered by the city of Louisville with 5.5 miles of trails. There are multiple ways to piece together a run, but in essence, it’s just under 2 miles from the trailhead on McCaslin to a gate that provides access to the bike path that runs along U.S. 36. From there, you can run another 0.2 of a mile to the overlook pullout if you want. Just don’t try to run the mesa by parking at the pullout, because there is limited parking there, and signs say stops should be limited to 30 minutes.

The trail surface on the mesa is made up of crusher fines, which is the term that open-space managers use to describe dirt trails with rock particles that resist weeds and drain well. By my Garmin, the total elevation gain from the trailhead on the east to the high point near U.S. 36 is only 56 feet, which is nothing when spread out over 2 miles.

The McCaslin trailhead is located 1.4 miles north of U.S. 36 and 0.5 miles south of South Boulder Road. There are no facilities at the trailhead, but there is a vault toilet across the street at Harper Lake.

Visitors should be aware that the mesa is very close to an area that was devastated by the Marshall wildfire. For months it was heartbreaking to drive past so many burned-out homes and charred trees, but now there are heartening signs of recovery.

Davidson Mesa is a worthwhile destination for its scenic beauty alone, but it’s also a great option for runners wanting to do speed workouts on soft trails and hikers who can’t handle elevation gains but still long for grand vistas. And, for a lifelong runner returning to the trails after COVID, it offered a sunrise experience that can only be described as euphoric.

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