City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) has 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 the new trail – weather permitting – in early 2024.
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.
OSMP anticipates that there will be closures along the Foothills North Trail and the Foothills Trailhead while it constructs the trail, 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.
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.