As a longtime Boulder resident, I am almost reluctant to share the Sage Trail with a broader audience. This absolute gem of a trail is one of the city’s most beautiful, secluded and peaceful escapes -- and it’s incredibly close to downtown Boulder (less than ten minutes’ drive). Because it is nestled in small valley below a modest mesa, the city disappears and only the lofty peaks of the Flatirons are visible to the south. The trail running options are plentiful and offer a nice contrast to the rocky (and often crowded) mountain trails.
What Makes It Great
The Sage Trail itself is a well-maintained loop that measures in at just a bit under 3.0 miles per lap (recent trail modifications make it slightly longer than the city trail map indicates). At a modest running pace, each lap will take about 20 - 25 minutes. The double-wide trail makes it a great environment to run with a friend (human or canine) and the rolling hills add a little burn to the churn. Wisened, hundred year-old cottonwood trees line the old farmer’s ditch canal at the start of the path; the interior of the loop is a working farm where cattle and horses graze. You can be forgiven if you stop to take out your smartphone to snap a photo of this enchanting area.
Two laps on the Sage Trail make for an ideal 10k training circuit, especially for Boulder’s marquee event, the Bolder Boulder. Even better, the Sage Trail links into the Eagle Trail to the east (which connects to the Boulder Reservoir), the Eagle Connector Trail to the south (which connects into the North Boulder / Boulder Valley Ranch network), the Left Hand Trail to the north (which links to farther out dirt roads suitable for running) and the Foothills Trailhead to the west (which connects to the Wonderland Lake trail network). The bottom line: you can create your own run of nearly any distance by combining this incredible trail system.
And for those who would rather run than drive from downtown, you can connect the Boulder Creek Path to Settler’s Park over to Mount Santas and through the Wonderland Lake trails to reach the Sage Trail trailhead nearly all on trails!
Who is Going to Love It
Runners who want to get in a quick, honest trail run will love the accommodating loop -- and its proximity to town. It’s very possible to get in a 3 - 6 mile run and back to work in under an hour. Tacking on loops or expanding into the other trail networks is ideal for longer runs. Starting at the Cobalt Trail (which shares a common trailhead with the Sage Trail) can add an additional 1.5 miles and a great hill that ascends to the mesa that overlooks Boulder Valley Ranch. A connector trail links runners back into the main Sage Trail loop. The trail can get a little hot in the summer due to the lack of shade but that exposure becomes a strength in the autumn and winter. The Sage Trail tends to melt out from snow quickly and is in the direct path of the sun year-round, so it offers a nice option when the mountain trails are iced over.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To reach the Sage Trail, park at the Boulder Valley Ranch trailhead. From the intersection of Highway 36 and Broadway in north Boulder, go north 1 mile on 36 and turn right onto Longhorn Road. Follow Longhorn Road 1 mile to the trailhead (the road goes from pavement to dirt halfway through). The parking area is well marked and obvious on the right side of the road.
There are restrooms at the trailhead.
Note that bikes and horses are also allowed on the trail, but the wide path makes traffic and passing a non-issue.
Sage Trail is home to a lot of wild animals -- rattlesnakes and coyotes can be trouble for off-leash pups, especially at dusk and dawn. There are also a few prairie dog colonies along the Sage Trail -- make sure your dogs don’t chase them! The old cottonwood trees can host owls and even bald eagles -- quite a sight! The small pond at the east end of the trail is famous for the herons that regularly visit.
The area is open dawn until 11 pm, with seasonal closures in the case of excessive mud (a rare event). You can make sure the trail is open here.