1. Plan

  2. Design

  3. Build

Project Overview

In late June 2023, City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) begun construction of the North Sky Trail, a new 3.5-mile trail north of Boulder and west of U.S. Highway 36. OSMP anticipates completing construction of the new trail in early June, weather permitting.

The new trail will provide visitors a connection between OSMP’s Foothills Trail in north Boulder to the Joder Ranch Trail near U.S. Highway 36 and Neva Road. It will be open to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians and will provide visitors with an opportunity to bike, walk or ride all the way from Boulder to Left Hand Canyon.

Map of North Sky Trail alignment from the Joder Ranch Trailhead in the north to the Foothills North Trail in the south

The North Sky Trail – which has required extensive design and permitting work to help protect sensitive natural resources – was called for in OSMP’s North Trail Study Area Plan PDF.

Once the trail is constructed, on-trail use will be required to protect rare plants and habitat in this area and a Habitat Conservation Area (HCA) will be enacted in the immediate vicinity. Additionally, dogs must be on-leash and are allowed for most of the year; they are prohibited from May 1 – July 31 to protect bird nesting habitat.

North Foothills Trail/Trailhead Closures paused

The North Foothills Trail/Trailhead closures are paused for the holidays. Subsequent trail closures are expected in late-February to further implement bridge construction for the North Sky Trail project.

OSMP is constructing two trail bridges. Both bridges will be steel structures, with construction estimated to last until March 2024. The southern bridge will be 50 feet long, and the Schneider Draw bridge will be 38 feet long. The contractor has excavated for the bridge foundations, and has poured concrete for the southern bridge foundation.

Design sketch of the North Sky Trail bridges that are being built

Volunteer Opportunities and Partnerships

As part of this project, OSMP will use several trail construction approaches, including using OSMP trail crews, contractors, volunteers, youth corps and community partnership, such as Boulder Mountainbike Alliance volunteer projects. We invite community members to participate in its construction through many volunteer projects, including “Trail Work Tuesday” events. Learn more about VolunteerOSMP.org. We invite community members to participate in its construction through many volunteer projects, including “Trail Work Tuesday” events. Learn more about VolunteerOSMP.org.

Key Construction Elements

As outlined in the NTSA Plan, the trail will follow sections of the existing 1880’s-constructed railroad grade, parts of which currently serve as an undesignated trail. The North Sky Trail also requires the construction of two trail bridges – the South Bridge spanning a through-cut in the 1880s railroad grade embankment, and the other spanning the Schneider Draw drainage.

The trail will be constructed at a 4-foot width and aligned with sustainable grades and drainage to minimize erosion while also providing an enjoyable experience for all uses. Much of the trail will be natural-surface (comprised of native soils) – some locations will be surfaced with aggregate base course (gravel) where terrain and soil types may result in poor drainage and prolonged muddy trail conditions.

Protecting Natural Resources

Throughout the trail planning effort, OSMP followed City Council guidance to minimize natural resource impacts to every extent possible. The OSMP project team was comprised of staff representing expertise in trails, botany, wildlife, wetlands, and cultural resources. This team has collaborated to design the trail to minimize impacts to sensitive resources such as foothills wetlands, shrub-nesting bird habitat and plant species in the area.

Learn more about the North Sky Trail in a memo prepared for the Open Space Board of Trustees PDF.