North Table Loop - Trail Running

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About

Summary

Just fifteen miles from Denver—and with panoramic views of the city, the Flatirons, and everything in between—sun-splashed North Table Mountain is the perfect destination for trail runners who can't afford to let their winter training slip.

Written by

Emma Walker

Distance

7.4 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

13.0 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

The majority of North Table Loop is on moderate, well-maintained singletrack. The net elevation gain is just over 1,100', but it's not all at once: there's plenty of up and down throughout the loop. From the west parking area off Highway 93, run the loop counterclockwise for gentler climbs and bigger descents, or clockwise for a tougher hill workout. Either way, headphones aren't recommended: you'll want to be alert for rattlesnakes.

Time To Complete

1 hours

At a 10:00/mile pace, it'll take just under an hour and a half to finish the loop. If you're short on time, the Mesa Top Trail—accessed from North Table Loop on the east side of the mesa—offers similar elevation gain and cuts about a mile off the loop.

Seasonality

All Seasons

North Table Mountain's ample year-round sunshine is a double-edged sword. The trails dry quickly in winter, and you're guaranteed a warmer run than in the surrounding Jeffco Open Space Parks. In the summertime, though, temperatures regularly soar to 90-plus degrees—and shade is scarce. Plan summer runs for early or late in the day, and bring plenty of water.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Jeffco Open Space regulations require pups to be on a leash. While it's always best to abide by land managers' policies, there's added incentive at North Table Mountain: it's prime rattlesnake habitat.

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

North Table Mountain and its counterpart, South Table Mountain, are sixty million years in the making. The products of early Paleocene-era lava flows, these ancient formations are today home to three distinct ecosystems—grassland prairie, pinyon-ponderosa woodlands, and montane—each of which is well represented on the North Table Loop Trail. You’ll likely see mule deer (the park is home to between 80 and 100 of them) and red-tailed hawks, and in the warmer months you’re practically guaranteed to see or hear a rattlesnake. Not to fear: well maintained singletrack and an abundance of trail options make it easy to avoid obstacles.

What Makes It Great

North Table Mountain Park, like many of its Jefferson County Open Space siblings, feels more like wilderness than most comparatively urban parks. It certainly speaks to Golden’s motto—“Where the West Lives!”—and with its sweeping views of Denver and the Front Range, abundance and variety of wildlife, and hardy cadre of year-round athletes, the park has a distinctly frontier-town vibe. The mesa dries out quickly after rainstorms and snow melt, making it possible for early twentieth-century pioneers to quarry the distinctive rocks on the west side of the formation for cobblestones for a young Denver—and also for robust local mountain bikers and runners to hit the trails, no matter the season. 

North Table Loop circumnavigates the formation, alternating between narrow, well-graded singletrack, broad gravel path, and a set of steep, challenging switchbacks—with a tantalizing view of the Coors Brewery—on the mesa’s southeast flank. Runners looking for a solid hill climb should consider ducking off the main loop up the Mesa Top or Cottonwood Canyon trails, adding a steep ascent up well-maintained stone steps for elevated heart rate and panoramic views. By the time you make it back to the parking lot off Highway 93, you'll have earned a beer at the Mountain Toad

Who is Going to Love It

The mesa is very popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, and equestrians, and the variety of trails mean the park is accessible to athletes of all experience levels and abilities. Thanks to high use of North Table Loop and its network, it’s important to remember trail etiquette: while mountain bikers are supposed to yield to others, it’s easier for runners and hikers to step aside than for cyclists slogging uphill to grind to a stop and start again. A general air of courtesy between user groups governs North Table Mountain Park, which makes sense—in a beer town like Golden, it’s not unlikely you’ll end up sitting together at the local watering hole for a post-run brew.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

North Table Loop can be accessed on the east side from Easley Road, but parking is limited and fills up quickly on weekends. Park at the lot off Highway 93 for a better shot at a parking space, but steer clear of the trailer parking—you’ll get a ticket. Since you’re in the Wild West, respecting wildlife is key: keep dogs on a leash year-round, and pay close attention to seasonal closures for raptor fledging (March 1 to July 31 on the Rim Rock Trail, bisecting the mesa’s summit). Be on alert at dawn and dusk (or, better yet, jog with a buddy) to avoid encounters with the mountain lions whose prints are regularly found on the mesa.

Location

North Table Mountain Park

4637 Colorado 93
Golden, CO, 80403
39.780834, -105.231467

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