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National Center for Atmospheric Research Trailhead

National Center for Atmospheric Research Trailhead



People enjoy open space for physical, emotional and mental health. Remember to always be courteous. Don't forget to: 

  • Plan visits ahead of time and don’t park illegally at full trailhead areas.
  • Remember to “keep the space in open space.” Maintain 6 feet of distance from people not in your household.
  • Leave No Trace. Stay on trail and walk through mud. If you step off trail to let others pass, immediately step back on trail. 
  • Protect first responders. Know your limits and don’t take unnecessary risks.
  • Visit to see current trail closures, historical data that shows areas of high and low open space use and trails that are wider than 6 feet. See when trails are busiest through our Visitation Data Explorer.


West end of Table Mesa Drive, at NCAR.

Please check for Trail & Area Closures.

Or view the interactive trail map (includes trail closures) and the interactive wildlife closures map

You are responsible for knowing and complying with all closures and OSMP rules & regulations.


Parking lot at NCAR.


Please keep your car doors locked and your car windows rolled up at all times while leaving your vehicle parked at OSMP trailheads. Also consider leaving important valuables at home or take them with you while visiting open space. To report suspicious activity please call City of Boulder Dispatch 303-441-3333 or Boulder County Dispatch 303-441-4444. For crimes in progress, call 911 immediately.


View NCAR Trail Map pdf

NCAR (0.6 mi; 180 ft.) the first 0.2 miles of this trail is also called the Walter Orr Roberts Trail. It goes west on a small mesa, drops to a broad saddle, and then climbs another ridge to a water tank, before dropping into a valley to end at Mesa Trail. NCAR has placed a series of interpretive signs about weather along the Walter Orr Roberts trail.

Mesa Trail (6.9 mi; 410ft.) from NCAR the trail extends north to Chautauqua Park and south to the South Mesa Trail Head.

Skunk Canyon (1.3 mi; 550 ft.) starts at an access point on Deer Valley Road (park with discretion), follows a dirt road to an electrical substation, crosses a brook and comes to a trail fork. The right path leads to NIST, straight ahead goes to Kohler Mesa Trail. The trail contours across two gullies and ends at Mesa Trail in a meadow.

Mallory Cave (0.5 mi; 740 ft.) starts at the junction of Mesa Trail and NCAR Trail. The trail climbs to a large rock outcrop, goes around its southern face and up behind it to the north. Then climbs and scrambles up a solid rock notch to end at Mallory Cave.

Bear Canyon (1.7 mi; 940 ft.) starts at the Mesa Trail about 0.7 mi. south of the NCAR and Mesa Trails junction.  Follows Bear Creek west to end at the junction of the Green Bear and the Bear Peak West Ridge Trails. A branch follows a dirt road east from the start for 1.3 mi across federal land below Table Mesa.

Bear Peak West Ridge (1.6 mi; 1,261 ft.) starts at the junction of Green Bear and Bear Canyon Trails. Climbs south to end at the summit of Bear Peak, elevation 8,461 ft.

Green Bear (0.9 mi; 944 ft.) starts at the junction of Bear Canyon and Bear Peak West Ridge Trails. Follows a drainage and then a ridge to end at the junction of Green Mountain West Ridge and Ranger Trails.

Fern Canyon (1.2 mi; 2,121 ft.) starts at the Mesa Trail 0.8 mi. south of the junction of the NCAR Trail. Climbs gently southward, then turns west to begin an unrelenting 1,700 ft. climb to end at the summit of Bear Peak, elevation 8,461 ft.


This area is identified as being popular with people using wheelchairs. See the Accessible Trails Page for details.


Located in NCAR building.


No picnic facilities.


Bicycles are not allowed.


NCAR Area Dog Regulations Map

Learn about bringing your dog to OSMP. All dogs must be leashed in the Trailhead Leash Area. All dogs must be on hand-held leashes on NCAR (federal) property. This includes the Walter Orr Roberts Interpretive Trail and sections of Lower Skunk, Bear Canyon, and Kohler Mesa trails. Beyond NCAR property, dog control requirements vary from trail to trail, so carefully watch for dog regulation signs at trailheads and trail intersections. On most other OSMP trails in this area, dogs must be on a hand-held leash at all times unless they meet the voice and sight control standard and display a City of Boulder Voice and Sight tag. Dog excrement removal is required by law. A dog station is available to aid in the collection of dog excrement.


Horses are not allowed at the NCAR parking lot and trailhead, or on NCAR (federal) property. This includes the Walter Orr Roberts Interpretive Trail on Table Mesa. Horses are allowed on most OSMP trails. Off-trail riding is discouraged to protect rare plants and wildlife habitat. Learn more about riding your horse on OSMP.


Black bears and mountain lions inhabit this area. Coyote, fox, mule deer, and a variety of raptors may also be observed in this area.